Do parties have to be more honest with activists?

Do parties have to be more honest with activists?


    How much goodwill is squandered when you over-egg the pudding?

A week before the Henley by election I reproduced the above mass email sent to Lub Dem activists because I believed it was behind sharp moves in the betting prices and that all that text highlighted in red suggested that the party had some game-changing information that was about to be revealed.

Well what came out the following day did not match the billing and I think that this raises issue for all parties about their relationship with their activists.

I was very struck by the following anonymous posting that was highlighted on the thread yesterday afternoon.

“Despite the wailling and gnashing of teeth on here about slogans, leaflets, personalities and whatever else, I would have thought it blindingly obvious that we weren’t going to win either Henley or Crewe. Perhaps we won the campaign – I am not sure the average voter cares one jot about that.

All I can see is that, by not being honest with ourselves, we are frittering away precious money and man hours, not to mention media and activist goodwill.

I’d prefer us to start spending the serious money currently being thrown on hopeless by-election campaigns in reinforcing and defending our current crop of seats that are under considerable threat from the Tories…..

If we don’t re-focus, I believe we risk overstretch – with the result that we will lose a large batch of Lib Dem / Tory marginals and still fail to capitalise on Labour weaknesses where we are in a close second.

This is the ‘meltdown’ scenario that I fear we are sleep-walking into by pretending the political backdrop has not substantially changed in the last year.

I, for one, am totally fed up with being told – by email, text and through the post – that we can win everywhere there just happens to be an election and all we need is a final push, another leaflet, more people etc etc, when it should be clear we simply can’t…

At the heart of the challenge facing Nick Clegg’s party is that large parts do not appear to have to come to terms with the changed political environment. The lesson from Henley is that the weak party for the foreseeable future is Labour – and that traditional easy pickings from the Tories no longer exist.

Mike Smithson

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