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Winning elections on a local level – what the Lib Dems need to do

I was at a meeting of the local Lib Dems on Monday night and someone brought up an excellent point. In the ward he was campaigning in, an independent ran on a single-issue based specially for that ward. It was is an area with many bedsits and she wanted to implement a Landlord safety scheme to ensure that all Landlord’s are registered and if they didn’t act correctly then they would be struck off. Now her idea wasn’t really implementable but that didn’t matter – it attracted votes. Whilst she didn’t win, she got significant support and got more than double the votes of the Lib Dem candidate for a 22% share of the vote. This resonated with me that local elections in a normal situation can be influenced by very specific local issues.

This is something that the Lib Dems have been extremely successful with in the past. Listening to what people want on the ground and working for them. This election was slightly different because of the backlash due to national concerns but that will pass and the next local elections in 2012 should be played on a more even keel without Lib Dem hate.

So what to do? Well first of all the Lib Dems need to be pounding the streets at all times of year and not just for the month before an election. Speak to people. Find out exactly what is important to them on a local level. Where I live independents have swung on to the council as part of a local housing association who opposed a big housing development. Again a single-issue party in the main but it has struck home across the eastern wards of Southend East. They are basically opposing any development that would change the status quo and that is going down well with the majority of the people here.

Now I’m not saying that is what the Lib Dems have to do at a local level but the better we know people’s concerns then the better we can formulate a plan to win seats on councils. If the biggest concern on a local level was how much people hate the foreigners then we aren’t going to make inroads as that is polar-opposite to where we stand. However if we find out that in a specific ward that the biggest concern is something that we can back then it should be front and centre of that campaign on a local level.

It isn’t rocket science and that is the way the party has run for eons but the feeling from people I speak with is that in the past year people within the party have listened to advisers more than people on the doorstep. I firmly believe that 2011 will the low point of the party result wise for the foreseeable future and that our (belated) stance against the NHS Bill will play out well in the court of public opinion. The wider-public do not care at the moment about fairer votes and green issues – they care about jobs and foreigners – and whilst one is fair the other is depressing. However that will change and as the economy recovers people’s ideals and bones of contention will change.

Most people will not have a scooby doo who their local councillor is. They only hear from them three or four times a year and many of them whilst toddling off to the polling booth to mark their polling card will not bother to find out who won. So they do care that much but if they hear from an activist or candidate say four to six times throughout the year and build up a rapport then they will remember that and will lean that way unless they are entrenched in a political camp. So the way to win is work hard, pound the pavements and listen to people. If the party does that then the doom and gloom of 2011 will be consigned to the rear-view mirror.

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