It now looks pretty certain that 2024 will be a general election year. Or perhaps I should say that 2024 will have at least one Westminster general election, because if there is a close result…
We do, however, know for sure that regardless of what happens with general elections, there is an important round of local elections - and Police and Crime Commissioner contests - in May.
It will therefore be an important year in which everyone can play a part in our success, whether it is about winning a target local or Westminster seat near where you live, or helping to build up the party locally while supporting our target seats elsewhere.
It also means that for our party the stakes in 2024 are higher, and the choices harder.
We have the opportunity in the general election to overcome the huge political handicap of having so few MPs in Parliament. It is not only that we are missing out on giving more people the benefits of a Lib Dem MP. It is also that the number of MPs we have is a huge determinant of how much media coverage we get, how many resources we have and how much influence we hold in Parliament. More Lib Dem MPs will not only be great news for those constituencies, it will also benefit us across the whole country.
But if the stakes are highest in a Westminster general election year, the choices are also hardest. Because we know how much more there is to politics, and to elections, than Westminster elections alone. Local government and devolved elections are crucial too, and we both have some of them coming in May 2024 and even more coming in the years immediately after. So getting the balance right between the short term, narrow focus on our Westminster target seats and the long term broader growth of our party is always hardest in a general election year.
So too is the balance between the short term focus on the next polling day and the sustained long term investment, such as in our technology and in our campaign staff teams. Our traditional model is one of boom and bust - throwing everything we can at a general election but then followed by a big downsizing of our efforts immediately after. The elections at other levels that happen early in the next Westminster cycle suffer as a result, as do tasks - such as improving our record on diversity and inclusion - which needs and deserves sustained long-term effort.
But perhaps the biggest tension is the natural - maybe even inevitable - one between what most matters to party activists and what most matters to floating voters. It is natural that the more involved you are in politics, the more you get deep into issues that are not always top of the mind to most voters. It is important of course that our answers to these twin messaging challenges - what motivates activists and what wins voters - are always open, honest and compatible. But it is also wise to acknowledge that they are not always identical.
Our For A Fair Deal pre-manifesto, adopted in Bournemouth, does both. It zooms in on those concerns at the top of so many voters’ minds - especially the NHS and cost of living - while also providing a clear liberal response to all the other challenges of our time, such as tackling climate change and fixing our broken political systems.
We have started up a new email series for members and supporters explaining what we stand for. It takes our For A Fair Deal and through the series runs through it a section at a time, to explain what we stand for and our vision for Britain. The first one is also online here.
If you did not receive it, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your membership number and/or postcode and they can check on your email subscription status and address in the party's records.
To mark COP28, the annual climate conference, Lib Dem led Portsmouth Council has showcased 13 of its projects that are helping to tackle climate change. From coastal schemes to renewable energy and greener travel options, they show the difference that Liberal Democrats in power can make. You can read about all 13 here.
Meanwhile the global environmental charity CDP has awarded Lib Dem led Somerset Council an A- grade for its climate change work, which compares with a regional average score of B and a global average score of C. Dixie Darch, Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: "A greener and more sustainable county is one of the new Council's priorities and we are delighted that this well-recognised benchmark for good practice has given our work such a seal of approval."
Tickets for the 2023 Lib Dem Christmas Draw are now on sale. Just under three quarters (70%) of funds go to the Lib Dem body you pick when buying your tickets and prizes include £1,500 in cash, a chocolate truffle gift hamper (yum) and half a case of champagne.
Congratulations to Cllr Hannah Perkin, Leader of the Lib Dems at Swale Borough Council , who won "Community champion of the year" at the Local Government Information Unit annual awards. Very appropriate for it to go to a Lib Dem!
We end the year with more Liberal Democrat MPs, more Liberal Democrat council leaders and more Liberal Democrat councillors than we started the year. That has only been possible thanks to generous support of our members, donors and volunteers. Many thanks for all you have done for our cause this year, and I wish you the very best for Christmas. I hope everyone gets a good break before the big challenges of 2024.
Do you have questions on any of this report, or other Lib Dem matters? Then please drop me a line on email@example.com. Do also get in touch if you would like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.