Saturday, December 02, 2023

Lib Dem campaign staff gather to counter the threat of Edmania

Embed from Getty Images

Lucy Fisher, for me at least, emerges from behind the Financial Times paywall to report:

The prospect of party leader Sir Ed Davey suddenly becoming wildly popular and lulling activists into a false sense of security over voter support was one of a range of scenarios considered by campaign staff last month, according to party insiders.

In a sign the party, which is polling a distant third nationally, is switching into election gear, it hosted an away day for around 120 key staff working in their campaigning, digital and press teams at a central London hotel on November 17.

They war-gamed the possibility that the relatively low-key Davey could mimic the trajectory of former leader Nick Clegg, who spawned the ‘Cleggmania’ trend that saw the party’s popularity spike in opinion polls ahead of the 2010 election.

Other threats considered, says the paper, included the risk of a donor recommending the party rebrand itself as 'Dem Libs' on social media to appeal to the youth vote and the circulation of cyber-manipulated images purporting to show Davey and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer holding secret talks about an electoral pact.

You may say that there is little risk of Edmania, remembering a recent post here that reported the news that voters in the new Godalming and Ash seat, which Jeremy Hunt will fight at the next election, have little idea who Ed Davey is but are clear that it is the Liberal Democrats who are the main challengers to the Tories there.

But Cleggmania erupted in 2010 in part because Nick Clegg had not impinged upon upon most voters' consciousness before the first televised debate of that election. Given that the phenomenon is widely believed to have led to a breakdown of our targeting strategy, the party is right to consider how it would handle a recurrence.

Particularly as a harsh critic would say that a targeting strategy is all we have to offer at present.


David Raw said...

It's now over sixty years since I first joined the Liberal Party. In all the years ever since I've noticed that whenever the party and its successor have had a modicum of success they have also had a charismatic Leader with popular appeal throughout all parts of the UK going far beyond the comfortable (but currently disgruntled) Home Counties

Matt Pennell said...

I remember reading a lengthy analysis by Mark Pack about the fact that our sudden popularity in 2010 due to the TV debates couldn't be followed up on the doorstep, because we simply didn't have the activist numbers. That's why we ended up with a marginal decrease in our number of seats.

It's that lack of activist base that will probably cost the Greens and Reform UK dearly next year, even if their polling numbers at times look good.