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MANUAL The little Liberal Book Guide for political party work

Table of contents Chapter 1

Why we need strong liberal parties

Chapter 2

What liberal parties have in common


Chapter 3

The role of political parties



Chapter 4 Party structures and functions


Chapter 5


Membership administration

Chapter 6 Event organisation


Chapter 7 Communication


Chapter 8 Participating in elections and campaigning


chapter 9



chapter 10

How to be in (local) parliament/government - coalition or opposition



1. What is the ELDR Party – role and importance 2. Liberal organisations and think tanks worldwide


Copyright 2011 ELDR Party, aisbl All rights reserved Co-authors : Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, ELDR Party President 2005-2011 ; Philipp Hansen, Head of political unit, ELDR Party No part of this publication may be reproduced, storedin or introduced intro a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Requests for permission should be directed to

Politics is based on solid organisation in order to develop, communicate and implement liberal policies. Success is therefore based on internal party structures, the ability to recruit and engage members and your ability to campaign for your ideas. Party politics demands increasing professionalism but simultaneously it becomes increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers to build the backbone of any political party or non-profit organisation . The ELDR Party has prepared this guide on political party activity in order to provide some direction for new party leadership personnel on the one hand, and to be a reference book and provide ideas for experienced party workers on the other. It will provide you with practical ideas and tips such as how to build your local party chapter, how to organise events or how to deal with the press. Such a guide also depends on your feedback. Let us know any shortcomings or suggest additions that you would like to share with others. Future editions will take these into consideration.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book

Acknowledgments The conception and writing of this guide is based on the experiences and political successes of many liberal parties across Europe, and has drawn on the work and political experience of successful liberal politicians as well as consultants and practitioners in the field of party-building, political campaigning and communication. Many of those are acknowledged in the footnotes, some others should be recognised here. ELDR Secretary General Federica Sabbati, as well as ELDR staff members Didrik de Schaetzen, Joakim Frantz, Robert Plummer and Daniel Tanahatoe, were of great help in providing comments and feedback on recent drafts of all or part of this book. German liberal consultant Wulf Pabst also provided valuable opinions during the writing process. British Liberal Democrat Penny Hopkins, the editor of this guide, has proven to be of invaluable importance in shaping a jumble of ideas and fragments into a readable guide written in comprehensible and modern English.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book




Liberalism is as much a world view and humanist outlook as a way to

practise politics. For both of these reasons, liberalism attracts many people who are not necessarily interested in day-to-day politics. They might even despise and look down on day-to-day politics. For, let’s be honest : anyone who watches political debates on television ; or follows election campaigns closely, can find much to despise. The petty squabbles, the personal attacks, the hyper-inflated egos : the show is often more repellent than attractive. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many citizens feel alienated by what they see and hear. There are however many people who are genuinely interested in ideas and genuinely willing and prepared to help the world become a better place. What opportunities are there for people willing to help the world become a better place ? Ideas are developed in academia and in think tanks and are spread by the media - traditional ones like newspapers, television and radio, or modern ones like the internet and its many devices. But the development and spreading of ideas is only the first part of the story, and the easiest at that. The transposition of those ideas into reality is more difficult. That is where politics come in, inevitably. A new vision of social protection, for instance, will only become reality if and when the political decision-makers overhaul the existing system to introduce a new one. That is the task of governments and parliaments, in short of politicians. And they will only be able to achieve that if they can build a political majority.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Why we need strong liberal parties


In democracies parliaments are composed of elected individuals, and members of government are most often chosen from the ranks of elected parliamentarians. And even when this is not the case, a government will only be able to start work after obtaining the approval of a majority in parliament. In short, if a political movement wants to translate its ideas and views into reality, it will need to take part in elections. And it will need to get a sufficient number of people elected to parliament to be able to influence the outcome of political debates. This is the reason why liberalism must organise into political bodies able to participate successfully in elections. It must be able to get a sufficient number of people elected, not just once but on a regular basis, so as to become a fixture of the political landscape in which it operates. When I look at the European political landscape, I see that liberals are absent from several national parliaments. When I look at the Liberal Group in the European Parliament, I see that there are no liberal representatives in several member states. To put it bluntly, this means that the liberal parties that function in several European member states are too weak to succeed in getting one single person elected to their national parliaments and/ or the European Parliament. This in turn means that there are no liberal representatives from those countries in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This is a sorry state of affairs because it means that liberal voices are not heard in those countries, that they are almost absent from the public debate and that they are unable to contribute to the evolution of their societies. That is especially to be deplored in countries where liberals succeeded in all of this in recent years, but have now somehow lost momentum. Liberals, however, are optimists and things can change for the better.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Why we need strong liberal parties

Through my years of experience, I have come to see that liberal parties are generally not short of ideas, or sufficiently gifted candidates. What they often lack is organisational strength and structure. They might be reasonably present in the state capital and in the main cities, but are absent from the smaller towns, municipalities and villages. They might, for instance, be unevenly present in the several electoral districts of their country and that means either that they will be unable to participate in the elections in several of them (thereby weakening their overall result) or else that they will need to start building a structure from scratch when they should already be campaigning. No party is sustainable in the medium and long term if it doesn’t have a structure that is sufficiently strong to provide continuity and the resources (human and otherwise) to run successive campaigns and to tide the party over in times of hardship. This applies to liberal parties no less than to any party aspiring to govern its country, city or town in order to translate its ideas into reality. I have been an elected member of my national parliament and of the European Parliament for forty years. I also succeeded in getting elected to the municipal council of my city from which my party had long been absent, and I have contributed to turning my party into one of the strongest Flemish parties in the Brussels region. Of course, I haven’t achieved this all by myself. I realised early on that my party would need sustainable and active branches in all of the electoral districts of my region and this is what I have done together with friends and colleagues. My party has been present in the regional parliament since its inception in 1989 and has been a member of the regional government coalition since 1999. By the way, these dates indicate that the building of a sustainable party structure takes time and that success is seldom immediate.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Why we need strong liberal parties


I have also been the leader of my party between 1985 and 1989, and during those four years, I had to fight two legislative elections, one municipal election and one European election. We made progress in all of them. The preparation for the municipal elections in particular offered me a unique opportunity to measure the strengths and the weaknesses of the structures of my party. I realised that we needed a functioning party structure in each and every municipality in order to improve our chances in the upcoming local elections. I also realised that we should aim at obtaining everywhere the average percentage of votes we won nationwide. The national total being the sum of all your electoral results, including the best results and the worst, you will necessarily improve the total by aiming at equalling your national average everywhere. This is one way to set yourself a quantitative goal. Another way to do this may consist in aiming to reach the electoral threshold and adding a security margin. So, if the threshold is 5 %, you should set the goal at 7 % or at 8 %. This means that out of every hundred voters, 7 or 8 should vote for you. This is both harder and easier than you might think. I must however stress again that you need to build a functioning party structure, even a very small one, to achieve this. People generally don’t vote for someone they have never heard of. People don’t vote for a party they have never heard anything from and that suddenly springs up a few weeks before an election, demanding their vote. Getting your party known, getting your prospective candidates known, spreading your ideas, this is the work of party structures. It isn’t always funny, or sexy, but it is of the utmost importance if you are serious about liberal political work.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Why we need strong liberal parties

Because we passionately believe in liberalism, and want to see it present and strong all over Europe, the ELDR Party has prepared this manual. by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, ELDR Party President 2005-2011, October 2011

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Why we need strong liberal parties





y involvement with international liberalism started during my student days more than forty years ago, when I became permanent secretary of WFLRY, the World Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth. WFLRY was the youth organisation of Liberal International. It still exists, but its acronym is now IFLRY, the I standing for “International”. Paradoxically, this youth organisation is more truly worldwide today than was the case forty years ago. From the start of my involvement, I became familiar with various shades of liberalism. A similar variety of liberal shades exists in both Liberal International and ELDR. It is one of the many charms of liberalism. Be that as it may, this variety raises the questions of what it truly means to be a liberal individual, and what it truly means to be a liberal party. Is it only a matter of words, or is there more to it ? I could put it differently. Do all liberal parties and individuals have something in common, and if so, what could it be ? They actually do, which is why liberals from all over the world and from all over Europe can work together and devise common answers to the big challenges of today. Books on liberalism could easily fill several libraries, which might suggest that the issue is more complicated than I have indicated. But bear with me and allow me to make my case. It was the Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy who pointed the way with the following story. Once, when he was in New Zealand to meet with fellow Cambodians, one of them said : “Mr. Sam, Cambodia is at least as beautiful as New Zealand and has a great, ancient culture, but Cambodians are generally very poor and have suffered grievously. MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common


New Zealanders, by contrast, are rich and don’t suffer from violence. I believe this is because here people are free and enjoy the liberty to build their own lives. Cambodians don’t enjoy such freedom and liberty and therefore remain poor.” As Sam Rainsy concluded, “this farmer from Cambodia had perfectly understood what liberalism is all about : it is about freedom and liberty ; it is about people enjoying the dignity to pursue their own goals.” And this has indeed been my experience. Time and again, I have experienced that liberals from all over the world share this one belief, the belief that individual freedom and liberty are the strongest levers for development and happiness. How then to organise societies so that the highest number of people, if not all of them, enjoy these possibilities ? This is what liberal parties are expected to do : devise policies to enable the maximum number of people to build better lives for themselves and their fellow citizens. Liberal parties may widely (and wildly) differ on how to achieve this. Timothy Garton Ash formulates it as follows : “How can we achieve the highest possible degree and quality of individual liberty, compatible with the liberty of others ? Does this or that policy help or hinder progress towards the goal ? This is the question to which true liberals always return. The major argument within the liberal tradition over the past hundred years – between a more rightwing, economic, free-trading, market-loving, deregulatory, small-state liberalism, and a more leftwing, social, state-friendly, empowering, egalitarian lib-


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common

eralism – is at bottom an argument about the means to achieve that shared end, not about the end itself.” 1 When considering the elements of these descriptions of the two main shades of liberalism, one cannot escape the question whether these elements haven’t become the main components of all of today’s mainstream politics, at least in the West. And so they have indeed. This suggests a further question. If the essential components of liberalism have become mainstream and can be found at various degrees in most mainstream political parties, then how can parties that claim to be truly liberal distinguish themselves from the other parties ? One could ask an even more difficult question : if liberalism has become mainstream, if it has become the very political condition of modernity rather than a distinct political movement, do we still need liberal parties ? It won’t surprise you that my answer is yes, we still need liberal parties. But we are faced with the difficult task of distinguishing our parties sufficiently from all other parties to convince people to vote for us. Liberal parties are needed first of all to keep liberalism alive. “[As] a historical movement of ideas and a political and social practice… [rather than as] a set of general and abstract propositions”2, liberalism still has an important role to play in the development of our societies.

1 Timothy Garton Ash, Why we need the Liberals in British politics – and by their proper name, The Guardian, 30 June 2010, http :// liberals-british-politics-proper-name. 2 Anthony Arblaster, Excerpts from The Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism (Oxford : Basil Blackwell, 1984), pp. 55-59 ; 66-91. http ://

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common


Over the centuries liberalism has reflected shifting interests and circumstances. At its very beginning as a political movement, liberalism was the doctrine for the fight against the “ancien régime” of the 18th century. By the 19th century, liberalism reflected the virtues of “laissez-faire, laissez-passer” capitalism, although that notion was much abused later on. Its enemies presented it as a celebration of the survival of the fittest, while it was actually a call to do away with the many internal obstacles to the free movement of goods and people. Liberals and liberal parties have always paid considerable attention to the economy, having realised early on that economic welfare is essential to provide people with acceptable livelihoods. A basic tenet of liberalism has been and still is that people should be able to provide for themselves and to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Where liberals differ, is on the role and scope of state and government necessary to help ensure this. So-called right wing liberals might be of the opinion that state and government have barely any role to play, while socalled social liberals might believe that state and government have a duty to establish the rules, to ensure that the playing field is level and that the people who cannot provide for themselves are helped. It also happens that liberals and liberal parties may change their views on this, as circumstances change. And finally, it does happen that an interesting new approach, which is initially successful, changes over time into a dogma or a mantra and is still followed long after circumstances have profoundly changed. This fate befell for instance John Maynard Keynes. After World War I he argued that public deficits were defensible if used to stimulate investments and even consumption, in order to stimulate the economy and create new jobs. Over time however, politicians and economists alike saw this as a licence to run public deficits, without bothering whether the borrowed 16

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common

money was used to finance investments or to cover the daily expenses of government. A similar lot befell Friedrich August von Hayek, Milton Friedman and others. What we learn from this is, one, that good ideas should not be turned into dogmas ; and, two, that liberals should beware of identifying themselves with this or that economic theory. Economic theories are indeed means to achieve a goal. They should not become goals in themselves. The goal of liberal political practice should always be to give as many people as possible the opportunity to conduct their lives as they choose, while respecting the freedom of choice of their fellow human beings. For liberals, individual human beings, their dignity and singularity, their uniqueness, must always come first, and take precedence over religion, corporation, economic interest, nation, state, etc. As this should be true for all individuals forming a society, such precedence does not lead to anarchy, nor to the survival of only the fittest. Only liberals and liberal parties can ensure this. Other ideologies might have accepted for instance a liberal approach to the economy, but they will most probably not accept the pre-eminence of individuals and their individual choices to the degree liberals do (or should do in a perfect liberal world). Opponents of liberalism often accuse it of selfishness and disregard for the weak and the poor. They only need to point at libertarianism, an offshoot of liberalism that indeed tends to believe that the weak and the poor have only themselves to blame, and that in any case, it is not the role of state and government to impose solidarity and to forbid potentially harmful behaviour.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common


Libertarianism is interesting insofar as it takes a critical look at situations which we take for granted or to which we have become so used that we have stopped questioning them, but it cannot possibly serve as a basis for sustainable politics, principally because it completely disregards the frailty of some human beings and the ruthlessness of others. Indeed, human beings are not perfect : they err ; they make mistakes ; they may lack courage ; they may lack prudence, etc, etc ; the list of their frailties and weaknesses is endless. And this applies, in various degrees, to all of us. This is why we do need laws and rules. Laws and rules should ensure that all human beings, strong and frail, have a reasonable opportunity to live their lives in dignity and freedom. Laws and rules should achieve that, but no more. Liberal parties should always carefully consider whether laws and rules fulfil this purpose and should oppose laws and rules that merely serve particular interests or the whim of the moment. Liberal parties don’t always do that. Liberal parties at times follow the trend, the fashion of the moment : they go green when “green” is the call of the moment ; they go multicultural or the reverse when societies go in this or the opposite direction ; they might even turn euro-sceptic when the public goes that way. In short, they stop leading ; they stop showing the way, they believe that salvation lies in following the public, rather than enlightening the public. The question then arises whether the general public needs such parroting parties, especially when other parties are available which embody those views more strongly. We are presently going through a very difficult financial and economic crisis which offers liberal parties the opportunity to come up with original and future-oriented answers and solutions. In order to do that, we should care18

