A fascinating elections wonk article by mark Pack on the history of the LibDem approach to campaigning:
Central to this inheritance for the Liberal Democrats was the role of leaflets. If one image can sum up the approach to campaigning taken by the Liberal Democrats across twenty-five years, it would be a piece of paper on a doormat emblazoned with a bar chart and a headline screaming that ‘Only the local Liberal Democrat can beat Party X round here’
Then Liberal Party MP David Penhaligon coined the phrase that many activists have since quoted, ‘If you believe in something, write it on a piece of paper and stick it through a letterbox’. However, it was Chris Rennard, first as the Liberal Democrats’ Director of Campaigns and Elections, and then subsequently as Chief Executive, who turned it into an effective seat-winning tactic at general elections for the party.
What struck me about this is the similarities to the approach the Dutch Socialist Party used to have to elections. The SP started out as a typically sixties Maoist studenty party, then got a foot on the ground in some of the industrial cities of Brabant, especially Oss. There the people running the party took the same sort of pragmatic approach to campaigning, by focusing on local issues year round, not just during elections. It also had the same sort of centrally led election organisation that could throw money and manpower at areas where the party stood a chance of being elected.
Of course, with the Dutch system of proportional representation this was less necessary for parliamentary elections, but the SP always worked bottom up. First get the party established in a new town or district, then get it actively involved in local politics and hopefulyl elected to the council before focusing on national politics.
Mind, it took several decades for the party to grow big and established enough to get its first members of parliament, but since then it has steadily grown from fringe party to serious governmental candidate even if its fortunes have waned during more recent elections.
As with the LibDems, the biggest challenge for the SP has been to keep its ideological vision rather than becoming just an issues party. Said ideology has become much more mainstream over the decades but the core of it still is a proper socialist-democratic vision. What helps is that the party has always been keen for its local branches to be active on national and international issues too.