I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s been a lot of talk recently about how the only solution to some truly painful election results (there was a moment, on Sunday, where I confess to shedding several tears) is to get rid of our leader.
Indeed, I wrote about why I thought it was an unwise idea a few days ago.
But, what has struck me most is many calls for change – but nobody actually suggesting changes.
Stephen Tall’s polling backs up the fact that, regardless of your thoughts on Nick, we all know something needs to give when it comes to HQ’s stranglehold on the messaging.
But it also led me to try present some of the facts of our local losses in numbers and offer some suggestions as to why.
Firstly, our net loss of councillors came in at a pretty depressing 42.06%. The fact it wasn’t as big a loss as many predicted does little to mute the pain no doubt many people feel.
But, when you look at this figure in more detail, something stands out – of the councillors we lost, 41% were in London.
This isn’t just to do with where elections fell, either. To try and understand this, we need to look at external factors too.
Ukip don’t do brilliantly in the capital for, what I think, are obvious reasons, so we must look to Labour and the Greens.
It’s estimated that 25% of Labour’s membership is drawn from London. Based on figures from Sept 2013, I make that 46,800+ – giving them more members in the capital than we have in total.
They also seem to hate us a lot more. You only have to look at the tweets from MPs and press accounts, local parties and activists to see their whole raison d’être this election was to annihilate the Lib Dems. Up against that – coupled with a country-wide Eurosceptic tide – our councillors really were in an awful position before we even got started.
As for the Greens, they picked up the liberal protest vote; always likely to happen when you’re a party of government, and more pronounced in cities with large, liberal populations.
There were some areas that defied this, though – most notably Sutton – and it would be interesting to look at what they did and how they did it. I suspect it involved pushing the EU message a little further down than the local issues.
I won’t patronise anyone by saying we need to work harder – quite possibly the worst email I’ve ever seen in my time in the party – but we may need to work smarter.
That means HQ easing off on the national over local dominance our messaging has veered heavily towards.
And, more importantly, stopping the infuriating practice of creating little liberal clusters and holding on for dear life, at the expense of other areas. Because you can’t win seats if you don’t help local parties stand in them – and I mean properly, not just as a paper candidate.
To win, we need activists. And we won’t get new activists if we ignore ‘unwinnable’ areas to protect our sacred forts. We’ve always been against two party politics – except, of course, when it suited us to be the local, hardworking protest vote people could turn to in retaliation.
But there are more parties, which means more choice. We will not always be that choice – and we certainly won’t be where we aren’t allowing relationships to develop between party and people.
Tl;dr? Targeting can’t be our only plan.
I’d like to see every local party – instead of heating the leader – submitting ideas for how we can change our messaging based on their own experiences (good or bad) to the Federal Executive (which sits soon, if I recall correctly).
That’s what I’ll be suggesting at my next executive meeting, and I hope you all do too.