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common

fully assess whether the available remedies do serve the citizens or whether they cater to the short-term concerns of the citizens or, even worse, to the particular interests of this or that segment of society. Citizens are rightly furious at their banks and bankers who have taken enormous risks in order to increase their profits. Many citizens feel that sanctions are in order. But if the banks really go bust, what becomes of the money deposited by those same citizens ? Many citizens are outraged at the huge deficits accumulated by their governments, but balk at the consequences of budgetary tightening, whether they are requested to pay more taxes or give up entitlements or subsidies. Many citizens are more than reluctant to see their governments come to the aid of other spendthrift states, but have not been told what the consequences would be of those other states defaulting. I feel that it is high time for liberals and liberal parties to stop the blame game and to look for sustainable, real solutions. It is high time for European liberals and European liberal parties to publicly recognise that no single European state can shoulder the crisis on its own. It is high time for European Liberals and European Liberal Parties to recognise that we need one another and that we stand much stronger united than if we each went our own separate way. I strongly believe that liberals and liberal parties have a duty to seek the truth and to tell the truth. And that might be something entirely different from telling the people what we believe they want to hear. The yardstick for devising solutions should always be whether it offers the largest number of people a chance for a better, more dignified life. Make no mistake, this is a delicate and difficult balancing act because the interests of different people and institutions do clash and contradict one

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common


another. As indicated earlier, the interests of banks and those of their customers may differ, certainly in the short term. So do the interests of different age groups such as young people and pensioners, or those of people who have a job and those seeking one. On a global scale, it is obvious that the interests of rich countries and those of poor ones are vastly different, certainly in the here and now. If you share the above views on liberalism, it must be possible to find a future-oriented path for liberal parties. Liberal parties have a duty to enter into a debate with the citizens and to invite them to devise win/win solutions, which encompass as many people as possible and which are sustainable. Seeking the truth and telling the truth should be the starting point. In order to do that, it is necessary to abandon dogmatism. The aim and the yardstick of possible solutions should always be whether they benefit the general interest, whether they benefit the largest possible number of people. Do envisaged solutions improve the life chances of citizens ? Do they give them more freedom of choice ? Do they offer them a better balance between freedom and security ? Do they benefit the pursuit of happiness by the many, or only by the few ? Liberal parties that cater only to the interests of the few will never grow strong. The choice is yours. Good luck. by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, ELDR Party President 2005-2011, October 2011


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | What liberal parties have in common





olitical parties are groups of people who share an idea of society and want to implement it. How ? They organise themselves and they organise their ideas into political campaigns in order to win elections and be elected to government. For many this sounds daunting and actually puts people off getting involved in party politics. They consider political party business a dirty and corrupt game in which politicians only look after their own interests. However, multi-party systems are an essential part of a well-functioning modern representative democracy. Well-functioning parties allow governments and legislatures to represent wider society in a meaningful way. Parties are the bridge between government and society, both in the ways they translate society’s demands into political ideas and programmes, and in the way they hold government to account on behalf of society. Political parties should be value based and policy oriented. In contrast, political parties in some countries are still based on ethnicity, regions, religions or centered around a leader or a family and tribe. Political parties serve a number of key functions in any democratic system, which cannot be performed by any other body. In emerging or relatively young democracies a volatile party system primarily based on vested interests or egocentric personalities can prevent the development of trust in the new political system. In established multi-party democracies we witness a growing fatigue with the personnel and performance of political parties that also challenges trust in the system and allows populist and extremist parties to gain votes.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | The role of political parties


The key functions of a political party in a nutshell :

• •

to develop policies and programs in order to provide policy alternatives ; to contest and win elections to participate in government institutions in order to implement their policies ;

to exercise control over government and to serve as a link between government and voters ;

t o bring together different people and groups with common values and ideas ;

• •

to identify demands from society and group them into policy options ; to recruit, select and train people for executive and legislative positions (and other positions in politics).

Political parties perform two fundamental roles in the political process : they participate in the government or they are in opposition. In representative systems, including city councils, the executive is supported by a majority in the parliament or council and control of the executive is exercised by the opposition. Political parties do have shortcomings but no other body could replace them in a modern Western European-type democracy. In some countries, politicians establish ‘movements’, which purportedly differ from parties by being unifying forces that represent the society as a whole rather than just a segment of it. ‘Movements’ that are set up to compete for power are parties in disguise. To avoid misunderstanding, civil society organisations are not a replacement for political parties. “Civic associations cannot play the role of parties unless they actually transform themselves into parties.” 3 NGOs are not held accountable by the electorate through elections ; they are expected neither to form a government nor to provide the general political direction of a country. 3 Matthias Catón, Effective Party Assistance – Stronger Parties for Better Democracy, International IDEA, Policy Paper, November 2007, p. 5 24

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | The role of political parties

The capacity of parties to discharge the functions mentioned above in an effective manner is controlled by the regulatory environment, including both the external laws governing party competition in any country as well as by internal party rules. How well parties perform, especially in countries where they face low or eroding grassroots membership, weak internal organisation, and a crisis of public confidence is of critical importance. Some people view political parties negatively. Political competition is at times seen as destabilising. Both in new democracies (a desire for peace and stability) but also in established democracies (a desire for harmony), competition between political parties is often seen as a threat to stability. However, competition between political parties is by no means bad. Competition serves as a “discovery procedure” (Friedrich August von Hayek) not only in the market but also among political parties. It serves to make parties more responsive to voters, and motivates parties to develop new ideas and to reach out to new groups of the electorate. Others consider that politics and political parties are fundamentally or potentially corrupt. Politics, however, is about public service, improving lives and developing society. Like everybody else, political parties and their protagonists are human beings and therefore subject to weakness and failure. The more transparent and accountable political parties are in their conduct and actions, the better they can respond to people’s critical assessments. “To counter this [negative perception], political parties should find a way to compete within politically acceptable bounds that do not undermine the stability of the country or the trust of the citizens in the system itself.” 4 Following a famous dictum of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, a state based 4 Political Party Capacity Building Programme – Manual. Developed by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for use by all political parties in Namibia. Windhoek, Namibia 2004, p. 5 (in the following cited as : NDI, Party Capacity). Building Manual). MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | The role of political parties


on a multi-party democracy requires preconditions for functioning that the state itself cannot guarantee. 5 This means that a multi-party democracy and the parties themselves need to develop an attitude about their political limits and understanding of each other that take some presumptions for granted. “Opposition parties should acknowledge the right of ruling parties to govern and ruling parties should accept the right of opposition parties to criticize. Further, all political parties, government and opposition, have an obligation to represent the interests of those citizens who voted for them.” 6 Election winners should be modest and realise that tomorrow they could lose. After the elections is always before the elections. Losers should equally realise that they will have another chance (at a different level of government or another time in the future) and the outcome could be different.

5 Former judge at the German Constitutional Court Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde said that the democratic state cannot enforce the preconditions of its governance for functioning, i.e. the democratic attitude and ethos of its citizens. „Der freiheitliche, säkularisierte Staat lebt von Voraussetzungen, die er selbst nicht garantieren kann. Das ist das große Wagnis, das er, um der Freiheit willen, eingegangen ist. Als freiheitlicher Staat kann er einerseits nur bestehen, wenn sich die Freiheit(…), von innen her, aus der moralischen Substanz des einzelnen und der Homogenität der Gesellschaft, reguliert. Anderseits kann er diese inneren Regulierungskräfte nicht von sich aus, das heißt, mit den Mitteln des Rechtszwanges und autoritativen Gebots zu garantieren versuchen, ohne seine Freiheitlichkeit aufzugeben(…).“ Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde : Staat, Gesellschaft, Freiheit. 1976, S. 60. 6 NDI, Party Capacity Building Manual, p. 5. 26

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | The role of political parties

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | The role of political parties




Based on this assumption, that a political party brings together groups of people sharing common ideas and seeks to implement their ideas into legislation to make an impact on society, you need to get organised if you want to achieve your goals.

The following chapter presents some basic structures for successful parties and suggests some essential functions and rules you should follow when organising your party or your local party branch. Coordination and organisation are the keys to political success ! The structure of a political party differs from country to country, both in Europe and also beyond. Legislative frameworks such as party laws or other regulations governing political parties may be very different, which is why this manual cannot present a role model structure with a one-fits-all approach. In general, we can identify four different types of political party : 7 1. “Purist parties : for these parties their political and/or religious ideology comes first, while the acquisition of power is secondary. These parties are hardly – if at all – prepared to make compromises. They are parties of the true faithful with a coherent ideology. 2. One-issue parties : these are founded to serve one single concrete goal or a narrowly defined target group, eg one particular ethnic group, women, the environment, animal rights, elderly people, etc. Once they enter an election they are suddenly forced to develop a more comprehensive ideology. 7 Arjen Berkvens, Becoming a better politician, political skills manual, Alfred Mozer Stichting, Amsterdam 2009, pp. 60-61.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Party structures and functions


3. Traditional parties : parties working within a coherent ideological framework and striving for the gradual acquisition of power. This usually takes place in small steps, the party’s power spreading slowly but surely from strength to strength. 4. Power parties : these are parties founded to support the establishment. They are often founded when a strong leader figure is trying to gain power. This type of party is common in countries with a presidential system, very rare in parliamentary systems.” Most successful liberal parties tend to follow the pattern of traditional parties as described above. If you are serious about the assumption stated at the beginning of chapter 3, i.e. to be willing to stand in elections and form a government (at any level) in order to contribute to the shape of state and society, the formation of a traditional party will be the most successful approach. A sustainable establishment of party structures is the essential element to develop strength and durability, to withstand crises and present credible policy alternatives to people. The overall objective of a political party is electoral victory, so political success can be defined as the acquisition of as many parliamentary seats as possible (at any level) in order to obtain executive power. Yes, you may have a single big one-off political victory without a solid party organisation but you will probably not be able to repeat it.

In addition to the development of a coherent and convincing ideology, this can only be achieved through an effective deployment of the party’s resources at all administrative levels. Such resources comprise human and financial resources, including skills and the personnel with which these 30

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Party structures and functions

are managed. The party needs to clearly identify these resources to use them effectively and to expand them over time. A great deal of party politics is about proper internal organisation and management. It is critical that people know what their role is, who they can address and who is doing what. Even “a party with good ideas, committed leaders and a large number of members can still fail to achieve its goals. Too often political parties make the mistake of devoting all of their resources and energy to short-term election campaigns, rather than to building and maintaining a solid democratic party organization.” 8 New political parties are often too eager to achieve too much in a short period of time, and think they can neglect internal party building. Established ones may take the party structure for granted and not realise the importance of reviewing the structure to adapt to emerging trends and priorities. Renewing or even founding a new party should start with a thorough analysis of either what worked well and what needs to be improved, or how to develop an organisation tailored to the target group, your intended strategy and available means. You don’t need an office to get your party started ! It may feel more comfortable and may look more professional ; however, many serious political parties have been created from scratch and with little money. If you form a new party or your mother party at the regional or national level is financially not able to support the creation of your new local branch, be a self-starter and get things running from home. You only need a computer and a bit of storage space in your book shelf to get the job done as described above. Also your board meetings can take place at the homes of your board members, and one of your board members may have the means to host the general assembly if you cannot afford to rent a venue. 8 NDI, Party Capacity Building Manual, p. 9. MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Party structures and functions


This is not to say you should finish establishing the party organisation first, before engaging in election campaigns. Party building is an ongoing and at all times most vital issue if you want to be successful in the long term. You should fight elections once you feel ready. However, weigh your chances realistically and reflect on which elections you should contest. Running at the local level and gaining some seats will earn you more credibility than pretending to be ready for national parliament and failing miserably. How can you achieve that ? Chapter 8 will give you some ideas. The following chart (P. 31) illustrates some essential elements in the organisational structure. 9 Generally, successful parties are built bottom-up and the membership base is strong and plays an important role in the party’s decision-making processes. The members form local branches spread over towns and villages across the country. Depending on the administrative structures of the country, the party organisation may follow a pyramid structure. Local branches are brought together into regional or provincial sections that eventually make up the national party organisation. Parties participate in the elections and state administration on all levels : local, regional, (possibly) two houses of a national Parliament and European Parliament. In federal countries in particular parties are highly decentralised, granting their local (and next higher) chapters a high degree of autonomy. They decide on the nomination of candidates, write their own electoral programmes and decide on local coalitions following elections. At all levels power resides with the party congress (general assembly). Local branches elect or nominate delegates for congresses at the next higher level. The larger the branch, the more delegates, ie votes, they have. Congress delegates elect the list of candidates or constituency candidates for council and parliament elections. They also elect the different boards (often bi-annually) and vote on the election programmes. When a party takes a seat in govern9 Text adapted from : Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (IMD), A framework for democratic building, The Hague 2004, pp. 11-13. 32

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ment, many parties organise an extraordinary congress to vote on the new government’s policy programme. You should develop party branches in every (parliamentary) electoral district and ideally speaking in every municipality/town/city.

Statutory meetings Party meetings are primarily directed at your party members. The basic meeting once a year is the party congress (or general assembly) at any level of the party. The main objective of the general assembly is a regular and structured exchange between your members and also your elected officials in any of the country’s councils and assemblies. What is happening in the country ? Why is a legislative proposal necessary and what are the consequences for society and our city ? Your party remains close to daily problems through the permanent exchange of information and opinions, and only by so doing will your members muster better arguments than your political opponent. The general assembly is always the highest decision-making body of your party/local branch. It decides on all matters concerning organisational and political concerns of the party/local branch. The assembly discharges and elects the board. The assembly members elect delegates to the conventions of the next higher party level and they select candidates for elections. The general assembly decides on the basic policy issues and its decisions bind the board for the following year’s work. The local chairperson usually chairs the general assembly but the assembly can also decide to elect a special chair for this purpose. Another person to be selected writes the minutes of the meeting. Results of votes or political decisions of the meeting are communicated to all members. 34

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A sample party structure in a federal country could look as follows :







• Adoption of resolutions on local issues

• Adoption of resolutions on regional issues and elections of candidates

• Adoption of resolutions binding the entire party







• First point of contact

• Comprises several local branches on county/district level

• Comprises several regional branches

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All members of the local branch have speaking and voting rights at the local branch’s assembly and can table draft resolutions. Don’t forget to apply internal regulations for running the general assembly. As a new party don’t forget to draft such a document and adopt it at the first general assembly meeting. As a new local branch ask your regional or national party branch for their templates. Don’t forget either to consider statutory deadlines for inviting members and submitting draft resolutions.

The local party board The board (or local executive) runs the daily affairs of the branch. The definition of a local branch typically follows the administrative structure of your country. Thus, a local branch represents a village or a city, which obviously can comprise very different numbers of party members. The board should be made up of at least a chair, treasurer and secretary. Depending on legal requirements and its own preferences, a board may also include other officers such as campaign officer, membership secretary, or spokesperson. Try to ensure gender balance in your elected bodies so as to publicly appeal to both men and women. A good board energises the party branch and brings it to life. Party meetings are well attended, membership goes up and members enjoy being involved in activities and policy development. A good board also deals with troubled times when there might be internal or external conflict. Ideally the board sees trouble ahead and takes measures to prevent it. But above all, the board sets out a political vision and encourages the branch to win more seats and achieve future political success.


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Just elected ! What’s next for the chairperson of a local branch ? How to run a local board meeting Have your board members report on what they have done since the last meeting. The treasurer should give an update on the finances. If you set out an annual action plan of events and activities, progress should be reported, and objectives and tasks for the period ahead should be agreed. Invite other elected party members (if any) to report on activities from city councils or other elected parliamentary bodies on which your party is represented. Accept new party members in accordance with your rules. Share and pass on information from the party regionally and nationally. Party business and administration may have priority at the board meeting but you shouldn’t forget to discuss other political and policy issues. Honestly consider your recent political successes and failures.

