We published the 2019 Election Review as the pandemic swept the UK and, sadly, I write this update during an even harder third wave. We are reminded every day of the failures of this government and the pressing need for convincing alternatives.
I am encouraged by the steps that have already been taken within the party and the plans ahead for reform. In terrible circumstances, activists, volunteers and staff have stepped up to the challenge my review posed. We identified three overarching themes in the review, all of which needed profound improvement: re-building campaigning excellence, clarity of leadership and decision making, and vision and purpose.
Our campaigning team is now as well-resourced as it ever has been at this stage in a Parliament and we should commend local leaders, staff and ALDC for the innovation shown to balance campaigning with protecting public health.
The party is working with more internal clarity, and I note in particular the closer cooperation between HQ and ALDC, as well as the work, some of which is coming to Spring Conference, to define leadership roles and responsibilities as highlights.
I am not naïve, however, and there are vital areas where change has been slow. I also do not underestimate the challenges of maintaining party energy while so many of us are struggling with family sickness, isolation, home-schooling and the like.
We have made less progress on defining and confidently asserting our party’s vision and purpose. Green shoots, for instance the carers campaign and the start of a change in approach to voter research, are springing up, but the truth is many voters remain, at best, ambivalent to us.
Also, as this Parliament wears on we face the challenge of shifting our mindset from borderline single-issue campaigning back to the kitchen-table politics of people’s day-to-day lives required to win elections. In the introduction of my review, I said, “If it is at least recognised that this one hits the key issues, starts the process of making much needed changes in the party and points the way to success in the future then the time spent by the diligent and deeply committed panel will not have been in vain”.
To end on a positive note, then, I can say that I believe the review has been recognised, that the process of making changes has started, and that the path to success is starting to emerge.
To the members reading this, I hope that as you show patience while the work is done. We must all expect, demand and support the party to be a winning machine again.
In the meantime, all energy into May’s elections!