Ground War and Morale

The ground war was identified as the most critical part of the campaign, given the lack of print media support from either the left or the right. It was also crucial that we argued our case to the key voters, setting out what we had delivered in Government and why.

Throughout the period of Coalition Government, the Party continued to be united in the original decision to form a coalition which was backed by a special conference in Birmingham in May 2010 as part of the complex “triple lock” democratic process in the party in the event of a hung parliament. That vote held the Party together through the tougher periods in the Coalition.

Organisationally, it was a tale of two parties. Whilst one part of the Party went into Government with all the highs and lows of that unique experience, another part and in particular the campaigning part of the Party was haemorrhaging experienced staff, councillors every May and activists on the ground.

The loss of Short Money to the centre, money allocated for parliamentary staff according to numbers of votes and MPs, and a significant reduction in experienced field staff in the first two years meant that in many parts of the UK, the campaigning knowledge was hollowed out of the Party at an alarming pace. At the same time whilst traditional soft Conservative voters recognised why, in a critical moment for the economy, the party had gone into Coalition government, for those activists in Labour-facing seats, the experience on the doorstep was harsh. May 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 saw losses in Council seats; the Scots in 2010 were particularly unforgiving to Liberal Democrats for working with the “toxic” Conservatives. So the tradition of activism the Party had relied on to overcome the lack of trades union or big business funding the other parties received became much harder to maintain.

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