Never forget to take minutes of meetings ! This job might be done by the secretary, or somebody specially assigned at each board or general assembly meeting. You may want to know how you actually managed to implement this great event from two years ago. However, unfortunately the person who was then responsible has left your branch or you are not able to get hold of him/her any more. “If only we had taken notes on how we organised this event…” It is absolutely essential to record the results and decisions taken at board meetings or general assemblies (you may anyway be required to record election results), as well as a written evaluation of event organisation, so that you can monitor progress.

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The ideal chairperson is a mix of chief strategist and a hands-on person. You are the first contact person for applicant members, interested supporters and your own members. You maintain contact with party bodies at other levels and you coordinate local actions on the ground. First and foremost, you want to win over more members for the liberal cause. That means you keep your members engaged and motivated, and you are able to bring new people on board. You inform the grassroots activists about decisions taken at other levels of the party, and of your own local decisions and actions. At the same time, you keep higher party levels informed about your own actions. The more rooted you are, economically and socially, in the structures of your municipality or region, the more you will be able to achieve the right tone and inspire others for your cause. Stay in touch with your members and keep up to date with their interests and skills. The more you know about them, the better you can plan events and topic-based working groups, engaging members individually and benefitting from their specialisations and networks. The following chart may not be exhaustive and some elements overlap but it gives you an idea and overview of activities and essential tasks, which is expanded in subsequent chapters. 10

10 Text and illustration adapted from : Vorsitzendenhandbuch für Orts- und Kreisverbände der FDP NRW, FDP Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen, März 2009, p.28.


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     • Ask your members why they want to get involved • Develop and maintain a contact database • Encourage new members to be active • Identify and contact target groups

  • Organise social events • Run team-building seminars

• Carry out a SWOT analysis

• Send out mailings with information on activities and events

• Define targets for campaigns

• Target potential members for example through “party ambassadors”

• Organise strategy seminars with external experts

      • Get campaigning material from national party level (if available) • Organize events with liberal VIPs such as politicians or specialist speakers • Engage in active PR work • Develop policies and party resolutions on local issues • Be present at events of local clubs and associations

  

M  

• Organise training for members with experts or experienced local politicians • Hold fundraising activities • Analyse and target of your campaigns • Mobilise supporters • Produce campaign material and develop your online presence

  • Create an internet presence and flyers for distribution • Run public events and information stands • Open the board meeting to the public • Reach out to external associations • Hold background talks with journalists

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Party structures and functions


job checklist Organise and chair board meetings, general assemblies and events (such as New Year receptions, a summer party or other social gatherings). Designate someone (e.g. the local executive secretary) to take minutes of meetings at statutory events such as board meetings or general assemblies, and ensure the written recordings are made available. Always keep an eye on membership development : approach potential applicant members by regular mailings to a wide list of recipients, monthly public meetings organised by your party (e.g. liberal drinks, open hearings), etc., etc., etc. (see also chapter 5 on membership acquisition). Report election results (board, delegates to other party bodies) to higher party bodies. Honour and express congratulations at anniversaries. (“Better praise someone once too many than once too few”). Thank you letters or a mention at the next public meeting for members’ special effort and commitment contributes to the future motivation of members, who all invest voluntarily in their party work. Maintaining contact with local associations such as syndicates or federations (of both employers and employees), public administration, sport clubs, the local press and also other political parties. For the sake of your party’s profile and policy credibility you should make use of their expertise and invite their board members regularly for meetings, including press events. Don’t wait until they get in contact with you. Also try to identify a concrete issue or item which interests them that you as a party will address, and that can be also sold as a success to the media. If you receive invitations to events of such associations or clubs, combine your acceptance with enquiring if they would like a short greeting at the event. Some may appreciate such an offer, and you will have been able to place a liberal message. Carefully assess your party’s events calendar from a media perspective : for what events could you send a short report to the press, or for what events could you directly invite the press ? (See also chapter 7 on communication). Ensure the selection of election campaign candidates takes place and is carried out in accordance with your party’s regulations.


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S upport your party’s selected election candidates in their election campaigns and organise training for them (such as media training, contentbased training, speech-making, etc.) If you are chair of the next higher level of your party’s branch (such as county or region), you should keep in touch with all local party branches, coordinate activities of the different branches if applicable, and act as a “coach” for the branches. If there are local districts within your region without any liberal representation, i.e. without formal party branches, try to establish them. As chairperson of a regional branch you could also : • Take particular care to distribute posters or leaflets in those areas when advertising regional events. • Get in touch with clubs and associations in those areas, and try to find out if there are potentially interested applicant members. • Discuss with higher party bodies possible strategies to increase your visibility and presence in such areas. • Offer your members from areas with weak liberal representation opportunities for training such as campaigning.

Treasurer The duties of a political party treasurer may vary according to local circumstances and different national political party legal requirements. However, the essence is to have an overview of the party’s financial affairs, to ensure its long-term viability and to maintain proper financial records and procedures (legal compliance and internal party regulations). Many party laws require not only the signature of the treasurer to issue payments but of a second person, usually the chairperson. Such principles minimise the risk of fraud.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Party structures and functions


job checklist The treasurer needs to predict the future (financially), control the present (monitoring income and expenditure) and allow the past to be checked (audit). The treasurer needs to ensure the greatest possible degree of transparency, not only to comply with legal requirements but also to assure the party’s members that their money is looked after in the best way possible. The treasurer needs to ensure the involvement of the other board members in financial matters, notably the chairperson ; political priorities need to be decided first and then the budget (income and expenditure) needs to be worked out on the basis of those priorities. Financial planning for election campaigns. You need to get quotations for promotional material and events. Good contacts with the local private sector may also help you secure additional funds. Develop and maintain a fundraising database (there may of course also be parties or countries with a tradition of assigning this task to a separate board member, i.e. fundraising officer with fundraising tasks) Get in touch with private companies registered in the municipality to explore fundraising opportunities. Maintain contact with members (remind them about paying their membership fees, invite them to donate on top of their fees, e.g. prior to election campaigns). Regular mailings, birthday wishes or party gadgets may increase their willingness to donate. Ensure that appropriate accounting procedures for both income and expenditure are in place, and present regular accounts and financial statements to the board. Laws on political parties Not all countries have separate laws and regulations on party organisation and finances. However, some do. Make sure you know such rules and both advise your board members and inform other party members accordingly. Pay particular attention to tax regulations and other legal requirements concerning donations. 42

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Auditors Again, requirements for auditors may vary according to different national laws and customs. You might be required to elect auditors and substitutes who are members of your local branch (other than your board members !) if you run your own budget separate from higher party branches and are therefore accountable. Some countries’ party laws require the election of two auditors to apply the so-called four-eye principle. Even if not required, it may be wise to follow such a principle, as it reduces the risk of fraud. job checklist Annual revision of the treasurer’s bookkeeping and accounting. You must be allowed access to the financial files of your local branch at all times. Reporting of any inconsistency in the financial records. Presentation of your report at the annual general assembly.

Executive director/General manager/Secretary No matter what you call this person, you must have this function taken care of in your branch. One person needs to be assigned to be centrally in charge of things. Depending on the size and financial resources of the branch you may want to employ (full or half time) someone. If employed, this person may serve as an ex officio member of the board. If voluntary, he or she is assigned the following tasks as part of the division of work among board members. The secretary usually coordinates party activities, writes, prints and circulates agendas, and minutes, and issues notices for local party meetings, i.e. the board meetings, general assembly or other topic-based events. MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Party structures and functions


job checklist The secretary invites party members to events and informs them about statutory deadlines for example for submission of resolutions or procedures for elections. The secretary takes minutes of meetings and informs higher party bodies board or delegates’ election results The secretary should be on top of the country’s party law, their own party’s internal regulations, and the rules of procedure for statutory events, to assist the chairperson in the event of queries about procedure. The secretary may send regular mailings/newsletters to branch members. The secretary administers the members’ database (together with the treasurer) If employed and if the party has an office : If the branch has the means of maintaining an office, the secretary coordinates the daily party work from such premises and makes it available for the public, i.e. it is the official address for postal mail reaching the party, and the formal contact point for voters with requests and interest in the party. Administration of the party’s files and election campaign material.

Spokesperson/Press officer Publicise the great work your party branch is doing ! Both the party’s supporters and critics should be aware of the branch’s activities. Issue regular press releases, but only if you have relevant news to share or events to announce. An overkill of press releases will only gain you the reputation of being nuisance. Also ensure that your party members write letters to the local press so that liberal opinion is widely published. To achieve the goal of placing your messages in the media, maintain a contact list of local and regional media, and establish a working relationship with journalists and editors. If you are new in the job and don’t yet possess 44

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the contacts, introduce yourself to the local media (ie local and regional newspaper(s), local radio or TV stations, online media platforms, etc.) Be patient ! As with any human relationship, that between journalist and politician also requires time. Don’t expect the media to welcome you enthusiastically to the playground and intensively cover your party’s activities, or quote from your press releases. Keep working hard and professionally, and the media will not be able to ignore you in the long run. Find more details on communication in chapter 7. While observance of your national political party laws is essential and a good division of tasks among your board members is indispensable, as well as adherence to your own internal rules, this is of course not everything. The lifeblood of a party that will bring you votes is your members. The following chapter looks at how to broaden your membership and how to develop and maintain a vibrant membership base.

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Membership is everything ! Members are your activists, candidates,

Councillors, MPs and MEPs. Members also do most of the fundraising and campaigning. The only thing members tend not to do is recruit themselves. This chapter may help you consider what is most important when dealing with your members or trying to recruit new ones. Becoming a party member is usually easy (though party laws in different countries may stipulate more or less strict requirements). In Europe it is customary for a party member to pay a membership fee, declare adherence to the fundamental principles of the party and then be able to participate at party events at a local level, including the right to influence the local branch’s outlook by exercising the right to vote. Each party needs to make a strategic decision on how restrictive it wants to be as regards accepting applicant members. However, restrictions can only be applied as far as the general laws concerning political parties allow. A solid membership base is the key to all kinds of political and social success for your party. The administration of party membership is essential for the communication and mobilisation of your grassroots members. Make sure you have all their basic contact details so you are able to get in touch with them, and in case they move without giving you their new address. This is not only important when you need to follow up outstanding payments of membership fees, but also for mobilising them to attend events. For example, details of age, skills and profession allow you to target specific groups for specific events, both as participants or as a valuable resource. Therefore, a well-maintained database for membership administration is very important. Well-organised, updated lists can be used for a variety of purposes, including : fundraising, volunteer recruitment and campaigning.

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Members are the key to political success The simple truth is that any political party will be more successful in promoting its policy agenda and electing candidates if it can increase its membership. A party’s members are its greatest resource. Membership recruitment is difficult, time-consuming and costly, but without them you will not win elections in the long run. An established leadership might feel challenged by new members and new ideas but this is exactly what ensures the party’s long-term existence.

What’s the best way of recruiting members ? People are different, and traditions of political participation differ from country to country. Many people will take an active approach when they are convinced of your party’s ideas, and see that you are working hard for those ideas, i.e. you are visible in public life, and publicise your work sufficiently. However, there may be even more people who are willing but will not take the first step until you go and ask them. One effective means of recruiting new members is by door-to-door personal visits (although this approach might be subject to the traditions and customs of your country). This method requires courage from the party members involved. You need to be well prepared in what you want to say, and also appreciate that you may receive either rude answers or no interest at all. When meeting people, members should be polite at all times ; introduce themselves and their party ; address the residents by name ; provide them with information about the party and what it stands for (messages) ; and summarise the main reasons for joining.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Membership administration

Records should be kept of each person members meet. Some people might not want to join right away, but may need more time. A second visit can be scheduled for a later date for those who appear interested. What can you tell people who are hesitant about joining ? Eight answers to objections : 11 1. “I don’t have the time to get engaged with politics.” Nobody has to become a full-time politician. FC Barcelona has more club members than players on the pitch. This is why Liberals also need more supporters than active politicians in city councils and parliaments. 2. “ I would become a member if only politician XY wasn’t a member.” (I) Liberals do have moulded and charismatic personalities that might polarise friends and foes alike. The team and the policies make the difference. You don’t find all the members of a club sympathetic. 3. “ I would become a member if only politician XY wasn’t a member.” (II) Political parties are only as good as their members. As a member you have direct influence yourself to determine the course of the party – everybody can nag. 4. “I don’t know anybody who is a member of a liberal party” Be courageous and get to know liberal party members by attending and observing a party event in your vicinity, and meet interesting people.

11 Vorsitzendenhandbuch für Orts- und Kreisverbände der FDP NRW, FDP Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen, März 2009, pp. 45-46.

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5. “I already vote for a liberal party. That should be enough.” A liberal party needs to have more members. A broader membership base helps increase public recognition and the financial means we need for campaigning. 6. “In principle I share the positions of the party but don’t share position XY.” Eventually all decisions are based on compromises. Life is neither black nor white but has different shades of grey. If you mostly agree with the liberal party, you may want to consider strengthening this party in your country. 7. “ Before the elections the liberals promised to do XY. After the elections they didn’t deliver.” Election programmes reflect 100 % of the party’s policies. The future however may look different due to changing circumstances. Usually a party doesn’t have the absolute majority that would enable it to implement 100 % of its electoral programme, and a coalition agreement sets limits. You might want to look at the question differently : Does the policy nevertheless reflect the basic principles of the liberal party ? 8. “I dislike the permanent bickering among political parties.” It is a myth that there are ready-made solutions to all our problems, and that only arguing between parties prevents society from doing the right thing. Political parties encapsulate different political interests and formulate proposals for the future of the country. The parties decide on the different proposals to put forward to the voters. You, too, can influence this decision. Door-to-door campaigns are only one technique for recruiting new members. Parties can organise political events, or recreational or cultural activities that will attract a large number of people who can be asked if they are 50

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interested in joining. The party can also try to make use of other public events. For example, it may be possible to set up a booth at an event to provide information on the party and why people should join. It is important that every interaction between your party and voters be recorded for later use. It is vital for the party to have records of all individuals with whom contact has been made : those who support the party, those who might support the party, and those who will never support the party. You should always ensure you have membership application forms available at public events, an easily accessible form prominently placed on your website, and that you keep up to date with technical developments such as allowing membership applications via QR code for smartphones. Whenever you organise public party events, as set out in chapter 6, make sure you have one or more of these means available. A hard copy version of your application form could be the back of a membership campaign flyer such as the former German FDP campaign “Neue Freunde für die Freiheit” (new friends for freedom”). After a recruitment drive, an event should be organised in the area to bring new members together with the party leadership and older members. Every new member should receive a welcome letter from the party’s leader and/or secretary general. Welcoming members The local chairperson should welcome the newcomer to the local party branch. It leaves a negative impression if the new member has to ask how to become involved. You could write a welcoming letter with an overview of key contact people, an invitation to upcoming party events and information about any other opportunities of getting involved in local activities.

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You could also organise an annual event for new members, gathering them at the national (or regional) party headquarters, allowing them to meet the party’s board, members of parliament or other well-known liberals. In cooperation with a local liberal foundation (if one exists) or other national or international liberal stakeholders, you might also want to organise a workshop for new members on issues such as election campaigning and grass root political party activities.

