Nick’s Letter from the Leader: what Lib Dem members think of them

by Stephen Tall on August 15, 2013

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

50% of Lib Dem members say Leaders’ Letter is effective — but with concerns about its tone

It’s nine months since Nick Clegg began sending a weekly email to party members, or indeed anyone who signs up at Do you read them — and, if yes, what do you make of them?

Do you read Nick Clegg’s weekly email, ‘Letter from the Leader’, sent to party members and supporters, with his views on current issues?

libdem letter from nick clegg31%

      – Yes, always

53% – Yes, sometimes

15% – No, never

1% – Don’t know

In total, then, 84% of Lib Dem members in our survey read Nick’s weekly missive at least sometimes: one-third never miss it. (You can catch up with them all to date here, by the way.) We asked those who’ve read it what they reckon to them:

Do you think the Letters – in presentation, tone and content – are effective or not effective as a way of communicating with party members and supporters?


      – Effective

19% – Not effective

28% – Neither effective nor ineffective

3% – Don’t know

So 1-in-2 of those members who read the letters think them effective; one-quarter are neutral; while 1-in-5 think them ineffective. That’s at least half a thumbs-up and, given Lib Dems are not shy in criticising the leadership, I think party HQ will settle for those figures.

However, it also clear from the comments that, while the principle of the email is welcomed and some hit the mark, it doesn’t always live up to the original billing ‘to give you a bit more of an insight into what’s going on behind those Whitehall doors and how we, as Lib Dems, are dealing with the issues and challenges that come up.’ Sometimes it’s hard to tell Nick’s letters apart from the more frequent emails the party sends championing new campaigns or policy announcements.

Obviously Nick is going to promote what the party’s doing — and clearly he’s constrained in quite how much dirty laundry he can wash in public — but the best letters are ones which get genuinely give members an inside track. I’m thinking, for example, of his letter praising Steve Webb’s pension reforms, or putting the facts straight about the Coalition’s plans for childcare.

Those which haven’t worked have been letters which sidestep the issue of the day that matters most to Lib Dems — for instance, when Nick ignored the party ruckus over secret courts. Other letters which jarred with members were those wishing everyone a restful Easter when many activists were sacrificing their holidays to go campaigning, and the post-local election letter which talked about the party being ‘back in the saddle’ (personally, I think the criticism of the latter over-done, but it was mentioned a number of times).

Here’s a selection of your comments:

It depends. Some have been great, some not so much. In principle they are good though.

Demonstate no empathy or understanding of the position of Party workers or members.

There is a tendency to be so positive in tone as to leave issues people in the country continue to face despite our party’s contribution – the emails come across a little too celebratory of the fact that we are in government and not aware enough of outcomes.

They are most effective when they ‘sound’ like him. But what about the members who are not on email? What contact is the party making with them?

Effective overall, but could do without the spin.

……and appreciated

His style makes me feel talked down to.

They’re okay, they’re not very well written and sometimes don’t flow very well. The content is broadly okay. Whoever writes them just isn’t a very good writer.

Very interesting when there is something new to say, but often excessively padded with waffle.

They sometimes spectacularly misjudge activists in the message and in the tone.

It’s one-way propaganda rather than meaningful communication. The parental tone does not win friends.

Generally they are fine, but the tone of those during and immediately after the local elections were counterproductive as they implied that Nick had his feet up whilst everyone else was campaigning, and he picked out a tiny handful of favoured people to talk about having won or lost, when some councillors of many years standing had also lost.

Find them a bit stale and what you would expect them to say

There is tedency for the letter to be propaganda. Communication should be two way.

Too Polyannarish. No character, reads like it was written by a robot.

Some more interesting than others inevitably. Feel too corporate at times

They are too similar, too bland and too frequent.

A very welcome and positive innovation

Like Tim Gordon’s the letter is a one way exercise with no inter action/no reply to responses.

Letters are very much one way and often do not address my concerns about current activities.

It’s one-way communication of course. The letter after local elections 2013 was particularly misconceived.

They’re fine, for what they are. But I would also like something meatier and more reflective. Something that talked about the difficulties and compromises, explained the thinking behind difficult decisions, etc.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and edited the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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