Friday, 27 June 2008

Yet another Henley analysis - this one has vitriol

Well everyone else seems to have commented and I had few plans to do so, but I have been annoyed massively by a few of the comments I have seen from fellow Lib Dems. I have no problems with those comments which are matters of opinion, even if I don't agree, but some of the stuff posted today is just ignorant tosh.

I'm afraid that I'm going to single out 'a radical writes' for the main batch of opprobrium. John writes of three perceived problems:

1. We we're too negative. 9/10 times the most optimistic candidate wins, we spent too much time bashing the Tory candidate and not enough bigging up Stephen Kearney. The Tory literature on the other hand for the most part was significantly more positive.

Well not actually true. The Lib Dem campaign started with a blizzard of positive paper designed to establish ourselves as the only challenger to the Tories. We then moved into a negative phase as we needed to give electors a reason to think differently from their previous voting habits. Finally, we moved back to relentlessly positive (even titling one leaflet 'a positive vision for South Oxfordshire'.

The Tory literature was actually more negative than ours in the main. They were slow to start and then spent much of their time on the back foot, issuing writs and trying to defend themselves from our attacks. Then they had a change of campaign strategy and talked of nothing but what a good MP Boris was and how awful Labour is.

By all means express you opinion about our literature, but please start from a basis of fact, not fiction.

2. We failed to align ourselves with the anti-Labour vote. How we missed this one I have no idea, Tory literature was consistently anti-Labour, we were more concerned with being anti Tory. as a result people didn't think they could give Labour a bloody nose by voting for us.

As explained above - the Tory campaign only went anti Labour in the final week (apart from a single George Osborne letter that got lost in the rush).

3. Too much election literature, everyone in the party put all the complaints down to constituent moaning. The constituents weren't used to it, weren't happy with it, and a lot of people seemed death to their voices. Tory stuff was lower in quantity but higher in quality.

Bollocks. The Tories produced as much as us (to within a leaflet or two) and it was (in my opinion) far worse in overall quality. Some of our stuff - and I will single out the magazine - was the best I have ever seen. Yes, I'm biased because I was involved in a small way in the literature, but I defy anyone to look at the sets of literature side by side and come to the conclusion John has.

Was there too much? Fair question, but, as Chris Rennard has pointed out on LDV, more than 85% of voters voted for one of the two parties that produced lots and lots of literature. We started from a base of little activity and needed to establish ourselves early and be absolutely clear we were working hard. For every moan about too much literature that I heard, I also heard five that complimented us on working so hard.

The only point I would make is that we take the recycled paper thing for granted. We need to make sure that all our recycled material is labled as such. I think we lost a few voters to the Greens by producing so much and not explaining to them that it was recycled.

I think that Paul Walter is right that perhaps we don't get the same number of helpers as we used to. I think we do use them in a smarter manner when they arrive, but we need to think a bit more about this issue.

I'm not going to pretend that the Henley result was as good as we had hoped. But the campaign itself had a massive success. I am convinced that, had we not done all that we did, we would have got about 12%, not 28%. In a safe Tory seat with the current Cameron factor and the Crewe result leading straight into Henley, they should really have won by more. It was down to the good campaign that we actually pulled off a passable result.


The Burbler said...

Well said Alex - and it's not "over the top" at all. Brilliant. Thank you.

Wit and wisdom said...

Its a very positive post and you make some good points but can we really just be content with what we are doing when it patently is starting to falter quite badly.

I'm afraid I'm one of the complainers and I seem to be in a bigger gang than you, which has to indicate something important.

We really can't afford to be complacent about this. It was a bad result and we need to take that on the chin and do something about it very soon.

NB: I've earned the right o be criticl: I went along a number of times (7, I think) and I delivered the magazine, which I didn't like. I thought it was close to being dishonest - though not libellous.

Dominic said...

Alex - your post is a breath of fresh air. It's right that we should analyse how we did and what we can improve after every election, but most of the negative comment I've read has been based around unrepresentative anecdotes and inaccuracies.

Let's leave "knee-jerk" to the Tories.

Alasdair W said...

I totally agree with you on those 3 points. I thought it was a very negative campaign, from us and the tories. The low turnout I think was caused by the negative campaign and that perhaps labour voters stayed at home and weren't won over, due to a negative campaign and being so disillusioned by everything.

Timothy said...

I don't know enough of English politics to add much to it, but the phrase "ignorant tosh" has to be a classic. I hope that doesn't make me one!