However : You should bear in mind that there are in principle two different types of party members : those who want to support a party symbolically and financially through their membership and those who want to become actively involved. Try to keep the former group informed about your activities and policy output, but don’t bother them too much. For the latter group you should find out as much as possible about their interests and potential, and invite them directly to participate. Basically all members expect from a party membership better and possibly more direct information about politics and policies. At times of (digital) information overload you can achieve this by organising exclusive events, high-profile speakers and with professional and regular email communication. Don’t overburden the newcomer with too many dates and events, but do find out where his/her interests are and if these lie more in the area of work on policy, or if he is also willing to support general party work such as distributing leaflets or campaigning. Many applicants follow politics at national level and contact the party proactively to apply for membership. Many of your members also know people who are politically interested but might hesitate to declare themselves publicly a political party member, or who are waiting to be convinced. 52

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Other forms of membership ? You should think about new forms of membership, i.e. different membership categories. There might be people willing to only sign up to a party to declare their political affiliation but who are not interested in active involvement. Such people could pay a smaller fee which would not entitle them to voting rights. Others might be willing to become involved on a project basis, for example for the limited period of an election campaign. These could be given a special status as campaign activists or supporters, and limited rights of decision-making in the context of the campaign.

Resignation of members Less active but also less passive members do have an impact on your local party structure. Try to find out why the member wants to leave the party and get in touch. Reasons are often to be found in the attitude of the local branch, or general dissatisfaction with the party’s policies at a higher level. A direct discussion may help the person to reconsider or to revise their decision. A personal mailing may help – even after years – to regain former members or to increase their sympathy with liberal positions. A political party needs to have some flexibility. Political demands that find societal consensus today may be rejected tomorrow. Members need to be aware that they may also need to fight for their demands. Personal contact with all your members at local level is crucial to detect discontent and prevent resignations.

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Payment of membership fees The regular and reliable payment of fees is an important source of income to fund your party’s activities. There is no real reference value of what the right amount would be. It very much depends on the national context and people’s general income. Among liberal parties in Europe it varies between €20 and at least €100 annually. You might want to consider scaling fees between different income classes. The requirements and procedures for a party’s membership fees should be transparent and make clear to applicant members that they are expected to commit to the regular payments that are essential for budget planning. A financial regulation should include the obligation of members to pay fees which are inseparably linked to membership. It should stipulate how and when to pay. German Liberals FDP, for example, apply a sliding scale of fees. The minimum membership fee for a monthly income of €2,600 amounts to €8 a month. Higher fees are applied for higher incomes, on the basis of 0.5 % of monthly income, which the member is expected to declare to the party. As an additional source of income you could agree that party members in elected positions (councilors, mayors, members of parliament) should, on a voluntary basis, pay an additional monthly fee to the local branch of the party. An apportionment procedure may help to allocate funds to the different levels of the party (local, regional, national) to ensure the functioning of all party bodies. Defaulting members are cumbersome. However, it is essential to follow them up and ask them to pay their debts. If you can’t reach them personally, you need to send formal letters by e-mail or post. You could initially send them a polite reminder simply stating that the annual fee payment was due by such-and-such a date. If they do not 54

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respond, send a second reminder about two months later explaining in more detail why the payment is essential for the party’s work. In a third and final reminder you can appeal to the conscience of the “sinner” as nonpayment not only harms the party but is also a lack of solidarity with other paying members. You should also indicate that non-payment will lead to expulsion from the party in accordance with the party statutes. Membership fees Many party members tend to be lazy and careless concerning both active involvement and payment of membership fees. By ensuring you have up-todate contact details you can get in touch proactively with your members ; they feel flattered and the chance of a favourable response (active engagement and payments) is much higher.

Chapters 4 and 5 elaborated on structures and roles that you should develop for a functioning party. The following chapter shows how you can channel your members’ motivation to provide added value to your party’s activities and to increase public awareness of you. As stated above, people become members for different reasons. Many want to become actively engaged and want to be assigned a helping role. The next chapter presents many examples of how and where to engage your members in party activities.

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Proper internal organisation and coordination, as discussed in the preced-

ing chapters, is essential. However, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t show the rest of the world your party’s interesting ideas. Voters need to understand that you care about their concerns, address them and that you want to provide solutions. Public events can fulfil this function but you need to do them right in order to gain people’s trust. Events fulfil different purposes. They are social events that bring activists and interested individuals together. They also offer an informative added value for different target groups. If you invite prominent speakers or experts for a public panel debate you may reach a different target group than organising a workshop or offering a platform allowing voters to express their concerns and interests. Events are not a one way street On the one hand you want to inform as many people as possible about your political views and activities aimed at improving society. On the other hand you want to hear new ideas and positions to improve your party’s work and keep your party’s policy profile up-to-date.

According to the type of event, you advertise your own work, contribute to political education or provide new ideas and input to policies through external expertise. At the same time you create an occasion for the media to report on what the liberal party is doing. If you are the “talk of the town” you must be interesting, and your party eventually becomes electable.

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Make sure you select and set the themes properly to ensure public interest, and avoid having only a few party members attending because they feel obliged to do so. You should also vary the forms of events. Somebody who attends two boring liberal events will not come to another one. However, if you manage to organise events with controversial themes and debates and interesting speakers, people are likely to come again.

Some basics to consider For all forms of event you should consider in advance speakers, target groups and the appropriate organisational setting.

> Set your objectives Always be sure about what you want to achieve. Apart from (always) considering the press your target group, you may want to reach specific professional groups (e.g. entrepreneurs, teachers, craftsmen, etc.), interest groups (e.g. parents, motorists, etc.) or simply as many non-party members as possible. In contrast to such public events you may want to reach out to recently inactive party members at the next internal party meeting (eg topic-based workshop, general assembly, etc.). Another objective might be to strengthen public perception of the party’s policy competence. Your public relations work is of great importance to achieve this. You will not always be able to measure success by counting participants or the number of reports in the media. You will create the impression that the liberal party is active and supporting voters’ interests if you properly advertise your events by inviting the media, informing your members, and promoting the event on your website, online social media or elsewhere.


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Keep written notes so you can evaluate your performance afterwards, and improve or change the format next time if necessary.

> Selection of venue It is important to choose the right venue. It should be easily accessible by public transport, and should have parking space available. The size of the venue should be chosen with realistic expectations regarding turnout. It is embarrassing to have only a few people sitting in a huge hall. It is better to have a small room crowded with too many people. Also choose the ambience of your venue according to the expected target group and type of event. The atmosphere in a bar/restaurant or a cultural event centre differs from a hotel meeting room or a conference centre. In any case you need to check that the chosen venue can provide the necessary technical event equipment such as a sound system and you should verify in advance that it is functioning properly.

> Catering Drinks and small snacks will help to create a welcoming atmosphere and make people stay longer. You don’t have to offer exclusive food and drinks as this will only raise questions as to whether you have too much money. In some countries it is accepted that people pay for food and drinks, which would also generate some income for your party.

> Setting the date When choosing the date check the calendar for other events of great public interest (such as games of the national or even local football team), or other local festivities such as concerts or big events by your political competitors. However much you advertise, you wouldn’t be likely to attract many participants.

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Also be specific about the expected timing. The official event part should not exceed an hour and a half. Party internal events or informal gatherings may of course deviate from this rule.

> Preparations Even small events may need two months of preparation. Inviting external speakers, creating flyers, and sending invitations - everything takes time. Set yourself deadlines for when you need to do what. Bear in mind local habits when deciding when to issue invitations. One month might be too far ahead but one week prior to the event might be too short. Who do you want to invite ? Make sure you have enough addresses or mailing lists available and ask the invitees to respond to your invitation so you can estimate how many people are likely to attend. A few days prior to the event you may want to send a thank-you mail to the confirmed participants, thereby reminding them of the event and the timing. You could resend the invitation to all others who did not respond to your initial invitation. On the day of the event arrive early enough at the venue to check that everything is in place and if you and your team need to make a few lastminute adjustments. Make sure that your colleagues know what they are supposed to do during the event, motivate and remind them of the set goals.


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Event checklist  ! What you should think about… Two to three months in advance : What is your target group ? Define them (members, interested individuals, interest groups with a link to the topic, other liberal branches, VIP guests, etc.) What is a relevant topic of interest ? Create an organisation team. Crosscheck the dates with other events and select the venue. List of speakers – take into consideration : Who are relevant speakers ? Do you have contacts locally ? Could you invite another prominent liberal politician from your region or the national level (if any) ? What association or interest group claims to have special expertise on the given topic ? Do you have a (gender) balanced panel allowing for a good discussion ? Who moderates the debate ? You could ask a journalist from a local media outlet (if successful, this could automatically increase your media coverage). Invite the speakers for all possible time options. Based on their response, confirm venue, date and time. If applicable, invite further speakers to fill the gaps.. Three to two weeks in advance : Send the speakers a formal invitation and logistical details such as a route map. Invite the target group, press and your local party members. Prepare a short input to introduce the topic and welcome the participants. O  rganize practical issues such as name cards, ensure catering is available. Ensure decoration (if needed) and technical equipment are confirmed and will be set up the day.

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One week in advance : Inform the press by a press release and possibly follow up by phone. Double-check that your speakers are coming. Before the start : Check that drinks are available for panellists. Check that name cards are in the right places. Have a registration list ready so you can collect data from non-registered participants. Follow up : Collect media reports on the event. Send thank-you letters to your speakers and add the media reports. Discuss with your team how the event went, and what can be learned from it.

> Advertising the event and issuing invitations Inform your party members via your regular means of communication. For the general public you should also advertise the event in the local newspaper or other local media outlets. If the event venue is in a central area posters may even bring you casual passers-by. Try to choose a provocative title for your event that raises interest and doesn’t just say “The future of our region”. Immediately afterwards you should prepare a press release with pictures of the event and send it out the same day.

> VIP service If your speaker is a prominent person, make sure you treat him/her accordingly. Send the invitation in good time, and make contact again shortly before the event with concise information about the expected audience, time- frame and other speakers. 62

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Welcome the speaker personally at the event and make sure you have drinks and snacks available. A small present and some words of gratitude at the end of the event might be appreciated.

> Internal follow up Review the entire project and add new contacts to your database for future events. You might want to organise a small get-together for your team to thank them, and thus keep them motivated for future events. Also consider an immediate follow-up event, especially if the public feedback was positive. This way, you are likely to achieve a greater impact.

Different types of public events Public events and activities increase local perception and appreciation of your party. An innovative campaign on a local issue, or an information event on a regional or national legislative proposal, helps you to be recognised as a party offering policy alternatives. You also offer sympathisers the opportunity to make contact with you directly and informally. Generally, party congresses are also public events, but many people dislike the formalised structures and are put off by what they often perceive as opaque decision-making. Invitations to public board, municipal party group meetings or general party office opening hours for voters are not necessarily well attended either. You have a better chance of mobilising voters for defined projects and selected “hot topics�. The more concrete the issue, and the more practical the possible action, the greater the chance of involving people.

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The classic : Evening event with experts or prominent public figures Following your welcome and introduction, one or more key-note speakers may deliver a speech and the audience is invited to contribute questions and comments. This form of event may be particularly suitable for very well-known politicians. However, it doesn’t really allow for much discussion. The event becomes more interactive and sets off a two-way dialogue if you ask the participants for their opinion at the beginning. You could post different statements on a board (Metaplan board, flipchart, etc.) and ask the audience to assess the statements. Especially if your key-note speaker is delayed (which is likely to happen with a prominent politician and a tight schedule) you can usefully bridge the waiting time, and during the questions and answers (Q&A) session following the main intervention refer to those statements and people’s opinions in the light of the delivered speech. Instead of a key-note speech you could also create a Q&A (interview) session where you (or, for example. a journalist) act as moderator and engage in a dialogue with the main speaker, which is a livelier format than an upfront speech. Delayed key-note speaker Introduce the theme of the evening by asking your audience “What do you think about topic XY ?” A simple yes/no poll creates a good atmosphere and your speaker can take a position later on the result.

Panel discussion Panel discussions can be lively disputes in the best case scenario or boring mutual flattery in the worst case. The development of the discussion very


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much depends on the topic but even more importantly on the input of the panel members and the quality of the moderator. Thus, your panellists should represent different positions (and gender) to ensure a diversified discussion, ie politicians from different parties or, if you are reluctant to offer your competitors a platform, members of the administration, academia, lobby groups or business. Make sure they are on top of the issues and know how to debate publicly. Panel discussions are particularly attractive on topical issues and provide specific target groups (e.g. school pupils or students) with the possibility of gaining information on a broad range of opinions. If you allow for a time frame of about an hour and a half you should ideally not invite more than three different panellists (plus moderator). This makes it easier to involve the audience in your discussion, which will be much appreciated. If you invite a journalist as a moderator, you not only have a competent chair but also increase the chance of media coverage afterwards. The more panellists you involve and the more prominent they are, the more time you may need for organisational preparations. It is also often customary to pay an honorarium when involving high-ranking speakers from academic or cultural circles.

Monthly drink You could regularly hold an informal gathering (“liberal drink�) at a specific bar in town. Such a gathering would be open for both members and other interested individuals. It is likely that you would mainly gather members rather than other people. Choose the venue carefully as it says something about you and your political party. You might find it preferable not to reserve a separate room but rather a table in the middle of the bar, as more

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of an open invitation. Be however careful to contact the owners beforehand to make sure that they agree with this kind of gathering. This format allows you to present exchange and debate your liberal views in a social and relaxed environment. At the same time, such a gathering is also a public presence for you.

Private gatherings, neighbourhood evenings Try to gather as many non-party members as possible plus a few selected party members (ideally also a more prominent politician from within your ranks). Use your database of non-member contacts and invite friends and acquaintances to discuss politics in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Parliamentary group gatherings Your parliamentary group (from any level : village, city district, municipality, region, etc.) should report publicly on recent initiatives and council work as well as future planning. Make sure you really have got something to say as you target the interested public and media. You should consider this event as a form of being accountable to the public and fulfilling your duty as a public servant. Report on your work, respond to questions and get ideas from outside on what issues to pick up.

Promised – Delivered ! Use this title for an event to inform the public about your achievements in the current legislature. What did you deliver and to what extent ? Why couldn’t you achieve everything you mentioned in your electoral programme ? Involve your elected officials in presenting the achievements and responding to comments and critical questions.


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Never hide anything, including your failures. Be as transparent as possible. Show people that you can evaluate yourself critically. Make sure that the event and your speakers are well prepared, and that the audience has the opportunity of asking questions. Transparency and honesty are crucial for parties, and voters appreciate this attitude !

Voters ask – Liberals respond The course of such an event is determined mostly by the audience. You either moderate this session and take questions orally, or allow participants to write them down on cards to be collected by party members. Depending on the size of the event and number of participants, also provide microphones in the body of the hall. A moderator can steer the meeting and group questions according to themes. You benefit a lot from such an event as you learn about the concerns and interests of your local constituency. At the same time you demonstrate your closeness to the electorate. The more competently you and your elected officials can answer the questions, the better your public image. Announce such events in the local newspaper and radio. If you connect the event with a current and pressing local debate you also increase the possibilities of involving concerned voters, and create the image of a public hearing on the issue.

Attend other public meetings You should yourself attend other public events such as city events, or also those of your political competitors (if this is accepted practice). Together with other party members you ensure visibility of liberals as such.

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Information stands Don’t do it ! A public information stand must provide an open and welcoming atmosphere. If you don’t have the people willing to engage with the public pro-actively, don’t do it ! Introverted personnel who stay behind the table and hide behind promotional material will not attract anybody to remain more than a few seconds.

