A few thoughts on how the Liberals must face some inconvenient truths
To members of Sean Godfrey for Oshawa
October 26 at 12:12am
A few thoughts on how the Liberals must face some inconvenient truths… if we are to become a relevant political force in 21st century Canada.
1) A Liberal Party Leader:
We need to pick a leader who can work with others, who can listen, will respect their opinions but who also has charisma, intelligence and can communicate ideas well. He or she must be likeable in the public’s eyes, a good salesman and a great communicator – to get the message across to the public.
2) The Machine:
Here, the Liberals have their greatest lessons to learn, from of all people, the Conservatives.
This is the 21st century. So, let’s start to use 21st century techniques and every possible modern media tool to maximal advantage.
We need to include the internet, TV marketing, telephone marketing, focus groups and professional PR firms to create…a successful brand.
We must build a successful brand from both top down… and bottom up.
The message to the public must, of course, be exceptionally good from the central leadership; but the creation and execution of political momentum must be at both riding and national level.
According to the Toronto Star last week, only 36,000 individuals across Canada contributed last year to the Liberals.
The Conservatives had five times that number of contributors, and as a result had a national database of identified Conservatives to approach, not just for money, but for votes, taking signs, recruiting volunteers and grassroots organization.
They also outgunned us by five times in terms of money raised from individual donations. We must learn how to play the ‘new’ game.
We need to create that kind of database and those kinds of numbers of supporters consistently across this country, from year to year, and not just hope we can gain enough national support in an Election period.
The Conservatives also targeted specific groups such as middle class married women very successfully, in terms of policy and propaganda. For the Conservatives, each riding had thousands of identified supporters from the national database who could then be plugged into each local campaign.
3) Each Liberal riding must become a fully functioning cell of political action:
during writ but also between writs, more importantly. The Liberal Party needs to wake up to the simple fact that if each riding association were to become a supported hotbed of local political activity, then the Liberal brand would resonate in every riding across the country with the electorate in every Election.
Right now, Liberal riding associations – especially in un-held ridings – are aimless, impoverished and have no true political activity, except by accident.
The Liberals centrally spent no concerted effort, time or money going after un-held ridings, and ignored their issues in strategy and policy approaches.
No wonder almost no ridings were taken back and several “stronghold” ridings were lost.
The Liberals have believed arrogantly, for too long, that just showing up to an Election should be sufficient to win.
We need to take serious stock: the Liberals have lost the confidence of this nation.
We simply don’t resonate with enough people anymore in this country.
4) Political structure:
Currently, we have an archaic and seemingly inept structure in place, in terms of central, regional and local organizations, when it comes to effective political activity.
LPCO is my local provincial example. It acheives very little effective political activity that I can determine. Since I was a candidate, if it’s not apparent to me that they are doing anything in terms of political action, then it’s even more embarrassing to consider just how ineffective they really must be… as far as stimulating the general public to turn to the Liberals.
There seem to be more people interested in holding titular positions in these organizations than there are people actually orchestrating political action… and engaging the public to become Liberals or to hear the Liberal message.
During the Election period, I must have received hundreds of emails from the central Party and LPCO extolling the virtues of the Liberal campaign …but absolutely nothing was being done to communicate these messages effectively to the electorate. Very little of any real use was forthcoming either to candidates in un-held ridings in terms of help or assistance, except very outdated ideas and techniques, such as forcing candidates to buy a useless riding package which contained, amongst other things, dozens of posters of Mr Dion.
The tools provided, if they could be called that, were old fashioned, ineffective and a waste of valuable resouces and money.
Strategic targeting of specific ridings in a more intelligent ‘hands on’ fashion is what’s required.
What’s also required is an understanding of modern political warfare and the tools that are required. The Liberal Party doesn’t appear to understand, in terms of its own regional and central organizations, how to wage the war, riding by riding.
Fascinatingly, as soon as the Election was over, I received not one email, message or telephone call from LPCO or the central Party apparatus to thank me for the time, effort, money and sacrifices that I, and so many others, had undertaken on their behalf as Liberal candidates. We took the fall for the Liberal Party’s ineptitude, poor organization and a badly communicated, misguided central Party message that simply lost us thousands of Liberal voters in every riding across the country.
When I close my eyes at night, the lasting memory of our canvassing during the campaign is the recurring refrain heard too often to count at the doorsteps, ” I can’t vote Liberal this time, your leader is terrible…and I hate the carbon tax!”
To not even acknowledge the candidates and their loyal volunteers who slogged their guts out for the cause and who were mown down like cannon fodder in the Election debacle, is just insulting to so many who were brave enough to hoist the Liberal banner high and demonstrates a shocking lack of intelligence and empathy when applied to team building.
Many candidates are shell shocked by what happened, many are openly angry and will never run again for the Liberals, because of how let down they feel because of their regional and central Party’s indifference and ineptitude.
5) We cannot afford another divisive and expensive leadership struggle:
This needs to be put very quickly behind us, if any momentum can be created – especially since there is a very good chance we will face another election within the next few years.
Surely we don’t want to return to Parliament, again afraid to challenge the increasingly swaggering Conservatives because we cannot afford to fight another election and know internally we are still divided?
Enough is enough.
It’s time to learn some hard lessons and get back into the game we need to win.
If we really want to win, we must first learn from our mistakes of how we lost.
If we fail to learn from our mistakes, we are certain to repeat them.
Leadership contenders please note this last point.
So, it seems clear that in very short order, we must have a much briefer, affordable and much more sensible leadership convention.
Liberals cannot wait until May, with Mr. Dion hanging painfully on to be further ridiculed by the Conservatives, at will, in Parliament.
All that achieves is further Conservative brainwashing of the Electorate that the Liberals cannot get their act together and shouldn’t be trusted as being credible.
The Liberals should view choosing a new leader as our first and immediately vital PR exercise in regaining public confidence in the Liberal brand.
This can and should really be done before Christmas, if we are to have any real chance of unifying support initially within the Liberals and then, much more importantly, within the general electorate.
The Tories planned their election two years ahead. We are already behind the clock – given that the most likely election time line is just two years away.
6) Cooperation and unity:
Now more than ever, the team of key Liberals must realize that they must work together, if we are to succeed.
We have absolutely brilliant, talented, capable people in place within the Liberals. But, we have not learned to play as a unified team.
Place each person at their strongest positions, cover each other’s areas of weakness, and move as one smooth and coherent force.
The public are desperate for the Liberals to rise from the ashes and deliver something worth believing in, again.
7) The ‘Kingston’ effect:
It is absolutely necessary to take the brightest and the best in this Party and sequester them until they thrash out both a winning team approach and an effective policy strategy that the electorate will get behind in droves.
That policy strategy must be clear, easy to grasp and resonate with this 21st century electorate.
Remember, we have one huge advantage over the Conservatives: we are the good guys!
We actually believe in human rights, social progress, democracy and freedom of speech, equality and fairness.
The public know that…and they want to see those principles front and centre, so they can willingly back the Liberal brand again.
The team approach is critical, but of course, we need a captain – who must lead by example and must have the loyalty of all those who play on the team.
Or we shall simply repeat what we just all painfully witnessed – and lose not only the next Election, but the permanent confidence of the people of this nation.