LDV members’ survey (1): Simon Hughes and the Lib Dem presidency

by Stephen Tall on September 8, 2008

All this week, Lib Dem Voice will be publishing the results of our September survey of party members conducted through Liberty Research via our private members’ forum. This is the second of our monthly surveys – if you have ideas for future survey questions, please email me at stephen@libdemvoice.org.

We began by asking about the party presidency. Every two years, the Lib Dem party membership has the opportunity to elect a Party President, and Simon Hughes MP has been party president since 2004. His term of office ends this year, and a ballot will take place this autumn to elect his successor.

LDV asked: What do you think the main role of the President should be?

Here’s how you rated the four options on offer:

* To become a known face in the media representing the Lib Dem position on the TV and radio news. 12.5%
* To tour the country visiting constituency parties, listening to members, and representing their views to the Parliamentary party. 45.8%
* To become a senior behind-the-scenes figure, chairing key policy and organisation committees, balancing the wishes of the membership and the leadership. 33.3%
* To lead the party’s fundraising among the membership and wealthy supporters, ensuring the party is on the best possible election footing. 8.3%

Of course none of the options are mutually exclusive, and doubtless many members will be looking to the presidential candidates to spell out how they will achieve all four of them (and more) if elected. But it was interesting to note that the role felt most fitting for the president should be to ‘rally the troops’ up and down the country; though the desire of members to see the president full involved with policy formulation was not far behind. Neither the PR nor the fundraising aspects to the job were felt by members in this survey to be of prime importance.

LDV then asked: How effective do you think Simon has been as party president?

Here’s what you told us:

Very effective: 9.4%
Quite effective: 15.6%
Okay: 34.4%
Quite ineffective: 27.1%
Very ineffective: 13.5%

Simon’s tenure as Lib Dem president has attracted a fair amount of critical muttering around the blogosphere, so he may be reasonably gratified to discover that 59% of LDV members (who are a pretty hard-nosed bunch) rated his performance as okay or better. Of course, that still leaves 41% who felt his performance had been ineffective to one degree or another.

To drill-down a little further LDV then asked: What do you think has been Simon’s greatest achievement or failure during his time as party president?

Some 60% of those who completed the survey chose to answer this. Most were critical, chiefly of Simon’s unfulfilled pledge to double the Lib Dem membership – though events largely beyond his control haven’t exactly assisted him for the past three years. Here’s some of what you said:


* Developing our success at a national level, thus leading to our highest number of seats since the 1920s.
* Supporting campaigns around the country.
* He has supervised and managed the party through a pretty rough passage. I do not think that has been easy; I do think we owe him for it.
* Being an effective public figure, while maintaining behind the scenes energy.
* Keeping the party relatively together during Charles evaporation, Mings leadership and departure, the following leadership contest and the Haltemprice and wotsit by-election.
* He has championed the cause of ethnic diversity within the party.


* Not doubling party membership
* No impact on declining membership, despite high promises
* The glaring decline in membership although to lay that is door would be unfair. It is something people need to address though and make sure we are a party engaging with people at all levels.
* failure to get rid of CK as leader when everyone clsoe to him knew he was an alcoholic
* His failure to deliver on the promises he made when standing for election.
* Failure to meet any of his commitments, or even try to meet his ludicrous promise on membership. Granted, though, the awards at Conference are a good idea.
* It may not be accurate but my perception is that he still thinks from an MP’s perspective when he’s acting in his capacity as President. I want a President who represents the membership.
* Failure: autonomously inventing a dozen vice-presidents. Losing his very public identity as a strong member of the front bench team.
* Greatest failing was standing for Leader whilst being President.
* The drop in membership when he promised to raise it.
* Failure to live up to his promises on increasing membership
* Greatest failure, prob making leaders of the party’s minority groups ‘Vice-Presidents’, it was meaningless tokenism.
* His failure to deliver his promise of doubling party membership and failing to provide any explanation for this.
* Greatest failure – unhelpful interjections during Ming’s leadership
* Failure to increase membership
* Failed to meet his objective of overtaking Labour’s membership figures, and didn’t seem to be doing much to attempt to achieve it.
* He set out a clear pledge to increase membership and has palably failed to do so in his own seat or anywhere else.
* He pledged to recruit more members but did not succeed.
* He has not achieved the increase in members he promised when first elected, he also should have remained neutral in the leadership election.

Enjoy reading this? Please like and share:


just goes to show, empty promises will come back to haunt you, I think he’s done pretty well and he does work very hard for the party.

by John Dixon on September 8, 2008 at 9:23 am. Reply #

You know, despite the role I played in puncturing it, I had completely forgotten about the Vice Presidents debacle!

And he promised to TREBLE our membership, not double it.

by James Graham on September 8, 2008 at 11:38 am. Reply #

“Most were critical, chiefly of Simon’s unfulfilled pledge to double the Lib Dem membership – though events largely beyond his control haven’t exactly assisted him for the past three years”

That’s unbelievably generous spin. This was a pledge with little basis in reality on which virtually nothing has been done to attempt to implement it.

Simon was elected on a pledge to work alongside Charles, increase membership and maintain the party’s popularlity. We’ve had two leadership elections (in which he’s played a not very glorious role), and membership and poll ratings has fallen. Whether he’s worked hard I don’t know but his record is a completely disastrous one.

by Hywel Morgan on September 8, 2008 at 12:51 pm. Reply #

I was in FFAC meetings with Simon in which certain individuals spelled out exactly how we might increase our membership. What it required was financial commitment (no recruitment campaign of this type will pay for itself in the short term) and political will, but I have no doubt we would have made progress if even a handful of those ideas had been followed.

Arguably, we had other priorities to spend precious resources on and it is doubtful we would have even doubled our membership over the last four years. But I have no doubt that if it had happened a) it would have paid for itself by now and b) we would have a much bigger activist pool from which to build.

by James Graham on September 8, 2008 at 1:10 pm. Reply #

Simon’s pledge to increase our membership was made when there was a massive anti-war movement out there, and a real potential for the Liberal Democrats to exploit that and the unease with the Labour party.
Since he was elected president the party was too half hearted in attacking Labour over the war in Iraq, and has shifted it’s ideological position in a direction where very few people outside of our party or the Tories currently occupy. I do not see how Simon could have predicted that when he was elected.
Even in the best circumstances the target was unrealistic. But if he had not said these things, he would have been accused of lack of ambition.

by Geoffrey Payne on September 8, 2008 at 3:27 pm. Reply #

To tour the country visiting constituency parties, listening to members, and representing their views to the Parliamentary party.

Doesn’t quite, in my mind, mean:

But it was interesting to note that the role felt most fitting for the president should be to ‘rally the troops’ up and down the country

The former is bottom up, the latter is top down. I think this difference is important (though realise that Stephen’s paraphrasing wasn’t intended to blur it).

See my posting at http://duncanborrowman.blogspot.com/2008/09/race-to-be-president.html

by Duncan Borrowman on September 9, 2008 at 11:27 am. Reply #

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.