Be appealing ! You could promote the stand with a special theme that is currently topical locally or nationally. A pedestrianised area is an obvious choice for locating your stand but you could also choose the location to match the theme. If you campaign for better public transport (e.g. restructuring or expansion), choose a major intersection for your stand. Information stand checklist Do you need approval by the local authorities for a public stand ? Develop a theme : what is the objective ? Is there a topical issue you want to promote ? Who will staff the stand, where and when ? Is there a date that would be relevant to the theme ? What is the most suitable venue for reaching target groups ? What do you need ? Technical equipment, gadgets, flyers, etc. Order those things in good time and know how many you may need. Invite your prominent local politician (e.g. candidate for national Parliament) and let the media know about the invitation. Corporate clothing for stand staff ? Suits, T-shirt in party colours, etc. Notify the media and double-check that they’ve received the message.


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Mobile information stand Consider whether you really need a stand with a table and full equipment. Corporate clothing and some handouts may be enough for campaigning in bars or in front of train stations or other public transport locations.

Smart and funny interactive games raise attention and sympathy. There should be no limits to your creativity. You could have a poll on topical issues, or a game such as throwing balls into a pyramid of cans with cartoons of politicians, or distribute flowers in your party’s corporate colours. All activities aim at engaging in a dialogue with the voter, and to profile you as a liberal alternative. Obviously, the activities should be in line with your party message. The following events have proved to be successful for the FDP in Germany : > Halving an apple : On the day tax returns have to be submitted, distribute apples cut in half with the message “that’s how much the state leaves you”. > Getting rid of taxes (“Steuern streichen“) Display a board showing different kind of taxes levied by the state, and ask passers-by to mark the three they would most like to see abolished. This way you get an idea what taxes people consider to be particularly redundant. At the same time, distribute flyers with your tax proposals. > If I was Prime Minister/Mayor Invite people to write down on a big board what priorities they would have if they were in that position. You get an idea of what people currently care about and it gives you material for a press release.

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> Distribution of flowers Flowers in your party’s corporate colours are a simple method of trying to engage with voters. Checklist for campaigning in the street Be pleasant and open but not intrusive or pushy. Try to understand the characteristics of the individual you are talking to. Some only want brief information, are convinced quickly or only want to take the written material. Others want to argue or even provoke you. Stay calm but firm. Try to portray your liberal party in contrast to the others and emphasise positive messages – what you stand for. Underline issues you work for and other parties don’t. However, don’t insult the others. Negative campaigning must be well thought through and shouldn’t be used randomly as it often backfires. Present your own positive sides and the advantages of liberal policies. Don’t only use buzzwords such as liberalism, freedom or privatisation. Underline your arguments with matching pictures and examples. Many buzzwords carry a negative connotation for some people. Always try to explain why liberals consider something useful and present the advantages. Make sure you know the details. People may ask specific questions and you should be confident enough to answer them seriously and convey a trustworthy attitude. If you don’t have the answer, be honest about it but offer to find out and send the information by email or post. Remain confident about your electoral programme. Otherwise you will not be seen as conveying a credible message. You will certainly not be able to convince anyone to vote for you if you show doubts yourself. Approach people in an open and friendly manner. Don’t stay stuck behind a table. Don’t hide but stand up straight and confident. Hint at recent successes of your party or explain how you implemented a campaign promise.


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I f your party is active at regional and national level, refer to their successes, and to popular politicians Don’t exaggerate. Honesty and self-criticism about past bad performances are usually positively received but don’t exaggerate either ; you don’t have to beat yourself up.

You don’t have to organise all these events. You may also have other ideas or simply not the means of organising something every week. But you should ensure that whatever you decide to do you get right. Professionally organised and successful events gain you the voters’ trust and boost your members’ motivation to do more of the same. The next chapter is closely interlinked with event organisation. Communicating the contents is just as important as developing the contents and your policies.

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olitical communication is the art of presenting complex facts and cases in a concise and understandable manner. Nothing in politics counts more than being able to tell the media and the public straightforwardly what you stand for, why you stand for it and how you are able to make it happen if you are in power. This is by no means an easy task but must be the core competency of a successful political party. Communication can be information, advice, ideas or concerns. It is a two-way process, involving giving and receiving, talking and listening. Communication is the single most important process in politics. It is important to know what tools you can use for your political communication. However, most importantly, you need to know what you want to communicate to whom. Define your political positions and messages, i.e. classify your political “brand”. Knowing yourself and your political profile (i.e. vision, mission and statement of values) are a precondition for formulating political messages. Events such as those described in chapter 6 help you identify the target groups that you want to address with your political message. Create publicity for your messages and connect messages with candidates and a campaign strategy. Candidates must credibly personalise your political messages. Start visualising your messages, use events and campaigns to communicate the very essence of your goals and make use of communication channels. Finding the ‘right’ issues for a political campaign and subsequently developing powerful messages and identifying relevant target groups is an important strategic foundation for choosing the corresponding communication MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Communication


instruments. Be aware, choosing campaign issues are different from choosing the most relevant issues for a manifesto or a working program. Abstract political importance does not make an issue necessarily relevant for political communication. Criteria such as direct affection of people, personal benefits for the target groups and emotionality matter. However, you need to choose because you are not able to create attention for a huge number of different messages. Such a guide cannot elaborate such strategic steps in detail. Therefore, this chapter focuses rather on the key elements and practical aspects of how to use different communication instruments successfully.

Internet presence The “digital revolution” is happening now and moving fast. You may be a political volunteer and outside your professional life not have the time to follow all technical developments on top of your political activities. However, make sure your website, both content and design, applications and tools, stays up-to-date. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Assign the task to a board member or ask friends and relatives if you cannot afford to hire somebody. The internet has become the primary source of information and reference. Interested voters and journalists, as well as your political competitors, are much more likely to browse your party’s website than pick up the phone to get an initial overview of your political views. For this reason each and every party branch should provide basic contact information details for these target groups on their website. If nothing else, your homepage is the central instrument for presenting yourself to the outside world. Nowhere else could you present yourself, the party and


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your candidates more authentically, directly and cheaply to a potentially wide audience. As young people in particular tend to read fewer traditional newspapers, you as a local politician are required to update your online agenda with regular event announcements and to provide frequent comments on political developments in your municipality or region. People tend to care about local and regional news. They want to know what’s happening at “home”, what you think about it, and how you intend to change and improve political situations and living standards. Where applicable, you may want to include news feeds from your parliamentary groups on a regional or national level. By doing so, your website is regularly updated with news even if you don’t have anything to report on. Don’t create a random internet address if you are part of a larger party structure. The party should develop a system that follows a pattern such as “party abbreviation-name of local city”. KISS Keep It Short and Simple – Keep It Simple, Stupid ! Obviously, this applies not only to what you put on the internet but also generally to your own speaking attitude : know what you want to say and express it concisely. Don’t lose focus. There is evidence that internet users don’t like reading long texts on a computer screen. That means that clarity and good website layout play an important role. Use clear headlines and don’t overload your website with functionality and information. Most people prefer a little well-structured information to a super-abundance. People should always be able to navigate your website almost intuitively. The page structure should therefore always be clearly recognisable so that visitors know where they are and can find their way back easily.

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Some useful headings for a political party website are eg : news – about us – campaigns – events – contact us – media/press Make sure you have the following information as easily-accessible shortcuts :

> Information about and pictures of your latest events and campaigns > Names of board members with their functions, pictures and CVs > Contact details of the chairperson and press officer/spokesperson > P olicy positions of your party on issues in your municipality and region, and other issues of public interest

Social media tools and interactivity Some years ago party campaigners used to say that a massive number of election posters and billboards in the streets would not win you an election but their absence would make you lose it. This applies today equally to social media tools. It depends at least on the national context and how widespread and popular the use of those tools is. It is not just a question of the technological advancement of a society (digital infrastructure is not equally developed in all European countries and may be unequally developed within countries), but also the social willingness and curiosity to engage with new forms of communication (the daily and natural use of internet applications differs, for example, between the USA and Germany). Such differences in the common use of communication techniques can also be found in more traditional areas such as door-to-door campaigns, i.e. the direct face-to-face approach between politician and voter works very well in the USA or UK but is less successful in other societies, as chapter 8 on campaigning further illustrates.


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It was Howard Dean, one of the US Democratic Party candidates in the primaries for the 2004 Presidential elections, who for the first time successfully made use of the new online tools. Barack Obama then managed to build up a huge network of grassroots supporters and to raise tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that helped him – against all expectation – to beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries… and the rest is history. It seems now unthinkable for politicians not to use, for example, a web portal, a digital newsletter, a podcast, online TV channels and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or social networks created by politicians or parties themselves such as http :// or https ://my.fdp. de. The internet is moving fast, new things are constantly in the making (such as the network “Google+” as these lines are written) and it is difficult to predict what platforms will survive and what new tools might appear. Many of these things are easy to set up and cost little money. However, you need to think carefully about how to use them.

How to go about it A random and massive use of all tools available will not do the trick. Just as you set priorities for your party (what to focus on politically and what voter groups to target) you should also make strategic use of online tools. Political parties still treat the internet all too often as nothing other than a billboard : something to look at. The internet has changed things fundamentally. People demand to be asked and to be involved. Traditional political party involvement and commitment, however, is on the decline everywhere but people can still be motivated and enthused for political projects. While people’s lives seem to be busier, and long-term voluntary engagement in political parties has clearly lost its appeal, the internet offers you a great tool for engaging supporters and members on a short-term project basis.

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Interactivity is key The internet is not a TV screen to be looked at. You need to create platforms for the exchange of ideas, for discussion, to allow for the organisation of events and to mobilise people

Working with the Press and media “Only what you see in the media has actually taken place or only what is in the media with a picture is actually in the media !” This might be an exaggeration especially as today you can create your own media online. However, media coverage of your campaigns and events is still essential for reaching out to the broader public beyond your participants and your own (social media) followers. Due to information overload on the internet, users are very selective and tend to follow mostly what they like, and to read only information that confirms their own views. However, as a party you need to reach out further if you want to grow and win more votes at the next election. Generally, information overload simply drowns many messages and announcements. If you want to be heard, make sure you use a targeted approach and know how your national media works. The media cares about spectacular things ; the more innovative events or political announcements you can offer on a regular basis, the more you will reach journalists and increase the chances of publication. However, regular spamming of a journalist’s inbox with random statements and press releases will lead to a loss of attention.


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Checklist for working with the media Tr y to create media opportunities : Presentation of a new chairperson, campaign team, etc… Presentation of a new electoral programme, new policy proposals of your branch, etc… Fact-finding visit/appointment (perhaps also involving a prominent liberal politician) to either inform yourself or to exchange views on pressing policy issues at organisations such as : Local chamber of commerce, a particular trade or commercial association, a charity organisation, a syndicate, a school or kindergarten that has received a prize for a special performance or where you want to honour an innovative approach to education.It is helpful on such occasions to have a statement prepared beforehand that you can immediately present to the press. Invite the press to your New Year’s reception, or local party congress. Announce the launch of a new campaign ; either an online one or a street campaign

Mailing lists Create a detailed press mailing list so you have a comprehensive database with all relevant media easily accessible. This way you ensure that you don’t forget anyone when you have to react quickly on something and want to send out an immediate press release. Make sure you include all relevant local and regional media outlets, such as local and regional newspapers, advertising journals, online newspapers, influential blogs, radio and TV stations if the latter exist at a local/regional level. You should also regularly update such a database and adjust contact details and direct contact persons.

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Press releases A press release is the most common form of public relations. You should develop the habit of always issuing a release before and after a campaign launch, event or any other activity. A press release is a written message concerning a topical issue or a specific event. It should be an informative and concise statement for immediate publication. Avoid a long-winded or chatty tone. Media outlets receive hundreds of press releases every day. Journalists take seconds to decide on what is relevant and what isn’t. Therefore, your headline and the first sentence need to be to the point and contain elements of the key message you want to get across. Especially at local and regional levels, media outlets are grateful for press releases to fill the gaps as they cannot research and investigate everything. However, they do not want to become the mouthpiece of the liberal party. A press release should therefore be factual, and opinions must be clearly attributed to a person or the party. Check your local media deadlines in order to issue statements in time, to make sure you are published the following day. Upload each press release to your website. By doing so, you are regularly updating your website with news and documenting your activities. You could create a separate link - “press” - with all current and old press releases to allow for easy access. Personal follow-up on press releases A press release doesn’t replace personal contact with journalists. It might be useful to contact the journalist by phone to offer additional information.


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Also make sure you keep the press statement short. A single A4 page is almost too long. Keep the following in mind when preparing a release :

>U  se a style that matches what newspapers use for reports rather than for op-eds.

>A  concise and factual headline such as “Liberal party Utopia demands

better transportation links for city XY” and not just “Press information from liberal party branch XY”.

> C over “why, where, who, when and how”, ideally in the first paragraph. > B ear in mind that your statement may be shortened. Therefore, put the important things first and additional information last.

> Include concise quotations that are clearly linked to an individual. >U  se the present tense and avoid the passive form. >A  void self-praise and empty phrases but use simple formulations that everybody understands, and which go straight to the point.

Some other formal considerations :

>U  se consistent corporate design (emails and letters) and make sure it is clear that you (local liberal party branch XY) are the sender.

>A  press release must be visibly and clearly labelled as such. >M  ention a possible embargo period for public release. >H  eadline. > C ontact details in case additional details are required. > If available, add a weblink to download photos.

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Using email to contact the press Similar rules apply to email as for printed press releases. Personalise your mailings even when sending out in bulk. You gain greater attention by addressing the recipient directly by name. Again, try not to exceed 300 words (roughly an A4 page). Quote the headline in the subject line and repeat it in the email body together with the date. Format your text according to the mail format and avoid any special fonts. Put email addresses in the bcc field to avoid displaying everybody’s mail address. However, make sure this doesn’t result in emails being blocked as spam.

Event announcements and follow-up reports A press release can announce an upcoming event and let participants know what to expect. Don’t forget to also explicitly invite journalists if sending the press release to the media. You could add a sentence at the end saying “representatives of the media are cordially invited to attend”. If you are only inviting the media put above the title of the announcement “Invitation for the press”. Don’t forget to include essential details such as the venue, time, theme and speakers/guests. If the presence of the media at a given event is of particular importance to you, follow up by telephone to check if invited journalists are attending. You might welcome the journalists by name at the event. Not all your events will be attended by the media, so you might prefer to send them a short report afterwards. Again, keep it simple, short and to the point. Also provide a small selection of pictures.


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Letters to the editor As a local party branch you don’t always get a great deal of attention. Try writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, as the probability of being printed is fairly high. This type of publication also enables you to write something more personal or polemic. Bear in mind that your letter may be edited and shortened, so try to convey the main message in the first paragraph. Your media or public relations officer could create a template to encourage other party members to write letters. This officer could also regularly outline the most important messages your party wants to get across, to ensure that these are taken into consideration. Your own (regularly written) online blog, separate or included in the party’s website, is another tool to promote your opinion on topical issues, which you again can link to your other social media tools to attract the attention of the media.

