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Leaked Lib Dem briefing: ‘We have no evidence our tactics are working’

25 September 2012

Lib Dem internal documents leaked to the Spectator warn that the party has no branding strategy, staff ‘lack research literacy’ and campaigns are based on ‘received wisdom’ rather than any evidence that current tactics are working.

I’ve been passed a presentation seen by aides close to Nick Clegg, staff at Lib Dem HQ, MPs and SpAds over the past few months which is damning about the party’s preparations for 2015. These slides cannot have made particularly comfortable reading for staffers and parliamentarians:

(Click on each image to view a larger version)

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The presentation paints a picture of a party operation where ‘staff lack research literacy and capacity to analyse data properly’, the impact of campaigns isn’t measured – the most damning line is ‘we have little valid evidence that our tactics actually work’ – and there is ‘no branding strategy’. This is the great leafletting problem –  the party continues to deliver Focus leaflets with incredible energy but no regard to whether those reams of paper are making any positive difference.

Ryan Coetzee will join the Lib Dems as the party’s new strategy adviser later this autumn. He is a former MP and chief executive of the South African Democratic Alliance, and has quite a job on his hands in enticing voters to back the party in 2015.  It seems the internal party machine will keep him very well-occupied, too.

I understand that those already in HQ are pushing for a strategy called ’75 by-elections’ in 2015, as an extension of the party’s great love of localism, and the great belief, which runs deep, that by-elections and local battles are where the Liberal Democrats are strongest. Of course, the great irony of the party’s narrative of the ‘By-Election Machine’ is that the last parliamentary by-election win was four years before entering the Coalition Government: in 2006 in Dunfermline and West Fife. The strategy also runs contrary to what Clegg and outgoing strategist Richard Reeves believe: that the party needs to forge a sharp national identity for itself, rather than being all things to all men.

The presentation also slams the party’s attempts at profiling voters. The slide below shows how far behind the other two parties the Liberal Democrats are:


leaked Lib Dem documents

(Click on the image to view a larger version.)

The Liberal Democrats are far behind the two main parties in the amount of data they hold on voters, and have only recently acquired a sophisticated database to be able to handle that sort of data (I’ve written more about this here). In 2004, the Conservatives procured their powerful Voter Vault, the same voter targeting system used by the US Republicans. Liam Fox, the party’s Chairman at the time, said: ‘Politics is now becoming very fragmented. The days when you could say this is a Labour street or this is a Tory street have gone. You can’t even say this is a Tory or a Labour house.’

Using complex modelling, Voter Vault was able to predict individual voting intentions with over 80 per cent accuracy in 2005. In 2009, Labour developed their own system, complete with psycho-demographic modelling. Yet, unlike their counterparts, the Liberal Democrats’ new Connect system suffers from a severe lack of data.

There is still time before 2015 for these gaping holes to be addressed, but Coetzee will need to set to work pretty sharpish to achieve that and put it to good use. I wonder whether he will be shown this presentation as part of his induction?

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Show comments
  • AnotherDaveB

    Re: voter vault.

    The Conservatives are reported to now be using a customised package called Merlin.

  • Edward Allan

    It’s funny how they ignore UKIP who have real experienced economists and financial analysts producing full and up to date financial and cost-benefit reports, not of the voters, but of the facts of the economy. It is through facts that they hope to attract people who have the ability to read and understand statistics. A tough challenge as ConLibLab have done everything possible to destroy the education system.

  • emale

    I’m less interested in whether there is evidence that their tactics are working and more interested in their evidence that shows that taxing wealth has any economic benefit at all.

  • derekemery

    The Lib Dems have always represented a small number of dissenters who cannot stomach either main party. There is no room and even less point in another middle of the road political party even if the Lib Dems wanted to position themselves there as yet another all things to all men party.

