There always comes a time after an election when the adrenaline clears out of the system and we can usefully reflect on what happened and what we should learn from that. BUT I’M NOT GOING TO WAIT THAT LONG. Perhaps it’s because I am young and tempestuous (until I look in a mirror when I am just tempestuous!) Or perhaps it’s because I have been through a lot of Elections (more than 52 years of them) and can see things in a longer and wider perspective.
I’ve started my review of this election by looking at my reviews of the 2015 and 2017 elections and looking at what should be done in their aftermath. I’ll tell you my conclusions later!
Firstly, I think we had an excellent Leader who suffered one major problem – she was a woman! As a woman she suffered an extra layer of daft scrutiny which was unacceptable. How many times did she wear the same dress? Never a question asked of a man. How will she care for two young children (with a very supportive husband actually) a question never asked of men. She was never portrayed as forceful but bossy; she was never assertive but shrill!
This lack of esteem and inequality for women leaders is something that society as a whole need to tackle and not just in the political sphere. The questions asked by the media and the public need to reflect the new reality of equality and shared family realities in which young men are far more committed to caring and support than men of my generation.
NEXT STEP: We are lucky to have a top-notch “Leader in Waiting” in the form of Ed Davey. He performed excellently throughout the election and I believe we should just move him swiftly into position as our Leader.
Secondly, we made two major errors in the election one of which was to over simplify our political appeal.
The over-simplification came when our rallying cry became Revoke Article 5-0. A simple position, “Bollocks to Brexit” had worked well for us in the European elections. It would do, wouldn’t it? Europe was always going to be the main issue in a European election and rightly so. However, a General Election is much more complicated than that. People vote for a whole range of reasons. They care passionately about the NHS, education, social care, climate change and a plethora of other causes.
We knew that all other causes will be badly threatened by Brexit but we were unable to develop both our fears and our positive ideas because we had transformed ourselves basically into a one issue Party. Our manifesto was crammed full of good stuff which rarely saw the light of day given the media’s concentration ion our obsession. I do not believe that we need to change our policies in the short term. We need to spend more time publicising them and explaining them.
NEXT STEP: Choose 4 topic areas which resonate with the people of the Country. I think these important uses are: Climate change and the environment; education; the NHS and social care; and housing. Find 6 things to say about these issues and hammer them, in speeches and leaflets both local and national. Spread our message out by engaging with all the national and local interest groups who work in these fields.
Lastly, we over-extended. Starting with the obvious fallacy that Jo Swinson was our PM in waiting we moved then into an extension of our intense campaign into seats based on data which related only to the Remain/Leave continuum. We pushed our campaign and our cash into areas that were pointless. We notched up loads of good starting points in terms of second places but made few conversions into first!
We are now free from General Election planning. There will not be one for at least 4 years. BUT there will be four lots of local elections before then. Forget the obsession with a parliamentary target seat strategy for at least the next 3 years and work to get more and more and more Lib Dem councillors elected nationwide.
We must rebuild our base street by street, ward by ward and council by council. Only by doing that can we be seen to be relevant to the issues and problems in many parts of the Country. Only by doing this can we truly claim to be a fully operating national concern.
NEXT STEP: The Federal Board to commission ALDC to produce a campaign report based on an average 10% increase in our number of councillors each year for the next 4 electoral cycles and to commit resources of money and campaign staff to back those campaigns.
Funnily enough these are startlingly similar to my recommendations after the last two General Elections but this time we clearly have the advantage of time to do all these things.
I hope that the Federal Board under our new highly experienced campaigning President, Mark Pack, will listen to these stolid but necessary suggestions.