Evaluating media exposure Collect and archive what has been published about your party or yourself. You should at least have this available to report back to your own board. If you have a high output, a regular compilation is useful. Keep not only your own board members and other members posted but also share your news with neighbouring party branches and/or at regional or national level. Share what you consider best practice but also negative experiences, to discuss how to avoid these in the future.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Communication


Following a press campaign you should always ask : Did we choose the right issues ? Did we communicate them adequately ? Did we receive enough public attention ? Did we bet on the wrong themes or have they been badly interpreted by the public ? Therefore, also try to evaluate the general media reporting of given issues and how much coverage your political opponents achieved.

Delivering letters house-to-house An effective means of informing the local constituency about your party’s recent activities, or actions you have taken concerning particular issues, is a little leaflet or letter hand-delivered to households in your neighbourhood.

Newsletter It is easy to send a regular newsletter to both your members and any other interested person who could be included in such a mailing list. As part of a bigger party structure you can easily send a weekly newsletter of 4-6 items, also containing party news from regional or national level or commenting on national political developments. Even if you report only on local party issues and recent political debates in your municipality, you should be able to manage that. You don’t have to advertise or report only on events. Your opinion as a political party/leader is wanted, and there is always plenty to comment on. Try to establish the habit of sending your newsletter on the same day (or if only monthly on the same date) in order to create a long-term expectation in your readers that there is a liberal newsletter to come. No matter how you do it, the essence of communication is repetition. Repeating your message relentlessly must become the mantra of your communications. This is even more important during election campaign


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Communication

times when there is a greater possibility that voters will listen to what you have to say. See what you could do for a successful election campaign in the next chapter.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Communication





o you know why politicians repeat the same basic message thousands of times ? Because it works. For that brief moment when citizens pay attention to politicians, they want to say exactly what will get them elected. They’re not sure when that moment will come, so they repeat their message over and over. (Or at least the good ones do.)” 12 Chapter 3 outlined the role of political parties in gathering people and ideas together, and that it is the role of parties to make those ideas reality. Taking part in elections and campaigning for your ideas is therefore how you turn your ideas into reality. A strategy is indispensable if you want to succeed. Campaigning is letting people know what you are doing. What wins votes is taking the issues that are relevant to people and campaigning on them. A simple enumeration of policies does not win elections, campaigns on issues around policies do.

An election campaign is about defining a strategy, setting clear goals, being impeccably organised and being close to the electorate. A strategic approach in your election campaign also means that during peak periods you can act rationally, and react flexibly and creatively to any incidents. Discipline and proper planning allow for professional implementation and save resources, time and money. 12 See James Carville and Paul Begala (Bill Clinton campaign managers) in Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up : 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, New York 2003.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


This applies whether you are fighting a council campaign or a parliamentary seat. The difference is only in scale. National campaigns need much bigger and more sophisticated organisation as they must be effective across the whole country. Campaigning has to be both more extensive and more intensive. However, in every case you need persuasive campaigning messages repeated frequently to the electorate – to the point where you are sick of hearing your message, which is the point when the public start noticing it ! Know what you want to achieve… Make sure your party and your campaigners agree on the key aims. Make sure everybody understands them. Make sure the aims are achievable they need to allow things to move forward significantly, but not to build up impossible expectations. Nothing is more guaranteed to put off people who have been enthused by the election than having unrealistic hopes dashed.

Formulate a goal and an image The goal you want to achieve should be as clear as possible. Have as distinct an identity as possible in comparison with your competitors. Your goals need to gain public trust so voters assess them realistically. “The liberal party of city X stands for A/B/C. We are participating in the next local elections and our candidates will make sure that…”(Present your goals briefly and emphatically). “The liberal party of city X has competent politicians (describe them briefly). If you want better chances for your children, if you are in favour of issue X, you must vote liberal.”


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

An image of this kind should determine and be the recurring theme of all your communications. Every speech, every letter and statement should contain one or several elements of this image. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT !!! You need to repeat your image and key message as often as possible so that a sufficiently large number of voters link this message to you and your party.

Present your key message by using a slogan that is also connected with your top candidate/candidate mayor and gives the candidate a distinct and individual profile. Such a theme should be visible throughout the campaign. No campaign at any level that aims to be recognised by the public at a time of information overload can afford to be without it. Keep repeating your key message until your own team is tired of it. Evidence proves that only then will the message have reached your target groups. At the same time you should aim to avoid using issues raised by your political competitors (i.e. issues strongly connected to the brand and profile of another party). Don’t pick them up, but try to let them fade from public attention. You want your key issues to be debated in public and not your competitors’. Anything that is present in the public arena appears to be of greater importance, and may have a major impact on a short-term decision by undecided voters. Election campaigns always include surprises that seem to run counter to your strategy. Try to be firm, stay on message and maintain your image. If you need to react to sudden political attacks or changing circumstances act tactically but don’t lose sight of your long-term objective.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


Define your margin of votes Try to define as closely as possible what share of the votes you want to win and what seems realistically feasible. This will help to make your campaign and your engagement with the voters concrete and credible. Example : You want to reach 10 % of the votes cast. Determine the size of the electorate. If there are 10,000 eligible voters and the voter turnout is 70 %, 7,000 people will cast their vote. If you want to reach 10 % of the vote, you will need to convince 700 people. The higher the turnout, the more votes you need to gain 10 %. If you are a small party, a lower turnout might be in your interest.

Human resources At the beginning of each campaign you should put together a team to support and advise the candidate(s) both on logistics and contents, and provide feedback and moral support during difficult times. A campaign is a collective effort by a group of people. It can be a small group of three or a team of ten. The size may depend on tactical considerations that vary from party to party, or depend on financial means and knowledge available in the party and the size of the town/region/country. A campaign team will function well if all team members feel they are engaged in a joint effort. To achieve this it is important to agree beforehand on the methods to be used and on exactly what is expected of everybody. Such a campaign team does not necessarily need to be a statutory body of the party. Try to mobilise broad support for your campaign team. Elections are an excellent opportunity to involve people from outside the small 90

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

group of party familiars in party activities. Make sure you not only involve the old hands in the campaign, but also make room for new talent and aim for a balance between young and old, men and women. This helps to avoid having new and creative thinking suppressed by ‘we’ve always done it like this…’ The usual suspects such as board members or other elected functionaries may already be heavily taken up with their work. Many other party members with fewer functions and mandates may be highly motivated to become engaged in a campaign project for a limited period of time. For a larger campaign you may want to consider sub-dividing your team, with a small core group in charge of planning and political decision-making, and a bigger team of representatives from different local branches. Clearly divide the tasks within your team without restricting each team member too much, as you want to make the best possible use of all their potential. However, the following areas may suggest how to roughly divide some essential tasks between one or more team members. These tasks should be covered :

> F inancial planning and control >M  edia and public relations work > S ecretariat for event organisation >M  anagement of promotional material > Internet

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


Selection of top candidates, candidate mayors or other top functions Consider carefully the type of elections you are facing. Local elections differ significantly from national elections. Make sure you master the rules of the specific elections and analyse the needs for the specific election you face. Political campaigns are becoming increasingly personalised. Choose your candidates carefully and assess what aspects speak in their favour. 1. What kind of candidate do you want and need ? Man/woman, single/ married, children, etc… 2. Resident of the municipality concerned ? Professional connection with the municipality ? 3. What specific issue can best be linked to your candidate, i.e. which one would the person embody most credibly ? How does the candidate stand out positively from other candidates ? 4. Does the candidate fully back the party’s campaign strategy, and fully identify with the issues and the party’s policy proposals ? 5. Will the candidate match the voters’ expectations ? 6. Is the candidate already known in the municipality/region ? 7. Can you ensure that the candidate and the campaign team are permanently available for both the party and electors throughout the campaign period ? 8. Does the candidate enjoy the support of grass root party members ?

Structure of municipality/region 1. What social structure does the candidate face ?


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

2. What has economic development looked like over the past years ? 3. What is the demographic structure ?

Analysis of competitors 1. If the incumbent of another party runs again for office : is he/she a capable and respected office-holder or are there weaknesses that you could exploit ? 2. If not, what strengths and weaknesses does the new candidate of the majority party have ? 3. What strengths and weaknesses do the candidates of the other smaller parties have ?

Political pre-conditions for the liberal party 1. You are represented already in the local council and part of a governing coalition / You are in opposition / You have no representative. 2. Do we want to put forward a candidate ? Yes, because there is a chance to win. / Yes, because a candidate of our own helps to strengthen our profile in the long run. / No, the situation doesn’t warrant putting up a candidate. / No, because we can gain other political advantages

Weigh your chances : efficient use of your resources Question whether each working hour and all the money that you have spent have been used most efficiently in view of your overall objectives.

>D  on’t waste your time. Focus your activities, mailings and posters in neighbourhoods where you expect or identify your voters.

> C ultivate those neighbourhoods that traditionally vote liberal and invest some time where you see some potential. Don’t invest time in areas that are hostile towards liberal values. In the short term you won’t be able

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


to make a difference. Experienced local campaigners usually know the neighbourhoods and boroughs where you will find the highest liberal potential. A simple analysis of past election results will also help you to identify liberal strongholds.

> If you have a prominent party figure featuring at an event, try your best to get as much media attention as possible.

>W  hen organising events, make sure you have the highest possible

number of external guests and media present. Reserve party events which exclude the public (even unintentionally) for occasions between campaigns. Disseminating a high volume of your messages (via mailings, posters, events, etc.) where they will be most effective must be a major element of your campaign planning at all times.

Timing and controlling Have a detailed time-action plan (Who does what when ?) for your entire campaign. Also prepare a similar plan for each activity, assigning responsibilities and deadlines. Don’t forget to make contingency plans for unpredictable delays, to give yourself some flexibility. Such a comprehensive plan creates transparency for everybody and gives a clear picture of the structure of your campaign. Remember : emphasise your strengths and try to neutralise your weaknesses. You may want to put one person in charge of controlling the plan. As you will be mostly relying on volunteers, controlling helps to keep an overview of what is supposed to take place when. The controller should have access


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

to all information and should report at regular intervals whether deadlines are being kept and if you are going to be able to reach your goals. On this basis you are in a better position to discuss possible adjustments if they become necessary.

Involving supporters Think about your human resources. Many otherwise rather inactive party members may be willing to do more in an election campaign. Think about how you and the campaign team can involve other party members as much as possible. A social event at the beginning of the campaign may help to motivate and commit your members to keep going through the peak times. People’s willingness to become engaged is often overlooked. This can be a source of frustration for the people concerned.

Assign at least one member of your team to identifying volunteers, maintaining contacts and to coordinating their involvement in events and other initiatives. Less experienced volunteers can be involved in tasks such as :

> Staffing your secretariat/phone line (if you have one) > Organisational work to support your constituency candidate > Logistics at events, putting up posters > Preparing postal mailings, distributing leaflets/letters to households

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


Theme management Successful campaigning is based on proper planning and an accurate analysis of the starting position. This requires considering a number of factors that you should take into account. “What wins votes is taking the issues that are relevant to people and campaigning on them. Lists of policies do not win elections, campaigns on issues around policies do.” 13

Bear in mind the different voter groups when you are identifying and developing your key policy issues.

> Potential voters (party supporters) > Potential voters of other parties (who are hostile to your goals) > Potential non-voters (undecided or difficult to motivate) The following issues are therefore important :

> C an you motivate your own supporters to cast their vote ? This is particularly successful if there is no other party campaigning on the same message or promoting something similar that is more attractive than your own themes.

> R each out to the undecided by formulating clear and understandable messages. Focus on the goals and not the means of achieving them (“more security“instead of “more police”). The more penetrating your message, the better your chances that it will be heard.

> F ocus on your potential voters and the undecided. Others will be difficult to convince. Nobody votes for a party from which they expect disadvantage.

13 Campaigns Manual, Liberal Democrats 2007, UK, p. 14


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

Seize your chances The mayor of a town represents all voters by default. However, during an election campaign you want to find supporters for your own position. You want to win votes for your party and not for state representatives. If you are small you don’t have to act like a big majority party, pleasing large parts of society. You may want to consider putting off about 70 % of the voters in order to actually win about 10 % of the votes. Identify issues that are as tangible as possible and where voters recognise concrete advantages – including idealistic values. Remember :

>D  iffer from your competitors. If there is no attractive difference or the

difference is only in the methods but not the goal, many voters tend to vote for the bigger party because they consider it to have a better chance of achieving the goal.

> If you choose several themes, make sure they are consistent and don’t contradict each other or different voter groups.

Voter targeting Targeting means identifying voter groups or neighbourhoods with a higher than average liberal voting potential, and focussing your campaign on these areas. If you have run before, it is easy to identify more liberallyinclined neighbourhoods on the basis of previous election results. Targeting a bigger constituency allows you to identify and compare the election results of different municipalities, providing you with clues as to where to site big billboards and posters if allowed to do so. If you target the electoral behaviour of smaller entities, such as your neighbourhood or borough, you’ll be able to identify those streets that you may want to target with direct mailings or door-to-door visits. MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


You should be able to get detailed election result lists from the electoral authorities in your country. However, never overlook the experience of your own campaign and fellow party activists who know from previous campaigns, or simply from a good local network, how different neighbourhoods think politically.

Identification and engagement of potential voter groups Don’t wait for the voters to come to you but target different voter groups pro-actively and present your liberal concepts. There is no single homogeneous public but many different groups with different interests and convictions who you can reach with targeted approaches.

> Th  ere are formal groups such as the members of special professional

associations, interest groups, sports clubs and many others. These are easy to identify and easy to reach.

> Th  ere are social groups such as youth, retired people, women, singles, disabled, young families, etc.

> Th  ere are other groups who may be bound by common interests such as motorists, patients, commuters, etc.

Many events can be aimed at special groups and you can design the event accordingly, such as the following ones.

>W  orking parents, single parents You could set up information stands concerning childcare or your party’s education policies. Organise visits to childcare institutions or schools, or hold action days for full-day childcare or a panel discussion on the financial situation of single parents.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

> F amilies in general Organise family events, educational games for children at your stand or a flea market.

> F irst time voters Write letters to young first time voters presenting your liberal positions, organise discussions on issues relevant to youth ; engage with the editors of school or university newspapers and magazines. Organise training on how to write application letters.

> T eachers Information events on school policies and teacher education. Make contact with teacher unions.

> S tudents and university employees Organise information events on academic and university issues. If there is a university liberal group, involve it in your activities and encourage its members to campaign on campus.

> P olice and judiciary Information events on “freedom and security“.

> S MEs, craftspeople Find out about pressing issues through company visits or at local chambers of commerce and industry.

> P ublic servants If you campaign on cutting public expenditure, including leaner administration structures, talk to public administrators to present and discuss your ideas.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


>H  ealth care service, taxpayers, home-owners, motorists, etc. Organise information events to discuss issues with the relevant associations on relevant policies and reforms.

Engaging through campaigning During peak campaign times the emphasis is on advertising and dialogue comes second. The programme has been decided, you may also have already committed to a coalition option. This is why your messages have to remain consistent throughout the campaign. Now you need to convince voters of your “product”. Big billboards throughout the city gain a lot of attention but are very expensive (but in some countries they are forbidden). Additionally, you won’t gain many votes through big posters alone. However, your campaign will be damaged if you are not publicly visible (though if too glossy and numerous they may also raise doubts about the provenance of the money). You are simply not present in the streets and your supporters will feel less encouraged to say openly that they are also supporters. This will have an effect on mobilising support. Even your own voters want to be mobilised and motivated, and the other parties will not put up fewer posters because liberals are not present. Poster advertising Posters and billboards won’t win you the campaign but no public visibility makes you lose !