    This translates into being a specialised left wing minority party as there is no way the Lib Dems could ever embrace right wing policies. Hence votes have to be low in percentage terms as the only way to have big votes is to join the crowd in the middle and there is no room there.

    Parliament is largely in favour of federalism which means that the UK will become taken over by the EU are far as policies are concerned. There will not be a referendum because the result is very likely noe to be what parliament wants.

    EU polices are designed to suit France and Germany as the co-owners. The probablitlity of any future EU policies being what the UK wants are virtually zero (1 in 27 at a very optimistic best).

    Only 75% of the public trust politicians today and this figure has been dropping rapidly. It is likely once the EU is fully in control the public will rapidly realise there is now no point whatsoever in voting for any party and the number bothering to vote will decline rapidly.

    The big problem then for all parties will be to try to get the public interested in voting for what will be another EU rubber stamping department – parliament. My guess is they will fail and hardly anyone will bother to vote because there will be no point.

    • Coffeehousewall

      Perhaps the people will need to form a new Parliament that is representative of them, and which takes all legitimacy away from Westminster.

  • Daniel Maris

    I’m not so sure their tactics aren’t working: “Stay in government for five years, drawing big salaries as ministers and being chauffered around, then pick up nice sizeable pension followed by book deal for memoirs entitled in the case of the Deputy PM “I’m So, So Sorry” and in the case of the Business Secretary “It Should Have Been Me”.

  • foxoles

    So, by their own admission, they’re completely clueless; but they are certain that anyone who disagrees with them is ‘potty’.
    Delusional. Totally and utterly. Their ignorance is exceeded only by their arrogance.

  • MrVeryAngry

    How about ditching all this marketing cobblers and just come up with some principles as to what the LD’s actually believe in? And I mean simple and clear.

  • Arthur

    They just don’t seem to accept that they’re coming fourth, behind UKIP. They’ve been overtaken not by a complex and well-structured party machine, but by a (small and chaotic) party with a clear message; for all their limitations, we all know where UKIP stands on most issues. If the LibDems decided what they believed in, and stuck with it, then they’d probably do better.

    • Douglas Carter

      Interesting Arthur, that someone disagrees with you.
      It would appear some believe that the LibDems should not decide what they believe in, and should not consider ‘sticking with it’?
      No wonder they’re such a massively successful political force?

      • Arthur

        Maybe Paddy Ashdown reads this blog.

    • telemachus

      With respect Arthur Ukip only have 2 policies
      Referendum on Europe
      Referendum on smoking in the snug
      I know Nicholas felt these were enough but that was a given

  • Noa

    Is even ‘received wisdom’ is better than none?

  • 33rdpara

    Have you seen the scruffy lot delivering, they think that to dress smartly is a vote loser.

    • James102

      When you are perfect and know everything dress sense is irrelevant, ask Ken Clarke.

    • trevor21

      You should see the shower that deliver ‘Focus’ in Rochdale. In two years we didn’t get a single copy then,just in time for this years local council elections, a couple a very muscular asian blokes came round, they looked like yobbo bouncers.Needless to say the Libdem Party in the former stronghold of Rochdale has virtually collapsed. Just over a year ago their members on the local council tore up their party cards and went independent.,not that it made much difference,they still got slaughtered. Oblivion awaits this quisling party of unrealistic cultists.

  • Bruce, UK

    No evidence.

    I thought that was the basis for all LibDem “thinking”.


    Take some money out of your pension to pay for property – that wont inflate prices at all.
    Oh, and it will reduce the future pension burden as less will have to be paid out to those who reduce their pension pot.

    Inflated property prices and geriatric poverty, “fairer tax in tough times”, it’s the LibDem way.

    • telemachus

      So you do not have struggling thirty something children then

      • Bruce, UK

        You may be confusing me with Ralph Milliband. I do not have access to such “creative” accounting”.

        • telemachus


  • Austin Barry

    They have trouble profiling party voters? Just ask one question: are you a sanctimious twit?

