Lib Dem election campaign likened to ‘high-speed car crash’ by internal report

PUBLISHED: 10:10 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:10 18 May 2020

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson reacts as she exits the party's campaign 'Battle Bus' in north west London during their general election campaign. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson reacts as she exits the party's campaign 'Battle Bus' in north west London during their general election campaign. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

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An internal Liberal Democrat inquiry into the party’s performance at the last general election has found attempts to pitch their leader as Britain’s next prime minister, and pledges to revoke Article 50, led to a ‘high-speed car crash’ of a campaign.

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The report was commissioned after the party’s generation election result in December 2019 result in which it returned just 11 MPs - down by one on 2017.

It had originally pitched for leader Jo Swinson to become Britain’s next prime minister.

One section of the analysis was headlined The election: a high-speed car crash.

The study found that the messaging on Swinson, who lost her seat, as the next PM, was seen as “unrealistic” by voters.


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Also the party’s plan to stop Brexit without a second referendum was used against the Lib Dems as “undemocratic” by other parties.

The report found the party’s messaging failed to cut through and it did not appeal to enough black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) voters.

The party also alienated large sections of the electorate.

“Beyond ‘stopping Brexit’, our other policies and messages struggled to cut through.

“There was no overarching offer of the country we wanted to create that would appeal to the electorate at large.

“Indeed, we alienated large chunks of the population.

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“This was compounded by errors in how we addressed support amongst BAME communities, especially in London, which was vital to our plans in 2019.”

The report found that there was an “unaccountable” group of advisers around Swinson.

It says: “Jo’s election also set in motion the recruitment of a new CEO to replace Nick Harvey, a process which would ultimately see him leave before the election campaign, and created around her a group of people whom she trusted.

“This had the unintended consequence of creating an ‘inner circle’ of advisers at arm’s length from the resources of the party machine, and put decision-making in the hands of an unaccountable group around the leader.

“It also severed some people from the roles and responsibilities they were employed to do, and led to the over-promotion of others.

“When it later came to scaling up for the election, members of this inner team of advisers were given very broad remits.

“This proved unmanageable and removed the necessary debate and challenge, which are vital for driving improvement.”

But there was also elements of sexism and misogyny that impacted the Lib Dem leader during the campaign.

“Previously net-positive ratings for Jo fell during the campaign.

“There was clearly a lot of misogyny and sexism at play, and Jo’s appeal to women also fell significantly during the election.”

The report says: “Even beyond the chaos and uncertainty which came into play in 2019, the Liberal Democrats had not translated their beliefs into a clear and relevant vision or the strategy to put it into place.”

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