Distribute posters strategically. There is no use in putting them where cars pass at 70 mph or more. Focus on major junctions, traffic lights, public transport stops. It is also useful to focus on those neighbourhoods where you are likely to have a greater voter potential. If your posters feature can-


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

didates you might add their profession or function so people understand who they are giving their vote to. Advertisements (be it a political party or washing powder) have only limited effects. They complement your campaign efforts but you cannot base a campaign only on advertisements. Try to develop creative posters, i.e. not old men in grey suits saying “for a better future”. You generate attention by unexpected motives and meaningful slogans.

Engaging through the media Voters increasingly decide spontaneously about party programmes and the credibility of candidates, and less on the basis of long-term ideological convictions. Often, media and journalists enjoy higher credibility than politicians (although their popularity is also limited). Good media coverage is therefore one of the crucial preconditions for electoral success. Evaluate regularly what is most discussed in the press, and likely future hot topics. These may be very specific local issues. How do these stories unfold ? Are the issues relevant for us as liberals ? Which developing stories should we follow ? Are they issues which will be good for us, or too risky to touch ? The more you are able to place your own issues in the media, the more they will dominate the agenda ; people will talk about them and automatically grant them importance. All material you produce should therefore always carry your priority messages. Make sure that all your spokespersons stay on-message and know what you are doing and why. Always speak with one voice !

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


Voters don’t like internal discord. Make sure everybody is sufficiently informed and supports the decisions taken. This applies to your work locally as well as regionally or nationally. You can generate high rates of public support the more united and consistent you appear over a long period. In order to achieve this, organise regular meetings between the elected leaders of different branches at a senior level so that information trickles down to the members below.

Engaging through direct contact (door-to-door campaigning) People appreciate it if you care about them and offer a direct dialogue. However, carefully assess what may work in your specific cultural context. It is not commonplace everywhere to ring each and every doorbell and “penetrate” residents at home, as in the UK or US. Seek a personal dialogue with your neighbours, friends, relatives, colleagues, your hairdresser, shop-owners, etc… Where appropriate, present yourself on the doorsteps (always have your business card with you) of your borough or municipality if you seek to represent this constituency in the city council.

Direct postal mailing Send letters to all households. Unlike mass emailings (which can raise questions as to how you obtained private email addresses) or the personal household visit, postal letters are less pushy and the addressee is free to read your letter or not. This contact will raise your profile with the voter. It is usually easy and reasonably cheap to organise such mailings via the postal services or local journals, or if you have enough volunteers you can distribute them through every letterbox.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

Checklist for direct mailing Th  e envelope : this is the door-opener. Personalise and make it look as serious as possible, for instance by a handwritten address. For real mass mailings this is not feasible but make sure that names are spelled correctly. Nothing annoys people more than having their name wrongly spelled. F ocus on the issue : What is the advantage of voting liberal ? Write short sentences with a single message. Use the active and not the passive voice, and only use a few auxiliaries such as want/could/should. D  esign : Highlight or underline your key phrases and break up the text with diagrams or pictures. What the reader considers unattractive, they will dismiss. A  llow the reader to answer. Add an email address or include a template answer letter that could also be faxed to you.

Engaging through the internet US President Barack Obama in his presidential campaign in 2008 set the standard for the use of online media. With each click on his website the visitor was invited to register. Obama had profiles in every available social media network that either allowed people to follow his activities and messages, or to directly engage in a dialogue with him. Followers could vote on issues or decide what city he would visit next. He also often released news earlier to his online community than to the regular press. Such a campaign cannot simply be copied and pasted directly in any other national context but can serve as a source of inspiration. Internet user rates and popularity also differ widely due to different technical levels of development but are generally on the rise.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


The higher internet user rates are, and the more commonplace internet communication in a society is, the more a political party needs to engage online.

Online campaigning may work most effectively in a national context where there is one top candidate on whom all attention is focused, rather than in a context of local elections where you are trying to get as many councillors as possible elected and where the personal contact between the candidate and the voter may play a bigger role and is more easy to establish. However, you cannot afford not to be present online, or not to be found. If you have the means, shoot a short campaign video including your key messages. Embed it on your website, upload it to video channels such as YouTube or other nationally popular sites, and use tags that make it easily found by search engines. The same principle applies to profiles in social media networks. Try to be present in different networks but don’t exaggerate, and make sure you are consistent with design and messages. Try to interlink tools such as Twitter with Facebook, Google+ or other national networks. Such networks allow for viral campaigning 14 to keep followers informed about news and upcoming events or to enable them to contact you.

14 Viral campaigning is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a message. Viral marketing depends on a high pass-along rate from person to person. If a large percentage of recipients forward something to a large number of friends, the overall growth snowballs very quickly. If the pass-along numbers get too low, the overall growth quickly fizzles out.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

Internet users increasingly tend to select platforms and news fora which confirm their own political stance. The wish to be informed holistically and comprehensively is decreasing. Accordingly, your political profile on social media platforms will tend to draw only “convinced liberals” or, alternatively, those who only want to insult you.

A best practice election campaign example This is not a blueprint that can easily be copied for other election campaigns. However, while questions concerning strategy, the selection of candidates and campaign themes are always the same, the answers must fit local circumstances.

Why did the FDP Hamburg succeed in the regional elections in February 2011 although all national and regional polls suggested that the party would not pass the 5 % threshold ?

A best practice campaigning example in 5 steps 1. The candidate The female top candidate was the youngest of all. Initially the media assessed this as inexperience but eventually she was considered a dynamic and fresh face on the political scene. As a mother with two children and a “real” job she presented a contrast with the other professional politicians. FDP could thus position itself strategically in the centre of society.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning


2. Marketing The campaign team used modern marketing techniques in collaboration with a PR agency and the national party, which raised the interest of the media.

This poster made a difference during the grey and rainy November weather in Hamburg. 3. Work with the press – not against them This approach offered what the media likes : attractive, eye-catching and unusual. Media reporting started to increase and did so even more, also at national level, when the then national party leader Guido Westerwelle appeared with her at events. 106

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning

4. Issues and strategies are unified Issues were secondary, as the main parties CDU, SPD and FDP agreed on many issues, but FDP positions differed substantially from the Greens. Therefore, FDP positioned itself as the strategic counterpart to the Greens. “FDP instead of GAL” (Greens). 5. Professional structures Parties often allocate functions and positions on the basis of quotas or personal connections. This case was different. The main Hamburg campaign team had no personal ambitions, but were involved because of their professional backgrounds and knowledge. That helped to avoid conflicts of interest. The chairman of the regional party branch was not a candidate either but continued running party affairs and organised fundraising. This was an ideal backing for all candidates and their campaign activities. If you want to learn more about comprehensive campaign strategies, there are many books available on the market.15 None of them present a role model that can simply be copied and pasted, but they do present methods of strategic planning and campaign development that are necessary for the successful implementation of policies. What happens after the election campaign, whether it was a success or ended in political defeat ? Chapter 10 will address this. Successful political party work in general and election campaigns in particular also depend on financial resources. The following chapter introduces some key elements in raising funds to finance your work. 15 Peter Schröder, Political strategies, available in different languages on http://www.polcon. de/en/index.htm / James Carville and Paul Begala, Buck Up, Suck Up… and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, Simon & Schuster 2003. See also other publications by James Carville.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Participating in elections and campaigning





o political campaign works without money. Raising money is a permanent and important management task. You need drive and pro-activity to get money. A donor rarely gives money without being asked and nobody invests money without knowing what it is for. Make sure that you are familiar with the laws and rules governing fundraising and donations to political parties. Know and comply with what you are allowed to do and what not. Make sure you report and declare donations in line with national legislation. Be aware of different fundraising strategies. If you are a successful political party already, or a partner in a government coalition, you are more likely to be successful in approaching big donors such as the corporate sector. However, a successful micro-fundraising strategy is an essential foundation. If you don’t ask, you won’t get !

Fundraising is a sensitive issue and everybody does it differently. However, you may want to take into consideration the following issues. Raise it ! Your members are interested in political issues. They want to get engaged and debate specific political issues. Thus, the issue of fundraising is often not discussed because it seems to be of a technical rather than a political nature. However, it is your members who have ideas as well as contacts with other networks and potential donors. Discuss the issue at your internal party meetings and collect ideas on how best to go about it.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Fundraising


Politicise it ! You cannot expect anybody to donate money for nothing. The donor needs to know what it is for, so always combine your fundraising efforts with your political demands. Different donors have different interests, so try to target your fundraising efforts accordingly. Fine tune it ! Any organisation raising money tries to be as specific as possible by presenting tangible projects for which they want to raise funds. People want to know what happens with their money. Sell it ! In many countries donations are tax-deductible. Inform potential donors what the specific tax regulations on donations are, to ease their decision. Keep it ! Any entrepreneur knows that it is easier to keep existing clients than to get new ones. Therefore, take care of your donors. Thank them personally and/or write them letters. Invite them to party events. It may even be worthwhile to consider the creation of a donor organisation (business club). Fostering your donor relations may not have a short-term impact on cash flow, but the next elections are sure to come.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Fundraising

Checklist : Some fundraising rules to consider : I f you address people about fundraising, talk about the issues you want to tackle, rather than trying to get money for the sake of it. P ersonal pleas are most successful. People donate to people and not to abstract organisations. Develop a relationship first before asking for money. Raise awareness. The donor must understand why you need money. Reports on initiatives and successes stimulate willingness to pay. T  ry finding out how much you could ask a donor for, and when is the ideal time to do it. Always say thank you ! Big donors deserve special attention. I nform your donors honestly about what you have done, and your possible successes and failures.

Fundraising methods Personal talk A direct talk with individuals is the most successful method. Talks with friends, neighbours and acquaintances are most likely to succeed. However, the fundraiser may feel uncomfortable with this target group. This approach is very time-consuming. Prepare for such talks carefully. Know a little about the background of the person you are talking to. A fundraising talk should take place in an environment where you can talk freely without being disturbed. Once you have talked politics, be frank about your intentions but not demanding. “I have got the impression you share the opinions of our party. We would like to turn our policy ideas into concrete actions. To do so, we need to

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Fundraising


have more posters across the cities. We would be pleased if you were able to support us.” Don’t be disappointed if you don’t immediately get a positive answer. People and companies are often not willing to pay immediately. However, a first contact should be the start of a long-term relationship that needs to build trust. Letters Letters are the most common approach to fundraising. You can either write personal letters to friends or mass letters to hundreds of potential donors. Make it as easy as possible for the potential donor : include the bank details of your party or the local branch. Events One of the most common forms of fundraising is a dinner. Organise a dinner with one or more special guests (high ranking and popular party members or external celebrities who are willing to do this for your liberal party). Charge an entrance fee but ideally don’t leave it up to the guest to determine how much to pay. Such an event provides a sense of exclusiveness for your guests. You could also organise fundraising social events aimed at your own party members, such as summer barbecues or Christmas dinners (charging a little more than what the menu actually costs), or raffles and lotteries. Party members Try to encourage your party members. Those who don’t want to commit to being part of the campaign can at least contribute financially. If appropriate, you could collect money at any party event just as churches do after a service.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Fundraising

Challenge party members to become active in fundraising. Announce a competition in which the most successful collector receives an award at the end of the campaign. 10 basic fundraising rules for success 16 1. F undraising is not primarily about money, but about the relationship between the donor and the recipient. 2. Th  e better your strategy and your action plan, the more successful you will be when you approach potential donors. 3. F undraising is not a short-term project ; be in the game for your long-term goals and do not lose your enthusiasm if there is no short-term success. 4. N  o matter who is internally in charge of the relationship-building process with potential donors, the person who addresses them should always be part of the leadership of the organisation. 5. I n the beginning fundraising will cost you money to develop your strategy, to acquire the right communication technology, the right bookkeeping and database software and staff, and the communication itself will be an additional cost. 6. Create classes of donors such as : Platinum > Gold > Silver >Basic 7. K  now your donors : gather intelligence about personal preferences, hobbies, communication skills, etc… 8. A  lways specify a target amount that you expect from a donor, so that they cannot buy themselves off with small amounts. 9. S et ambitious targets for your action plan, but make sure you can actually reach them, otherwise you will be de-motivated and achieve next to nothing. 10. Don’t hesitate to ask for money, as the only certain way of not getting it is not to ask. But be polite. :-)

16 Jan Burdinski, political consultant, Berlin, Germany 2011.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Fundraising




MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


Remember  ? Chapter 3 was all about the overall objective of a politi-

cal party. It was about having ideas about your community, society and state, getting them organised and trying to implement them, i.e. by getting elected to run a government. Shape and strengthen your profile : After the elections… is before the elections

Even after a successful campaign (and particularly after an unsuccessful one) you cannot afford to stop working as a party. Start planning new events – the electorate and especially your own party members will be grateful. An election campaign begins the day after the previous one finishes. Keeping in touch with local residents, listening to their concerns and informing them of what you are doing to tackle those concerns throughout the year must become an inherent part of your party activity. This is what political party work is about : day-to-day caring for your voters, the community and country. Some immediate follow-up activities  :

> Organise a party for your campaign team, supporters and volunteers to acknowledge their efforts and keep them motivated

> Organise the removal of campaign posters, or add a sticker thanking the voters for their support. Don’t forget to include such messages on your online media platforms.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


> A little later, publish the work programme of your parliamentary group, whether in government or opposition.

The work continues whether you succeeded in gaining power, remain in non-parliamentary opposition or are in parliamentary opposition. The following provides an outline of how to approach the formation of a coalition or how to work as an opposition force.

The art of governance The ultimate challenge for a political party is the formation of a government (particularly and most likely a coalition government) and the successful running of the government or local city council. You always have to reach agreement about what policies to implement and whom to appoint. In addition, you have to find support within your own party. “Everything you need to know about coalition politics you already know from your marriage !” 17

Here are some essentials that you might want to consider carefully when offered the chance to govern.18

17 Lousewies van der Laan, ELDR Party Vice President, 18 November 2010 at seminar Keeping the Liberal Democrat identity in coalition government : Exchange of best practice with European liberal democrats, London, UK. 18 Ibidem.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament

1. Deciding to go for it : an arranged marriage with a solid pre-nuptial agreement Do  : Weigh the partner options and consider the timing : is it better to be in power than not at all ? In opposition you have clean but very empty hands.

> Do join when you have won the elections ; you’ll feel strong and have a buffer for the inevitable loss afterwards

> Achieve at least some of your programme. You cannot afford a full sell-

out of your core election campaign demands without losing all credibility in public.

> Do have a clear coalition agreement with deadlines where possible. > Do decide to go for it wholeheartedly and commit to being a stable coalition partner.

Do not go into coalition unless you are needed for power and can set conditions.

Don’t  :

> Don’t wait until you are bigger (you may remain in opposition for ever). > Don’t govern if you are afraid of taking decisions that will cost you votes. > Don’t govern if you are afraid of losing seats (e.g. Dutch saying “Regeren is halveren” = governing is halving)

> Don’t mortgage the marriage with negative party resolutions at the start.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


> Don’t do it if your party/voters don’t understand why you went in. > Don’t enter a coalition if it goes against the essence of what you stand for (no relationship is worth selling your principles for).

Make sure the party is fully on board and remains there, because there will be bad polls and people will lose their seats.