  • Austin Barry

    They have trouble profiling party voters? Just ask one question: are you a sanctimious twit?

    • telemachus

      The answer of course is no, you want the mirror
      The Liberal vote has always been a largely protest vote which by definition is not available in Government.
      Some deluded folk also thought they stood for social justice but they scotched this in a loud sounbite way by supporting tuition fees, the granny tax and the drop in top rate income tax for the rich
      Forget them for a generation
      UKIP are now the protest vote and Labour the party of Social Justice
      So you can also forget the Tories whose vote is now split assunder.
      So you should all clamour for the party of growth

      • Bluesman

        “the party of growth”

        I presume you mean that cancer on the body policy that is Labour? You usually do.

        • telemachus

          Jealousy about the party of growth will not detract from2015triumph

    • Dimoto

      Sounds like some wonk squeaking for attention, and more computer games.
      They are doing fine.
      – unbroken stream of lefty clap-trap (might even lure away a few disgruntled Labourite voters, and scare a few moderates away)
      – if this “pick ‘n mix” Glasgow councillor fodder (circa 1975) becomes party policy, surely some yellow-bookers will bale out.

  • Douglas Carter

    They have tactics?
    They conceal it so well.

  • James102

    They have evidence their tactics are not working: the polls.

    The LibDems are finished as a major player.Clegg will move to Spain after the election and get a job with the EU as a reward for preventing a Eurosceptic Conservative party winning a majority. It will all have been in vain as the pressure for a referendum on membership will have so increased that it will be unavoidable.

    • Noa

      “…preventing a Eurosceptic Conservative party winning a majority…”

      however the Conservative party which fought the 2010 election was in any way eurosceptic.

      • James102

        It was the make up of the party after a re-run election that was the risk.

        • Noa

          That does not constitute a basis for excluding the Conservative party from blame. A complaisant and europhile Tory leadership was entirely happy to connive in an power sharing arrangement which happily resulted in a policy of EU inaction.
          And there was no stomach or the courage for minority government and the hazard of a fresh election campaign.

          • James102

            I certainly would not exempt them from blame; the contrary in fact.
            To EU federalists Britain’s interests are secondary to the EU’s just as an MP for Devon would put Devon’s interests after the UK’s.

            • Noa

              The Lib-Dems were primarily delighted to enter an agreement giving them the opportunity to share power. That they could use this to foil any anti-EU activity was a bonus, but probably a secondary rather than a primary benefit. In short, real evidence for an EU-Lib-Dem plot is lacking, at present at least. In the event the Cameroons have happily connived, Canute-like, in meaningless platitudes whilst EU control flexes, tightens and expands.

        • Noa

          That does not constitute a basis for excluding the Conservative party from blame. A complaisant and europhile Tory leadership was entirely happy to connive in an power sharing arrangement which happily resulted in a policy of EU inaction.
          And there was no stomach or the courage for minority government and the hazard of a fresh election campaign.

      • Noa

        Correction:- “was not in any way…”

    • telemachus

      Remember these words on liberals of the nineteenth century:-
      “Nationalism in the sense of national greed has supplanted
      Liberalism. It is an old foe under a new name.

      Aristotle justified
      slavery, because Barbarians were “naturally” inferior to Greeks, and we have
      gone back to his philosophy. We hear no more of natural rights, but of inferior
      races, whose part it is to submit to the government of those whom God has made
      their superiors. ”
      This is what we hear time and again from right wing commentators.
      The Liberals are dead but let us all therefore embrace social justice

      • Noa

        Googling the tendentious quotation used to predicate your irrelevant post, reveals that you have cut and pasted almost the entirety of this post from David Boaz’ Libertarian Reader.
        You would be better advised cramming for your re-sit, or trying a little original thought.

        • telemachus

          You will note that I asked you to remember the (somewhat adapted) words of Boaz
          The revanchists gathered here fit the bill.

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