Three Lessons from 6 May

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who work so hard for the elections last Thursday. Activists, agents, foot soldiers and, of course, our candidates. We lost some good councillors and in too many areas, people who had worked hard failed to win this time. Thank you too to our councillors who stood down on 6th May, some a year later than they wanted. Thank you for your service to your communities and the party. 

We had some great results come in over the marathon ‘results weekend’. Well done to everyone who was elected. Those where we made four gains or more are: 

Oxfordshire +8, Wiltshire +6, Cambridgeshire +5, St Albans +5 (and overall control!!), Surrey +5, Hertfordshire +5, Sunderland +4, and Tunbridge Wells +4. In Stockport we’re now the largest party on the Council, and in Hull as well as making gains, we beat Labour in the popular vote. We’ve also had some great results on those Town and Parish councils that had elections this year. Well done to everyone who won, and also those who made progress but didn’t quite do it this time. 

Scotland, Wales and London saw mixed results – some great holds, but I know not the progress that teams wanted. Two members of the London Assembly is our best result since 2012.

But, let’s face it, we need to do better next time. Better for the Liberal Democrats but just as importantly so we can provide better leadership for our local councils and our local communities. 

Some things, like our party messaging and profile, the national party will take forwards, but most of the rest we need to sort out as local councillors, campaigners and activists. 

For ALDC, there are three quick lessons we want to take forwards: 

Re-engage with voters

Effective community campaigning requires us to talk with voters, understand the issues that matter to them, campaign and deliver on these issues. Covid meant that for much of the last year we couldn’t knock on doors ‘all year round’ like we need to to.

We need to get back to that immediately. This summer is the only summer before the 2022 elections, we don’t know what restrictions might be coming down the track later on in the year. I would urge all of us to make summer 2021 a Summer of Campaigning, starting with re-engaging with voters on the doorstep. Find out more about how ALDC can help you here.

Build Back Bigger

In most areas our teams are not big enough. Again, Covid has had an impact on our delivery networks and some activists, but we also have fewer members and activists since Brexit. The summer of campaigning needs to also to be about recruitment – candidates, activists, deliverers and, of course, members. Watch this space for more materials on recruitment, membership engagement and more. 

Up our Game on Campaigning

We face tough opposition. Labour piling up votes in cities, Greens winning in too many areas, Tories everywhere and, of course, SNP and Plaid. 

To win we need to campaign smarter and better. This doesn’t just mean more leaflets and more knocking on doors, it means proper community campaigning on local issues, it means better literature and online comms and it means being smarter at winning the electoral system with postal voters and on polling day. 

We’re going to be doing a lot to help you with this at ALDC, but at the very least I expect to see teams that are serious about winning in 2022 and 2023 at a Kickstart Weekend this year, and sending your activists to our year-round programme of online training. 

Well done again for all your hard work. Collectively we make a great team, a team that can do more winning in the years to come. 

Simon Kail says

I agree with all of that, thank you. In addition I would say we need stronger, simple messaging on council wide agendas as well as our community campaigning, particularly where we are potentially looking to be in a position of control either directly or in coalition. We needed something to counteract the Conservative 'coalition of chaos' message. For example in Peterborough we had an open goal with the John Lewis closure but I think we failed to use this to our advantage.

Anton McNulty-Howard says

My biggest concern is that the other parties use social media better than LD. Much more needs to be done in this respect.

Ashley Evans says

I too am concerned in the growth of interest in and votes got the greens.
LibDems have a strong commitment to green issues but suggestions as to how best to promote these, make voters aware, how to combat the Green‘s approach and highlight their relatively limited approach to other issues which are not green-relate, would be very welcome

Sherrilyn Bateman says

Can the party celebrate the huge wins in Aylesbury. Seems to me we have been forgotten. Check out our Facebook page. Maybe contact us to find out how we did it. 20 out of 25 seats at Aylesbury Town Council. 13 at Unitary. We blew the opposition out of the water. We had an amazing and dedicated campaign team and hard working candidates.


All good points; thanks. In Cumbria we'll do our best.


Nigel Jones says

Many new members joined in recent years, motivated by national issues ( and not just Brexit) and we sense other likely supporters are also likely to be same. So for building our local party national issues matter as well as local, do they ?

Nigel Jones says

Anecdotal thoughts about Greens. In our Borough (Newcastle under Lyme) green candidates were younger than other parties. I was PC in 2019 GE and green candidate was poor in hustings; at one audience entirely of students, they voted before and after the event. Large numbers went in voting Green, but ended voting Labour instead; my vote only slightly increased after debate. Other conversations suggested young people left-leaning have been put off us because of the coalition and their passion for green issues takes them to Green party not us. Our local green people are more authoritarian and socialist than people realise, which appeals to these youngsters.
We need to work at this.

Steve says

That clear USP(s) is urgently needed. We are increasingly facing Greens but in an overwhelming Tory County. Who else is successfully tackling that scenario?

suzanne Fletcher says

I was extremely unhappy at the advice (ALDC/HQ?) to concentrate on target letters and not Focus to all. Given the letters were wrongly targetted because of the huge tory upserge locally, it went badly wrong. Lesson to be learnt.

Cllr John Hassall says

We must stop referring to Green issues it may be understood or misunderstood just refer to Environmental issues

Tim Pickstone says

All good points thank you!

@Sherrilyn - you're right we have some huge successes to celebrate at a Town Council level - Durham, Truro, Aylesbury, Shrewsbury to name four I can think of. We're going to be thinking how best we celebrate this.

@Suzanne - I don't think anyone from ALDC would every say just do direct mail. Direct mail should be in addition to every house Focus, but there is (as you know) a huge benefit in every house leaflets as part of any campaign!

kevin bennett says

I have no intention of becoming a cllr myself but I would like to support and help your candidates become councillors. You want me to become a member and charge me accordingly for access to materials to help me do that. That model is wrong, makes my task harder.

James Baker says

Hi Kevin - All the membership subs go to helping to produce materials and support for Councillors. We also have our local election fighting fund if you would prefer to donate into a fund that gets spent on campaigning materials for Councillors.

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