There are populist parties (PVV in the Netherlands or Dansk Folkeparti in Denmark) which have supported governments without formally joining a coalition. If your party tips the balance of power in parliament, such a configuration brings substantial influence with possibilities for blackmail. The minority government relies on you for every move but can you combine it with your liberal principle that freedom always brings responsibility ? 2. The honeymoon  : how to set up house and the first common projects Do  :

> Do put the right people in the right places ; strong leaders and good

communicators need to be in government and you should be confident they can deal with their allocated portfolio.

•Y  ou might want to consider keeping your party leader outside government but in a strong position (e.g. group leader) where he or she has the flexibility to defend and communicate the party policy line.

> Do ensure your ministers can “sell” the coalition (including taking responsibility for compromises), while reaffirming your party identity throughout.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament

> Do claim the right posts : if you campaigned on “education, education, education”, get the education secretary.

> Do keep making clear why you went in, and manage expectations (“if you want us to implement our whole electoral programme, give us an absolute majority”).

> Do give each side visible quick wins. > Do let each side shine – grant each his/her moment of glory, but keep it in balance, to avoid resentment.

> Do keep communicating within the party (party leadership to call

senior regional people every month to take the pulse, MPs in the region every weekend).

> Do keep communicating within the coalition (e.g. “I was really annoyed about this, I didn’t retaliate, but don’t do it again”).

> Do find room for debate between the daily hypes and the dossiers. > Do surround the leader with people s/he likes and trusts, who will tell

him/her when s/he has spinach between the teeth, actually and also politically. Mutual trust is your coalition’s biggest asset, so don’t squander it. Atmosphere is a determining factor. Grant each other victories and don’t envy each other everything. Once a good atmosphere has gone, it is very difficult to get it back.

Don’t  :

> Don’t retaliate (tit-for-tat rarely works in politics), but do react in-house. > If you lose an argument, don’t make a big fuss, grin and bear it (but let them know on the inside).

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


> Don’t wash your dirty linen in public ; don’t gloat when the others stumble. > Don’t begrudge the other half their little victories ; they need them like you need yours.

> Don’t bring down the government if the opposition does not do its bit. > Don’t (publicly) ask for compensation if you don’t get your way, it will look like a sell-out.

> Don’t count on the opposition. They will do you down when they can and vote against anything they stand for if they think it will lead to your collapse. Oppositions don’t bring down governments, coalition partners do. The opposition will find the weakest link and keep prodding at it until it snaps.

3. The Irritation of living together  : when to decide to call it quits If there is only one dissatisfied member of the party the evening news will find him/her and feature him/her.

The opposition will start to sense when your electoral mandate is running out before you do, and will use all in its power to accelerate the process.

Do  :

> Do keep the party on board (make sure the media favourites in the party are kept aware of the line to take).

> Stay relaxed, even when the polls are bad - it’s all par for the course. 120

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament

> Do keep focusing on the common goals ; remember why you joined in the first place.

> Do show self-confidence ; and make it clear you have nothing to hide. > Do listen to constructive ideas but tell complainers to come up with alternatives.

> Do stick to your own line, your own points. > Do get outsiders to defend your points (academics, experts, opinion leaders), it’s better to have a credible non-party member telling the public you are right than to do it yourself. Build and nourish these networks. Mood and morale are important – make sure personal relations are sound and amicable, you’ll need them when the @#$ % hits the fan, and it will.

Every news story has two sides, have your side be one of them or you won’t get coverage.

Don’t  :

> Don’t try to raise your profile at the expense of your partner ; it will lead to exclusion from real decision-making.

> Don’t allow former prominent party members near a microphone (it was always much better in their day).

> Don’t take advice from post-holders, personal interest can cloud their judgment.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


> Don’t threaten to bring down the government unless you really intend to go through with it.

> Don’t be sidetracked from the big picture ; don’t let side issues become main issues (and vice-versa).

As long as things go well, the party will remain united ; when trouble starts the party will revolt.

4. The Divorce and who gets the house (voters) As the elections get nearer, nerves become frazzled even if both parties are leading in the polls (which never happens).

Do  :

> Define your reasons for ending the coalition internally beforehand ; make sure they are obvious to the average voter (life or death issues like war are most easily understood, as are issues of principle that people can identify with : “we just can’t trust them any more”).

> Do plan and strategise each step in the endgame like a military operation – there is no room for surprises.

> Do stay relaxed and confident and focus on the long term. > Do try to maintain party unity ; divisions cost votes. > Do keep control of the message ; repeat it until long after the coalition has fallen.

> Do rally behind the leadership.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament

> Do keep leadership battles short and sweet, and unite immediately afterwards.

> Do stay decent, even if the others are bastards – you may be in a coalition with them next month.

Don’t  :

> Don’t allow the troops to panic in the endgame (you are competing

for column inches, and every one that deals with dissatisfied members reduces those that can win you the election).

> Don’t allow the others to define or frame your reasons for breaking up. > Don’t be afraid, ever. Politics is not for cowards. Elections are not won on past results, but on promises for the future.

Everything you did wrong in government can and will be held against you, everything you achieved will be claimed by the other side.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


The art of opposition To be politically successful in opposition is a great challenge for political parties. Even if you are represented in parliament, your biggest problem is that the government and the majority parties ignore you. No matter how good your policy proposals might be, the government will ignore them and do its best to block any positive public attention. On the contrary, in order to avoid the public perception that your proposals undermine the government’s authority and credibility, the government parties will do their best to stress the weakest points in your proposals in order to turn them against you. Opposition can therefore be a frustrating experience that demands endurance and patience, although you should take it for granted that your party will be sidelined every once in a while in a functioning democracy. However, opposition is not a goal in itself, and you should be aiming to get (back) into government if you follow the pattern of a “traditional party” as characterised in chapter 3 of this book. The future counts ! Bear in mind that you will be given another chance at the next election. You will either be in a position to form a government yourself, or others will depend on you to obtain a majority. This includes the government parties that you currently face in opposition. The nearer the elections come, the more likely it is that your proposals will be taken seriously if a government party is contemplating post-election changes. Being in opposition doesn’t mean being against each and every government action just for the sake of it. Voters tend to dislike such destructive approaches. Agree with policy proposals that are in the national interest, but disagree with policies that run counter to your party principles and adopted policies.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament

Perseverance and patience will gain you a new opportunity. Voters seek change and you should be prepared for that in terms of your policy offers and party organisation. Time in opposition enables you to review structures, policies and the personnel of your party. This is an ideal time to test the ground with new ideas and to bring new faces into the limelight. Stay in touch with voters ! Staying in touch with the electorate is crucial for your ability to pick up the themes and issues that voters care about. To do so, get into the streets, organise events, send questionnaires to households, etc., as outlined with examples in chapter 6. Don’t try to please small but noisy special-interest groups. Obviously, as a political party you cannot please the whole of society, but your proposals must be seen as fair and just even if they don’t appeal to everybody. But don’t appear to be in the pocket of vested interests. Offer alternatives ! Negative campaigning works but don’t rely on it alone. Criticism and negative messages work most effectively when they correspond with contemporary undercurrents in public opinion. However, you should present your alternatives and not simply denounce the government’s actions. Voters want to know about your plans and need to develop trust in your ability to deliver on your promises. If you don’t develop this link with the electorate, voters may stay with what they know even if they don’t particularly like it. You can also demonstrate your ability to govern if you collaborate constructively with other opposition parties or offer the government parties cooperation on selected issues, while at the same trying to introduce some of your own conditions or suggestions for improving certain policy proposals.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament


Also make sure that your political promises are realistic and achievable. Voters are not fools and it will prove fatal if you make promises that you are unable to keep. Don’t be preoccupied with internal issues ! Party unity is crucial. You should of course have internal debates about the right course and strategy, but everyone must stand by whatever compromise has been agreed. If you fight yourself rather than the government and other parties you will be defeated not by the voters but by your own internal conflicts. Be involved locally ! Even if your party is in opposition nationally, or even more if it is not represented at all in the national parliament, make sure you have a local and regional presence. The local level in particular will provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate your added value to the electorate. Start interacting with people to find out about what concerns them, and offer to support them when they are dealing with the local administration, or to address issues to the city council. Also pick those issues up through the media to pressurise the ruling parties into taking action. Such issues can serve well as campaign springboards. Although you cannot sustain campaign activities year-in, year-out at the same intensity as during an election, you should try to remain visible through continuous campaigning. Create support ! Try to find allies for your cause and build non-parliamentary civic support. Syndicates, employers’ and consumer associations, celebrities or influential people and many others can help to promote your case and eventually bring you voters.


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament

Whether you are in government or in opposition, this manual outlines some ideas and highlights some key issues that you might want to consider in order to work successfully for the public good and to implement your liberal policies.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | How to be in (local) parliament



9 Role and importance of the ELDR Party “In my view, political liberalism is not about benevolent paternalistic politicians pretending to know best and polishing their own image ; rather, it is about empowering the people and building the indispensable institutions of civil society and political democracy ; it is about ensuring civil liberties and human rights ; it is about organizing truly open economic markets and keeping open to newcomers ; it is about making possible and organizing the free flow of ideas, goods and people ; it is about safeguarding all of these values for the future of Europe.”19 The European Liberals were the first to create a European political party organisation. The Party was founded on 26 March 1976 in Stuttgart, Germany, before the first direct elections to the European Parliament. At the time, this original federation of European liberal parties was made up of nine member parties from seven EU member states. Following a change in the European Treaties, the ELDR Party was granted formal status as a truly political party in 2004. By July 2011 the ELDR Party consisted of 55 member parties from 36 countries across Europe. As its founding document the Party adopted in 1976 the visionary Stuttgart Declaration 20 which contains a number of goals that are still valid today.

19 Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck MEP, ELDR Party President 2005-2011, The evolution and function of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, pp. 93-100 (p.93), in : European View, Transnational Parties and European Democracy, Volume 3-Spring 2006, Forum for European studies, published by European People’s Party. 20 http ://

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Appendix


The ELDR Party brings together political parties and individuals in Europe who seek to strengthen the following principles :

> strengthen the liberal movement in the European Union and throughout Europe ;

> seek a common position on all important matters affecting the European Union ;

> inform the public and involve it in the construction of a united European democracy ;

> support its members and co-ordinate their activities in elections to the European Parliament ;

> promote the constitution of liberal parliamentary groups in all international parliamentary assemblies ;

> develop close working relationships with and among its members, their

national parliamentary groups, the parliamentary Group of the ELDR Party of the European Parliament, and the liberal groups in other international fora and Liberal International. The ELDR Party receives its day-to-day guidance from a small directlyelected Bureau including the President, seven Vice-Presidents and the Treasurer. Former Presidents of the Party include Gaston Thorn, former Prime Minister of Luxemburg (the founding President) ; Colette Flesch, former deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party in Luxemburg ; Willy de Clercq, former deputy Prime Minister of Belgium ; Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, former deputy Prime Minister of Denmark ; Werner Hoyer, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Germany and Annemie NeytsUyttebroeck, MEP and Minister of State, Belgium. The ELDR Party leaders’ and ministers’ meetings bring together Prime Ministers with the broader network of ELDR party leaders and the lead-


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Appendix

ership of the liberal Group in the European Parliament. Participants also include Foreign Ministers, Commissioners. The group discusses and reviews the six-month presidency of the European Union. This networking is especially important as European liberals are well represented in national governments throughout Europe and in the European Commission. The annual Congress is the supreme decision-making forum, consisting of delegates from the member parties, members of the parliamentary group of the ELDR party, ELDR members of the European Commission and representatives of European Liberal Youth (LYMEC). The Congress elects the President, Vice-Presidents and the Treasurer every two years and votes on policy resolutions and the electoral manifesto for European Parliament elections. Around 500 delegates and guests attend the Congress regularly. The ELDR Council is the party’s second highest decision-making body and meets at least twice a year. Delegates of full member parties are empowered to speak and act on behalf of the ELDR Party. The Council approves membership applications, membership fees, the party’s annual budget and accounts, and nominates the Secretary General. ELDR Party membership is open to all political parties in Europe that accept the Stuttgart Declaration. There are three categories of ELDR membership for political parties. Full members participate fully in all political activities and work of the Party. They have the right to voice their opinion, including proposing motions for resolutions at meetings of the ELDR Congress and Council through their delegates. They can amend and vote on policy documents, such as resolutions and the electoral manifesto, as well as voting in the elections of the ELDR Party Bureau and proposing candidates for the ELDR Party Bureau. They can participate in training sessions, particularly on campaigning for elections, sharing best practice in campaigning at local or national level, or participate in training on specific policy areas. They can apply for and MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Appendix


receive funding for projects that promote their party or liberal ideas within a European perspective in their country. Affiliate and observer members do not enjoy the same full range of membership participation (speaking rights but no voting rights) but can decide at any time to apply for full membership. In 2011 associate individual membership for individuals was launched. As the first European political Party, ELDR offers the opportunity for individuals (who do not necessarily have to be a member of an ELDR member party) to become direct members of the European Liberal Party.

Liberal organisations and think tanks worldwide > The liberal family in Europe – The ELDR Party and its members You want to get in touch with your liberal sister parties in Europe ? Check out the ELDR Party’s comprehensive database on liberal member parties, liberals in parliaments and governments across Europe : http :// The parliamentary group The liberal group ALDE in the European Parliament is an alliance of parliamentarians representing ELDR member parties and other democratic parties. Its 85 members (of whom 72 belong to ELDR parties) form the third strongest group in the European Parliament. The youth organization Like the ELDR Party, LYMEC was founded in 1976, as the ‘Liberal and Radical Youth Movement of the European Community’. As the youth organisation of the ELDR Party and its parliamentary group ALDE in the European Parliament, the European Liberal Youth LYMEC seeks to promote liberal values, and supports the development of political and educational under132

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Appendix

standing of young people throughout Europe. Involving members from 58 organisations in 33 countries, LYMEC is made up of Member Organisations and Individual Members. Their central aim is the creation of a liberal and federal Europe. There are various other interparliamentary liberal groups also named ALDE such as in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or in the Committee of the Regions in the EU.

> Liberal International and liberal parties worldwide Liberal International You are interested in liberal parties around the globe, and would like to get in touch and exchange political ideas and best practice ? Contact Liberal International (, the worldwide umbrella organisation of liberal parties. Founded in 1947, LI has become the pre-eminent network for advocating liberalism, strengthening liberal parties and promoting liberal democracy around the world. International liberal youth International Federation of Liberal Youth is the international umbrella body of liberal youth organisations. Find out more about international young liberals IFLRY at

> Liberal political training and education You are interested in political expertise and how it can be applied ? Get in touch with foundations and think tanks active in the formulation of liberal policy and in political party training.

MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Appendix


Founded in 2007, the European Liberal Forum (http ://liberalforum. eu) (ELF) is the European political foundation of the liberal family. ELF brings together liberal think tanks, political foundations and institutes from around Europe to observe, analyse, and contribute to the debate on European public policy issues and the process of European integration, through education, training, research and the promotion of active citizenship within the EU. See here all member organisations of ELF : http :// members.html The German liberal foundation Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit,, has compiled a database (not exhaustive) of many relevant liberal think tanks worldwide. The database is in German but easy to access. Think tanks can be searched for either by name or country. http ://


MANUAL - The little Liberal Book | Appendix

ELDR Book  

Petit Livre Bleu