The Federal Communications and Elections Committee met this week to discuss some key challenges and opportunities ahead for the Pary.
The Campaign Innovation Fund team, supported by ALDC and others, presented to us on the results of a set of experiments conducted to test what does, and doesn't, help us win campaigns.
The work is impressive and, alongside the wider literature, feedback from activists, and experience of our committee members, serves to help us make evidence-based campaign decisions.
A few highlights we should all note:
- When we mail out surveys the data suggests that there is a noticeable increase in returns where the accompanying letter is handwritten to where it is mail merged. The extra effort of writing the letter can therefore boost our data collection;
- Where we haven't the capacity to knock on doors to recruit postal voters letters alone have a limited effect, but when combined with a follow-up letter they really do seem to drive recruitment;
- Facebook ads with well designed graphics can be more effective at driving engagement than ones with group photos.
The fund will be continuing its work next year and we look forward to its findings.
We never get tired of talking about our amazing win in Chesham and Amersham, but the Committee is also attentive to the lessons that can be learned from all of our by-election experiences.
With Dave McCobb, Director of Field, presenting we discussed a range of issues, including how we communicate our objectives in such elections and how we effectively work across teams.
Of particular importance to the Party is making sure we have skilled Election Agents. Being an election agent is an important and rewarding role and we need great agents if our candidates are to win. If you're interested in getting more involved in elections, why not find out if this is a role for you?
With all the talk amongst members of progressive alliances the committee invited Andrew Stunell and Anood Al-samerai to look at the facts about pacts. They took a lot of evidence from across the party and combined that with some excellent data drawn from connect, and reported to us on their findings.
Among a range of factors identified, we discussed the complex patterns of voters switching to another party when their 1st choice party is not available, the right of the public to have a Lib Dem to vote for, and the sometimes less than reciprocal approach of other parties when we try to collaborate.
We also considered what happens afterwards, were our initial objectives achieved?
The clear take-away from the evidence gathered is that pacts rarely help us win elections (or even to defeat either the Conservatives or Labour) and almost never achieve the objectives that they were supposed to deliver. There are, however, rare occasions when pacts might work and we now have a clear protocol of how to assess a potential pact and when to say no. The party constitution is clear that it is our duty to contest every election, and generally this report supports that presumption. If a pact might be in our interest then it is vital that before negotiating a pact a local party seeks the advice and permission of their Regional Party.
The Committee's position is, and remains, that outside of truly extraordinary circumstances, we should stand a candidate whenever we can, and indeed Conference has said the same.
Getting ourselves right internally
The committee also discussed new approaches to inducting selected Prospective Parliamentary Candidates and how we should plan our workstream ahead of the next General Election.
So this month's message is clear, I'm keen to encourage you to get involved in campaigns whenever you can. Consider becoming a candidate or an agent, or helping with surveys and as always please deliver some leaflets! Focus is often the only time residents get to know what we are doing.