Author Archives: Mark Valladares

The race for the ALDE Presidency – and why it might matter

Four years of an ALDE Party led by Sir Graham Watson is nearly at an end and, following his announcement in Oslo in May that he would not be seeking a third term, one might not be surprised to hear that the campaign started almost before he sat down. I for one was lobbied by a potential candidate at the reception that followed and, since then, two candidates have emerged to contest the succession. So, who will the Liberal Democrat delegation, which represents 12% of the votes to be cast, have to decide between?

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

Building a more accessible candidate selection process – the campaign phase

 

Three weeks ago, Zack Polanski offered us a perspective on the way we, as Liberal Democrats, select candidates, focusing in particular on the barriers to participation that campaign spending limits create. And, whilst I am not Mark Pack, I am prompted to offer a different perspective on the problem by Mark Platt’s suggestion of a ‘Packian response’.

First, some context. The 1997 European Parliamentary selection was the first where, almost regardless of where you were, there was a serious prospect of a Liberal Democrat being elected. In South East England alone, seventy-two members applied to be on the shortlist. In the absence of restrictions on spending, certain candidates were seen to have attempted to buy a place high up on the list. As a result, it was strongly suggested that spending caps be introduced, a concept that the English Party adopted readily. As Anthony Fairclough noted, it was for local shortlisting committees to determine a limit appropriate to their circumstances, with an overriding limit of £1 per head – one letter to a member would take up a chunk of that.

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Liberal Democrat Committee appointments in the Lords spotlight the talent on our benches

Whilst the lack of women in prominent positions in the House of Commons has already drawn comment elsewhere on the site, in the Lords, the story is rather different, especially from a Liberal Democrat perspective. With nominations now confirmed for all but the sub-committees of the European Union Select Committee, our Leader in the Lords, Jim Wallace, and Chief Whip, Dick Newby, have drawn upon the array of talent within our Parliamentary Party – now 35% female – to reflect its new position as the legislative engine for scrutiny within the Party. So, who should we be watching out for over the next session? We’ll start with the four new Ad Hoc Committees, set up to look at particular topics.

The Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee has been set up to consider the impact of the Act on people with disabilities, and Party President and wheelchair user, Sal Brinton, and Celia Thomas, a Vice President of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, will be representing us there.

The Built Environment Committee will look at the development and implementation of national policy for the built environment – think planning and infrastructure. Matthew Taylor, who led the 2012 review of government planning practice guidance, and Kate Parminter, a former Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, will be authoritative voices.

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged and | 8 Comments

@ALDEParty Council – mourning our losses in the bosom of our family and friends

I was the first of our delegation to reach Oslo, having concluded that there was little I could practically do to help at home by then and, arriving at the venue for the Friday evening fringe meeting, I was braced for the questions. “What went wrong? What will happen now? Who will be the new leader?”. And yes, I expected some sympathy, although the offer of political asylum in Norway was unexpectedly kind.

Perhaps, just perhaps, opening the event with a debate on the future of Liberal Europe was just a little too raw given events at home, but I did take the opportunity to ask the panel the question, “My political party has just suffered a near-death experience. What single piece of advice would you give me?”. The answer, rebuild from the floor. Rebuild your branch structure, develop some clear, liberal messages, give your members and activists something to believe in and campaign for.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged | 3 Comments

ALDE Party Council preview: remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue…

Whilst most of you will either be at your count (and good luck to you all!) or sitting in front of a television set or a computer watching the results come in, your correspondent will be in a hotel room in Oslo. Yes, it’s time once again for liberals from across Europe to gather and tell the British how sorry they are for the result/share the love and tell us things will get better/express surprise at how well we did (delete as appropriate). And despite exhaustion and uncertainty, a small, depleted and wholly male delegation will be there to fly the Liberal Democrat flag.

So, what are we there for, apart from the joy of discovering that a second mortgage is required to buy a beer?

Council will be opened with a speech from the Prime Minister of Norway… who isn’t a member of our host party, Venstre, but is leader of the Conservative Party. That said, the ruling minority coalition of the Conservatives and the Progress Party has a confidence and supply arrangement with Venstre and the Christian Democrats in the Storting to ensure its survival (and you thought that British politics was complex?).

The agenda for Council itself is unlikely to generate much excitement, although the membership application from the Liberal Party of Gibraltar is a welcome one, especially given their performance in the European Parliamentary election last year (the Liberal Democrat list – Gibraltar is part of the South West England region – gained 66% of the vote). There will also be a rationalisation of the Slovenes, as three of the five member parties there are expected to disaffiliate (they have, effectively, ceased to exist).

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Opinion: ALDE Party Council: Bouncing Czechs, “which Slovenes are the liberals?”*, and a prospective rise in the price of cod…

Whilst you might not have guessed it from those manifestos you read from candidates for places on the Party’s ALDE Council delegation, the policy debates were still in our future when Council made an early start on Friday morning.Our task was a straightforward one, debate changes to the constitution, including a revision of the membership structure, authorise the creation of a business club, consider six membership applications, receive and approve the 2015 budget and debate the report of the Bureau… in two hours (English Council, please note).

The constitutional changes were adopted, although there were concerns over the apparent absence of a code of conduct for fundraising. Luckily, a helpful British member of the Financial Advisory Committee was on hand to both reassure and clarify the position – there is one, it was available for circulation, and it could be applied to the proposed business club, a means for corporate sponsors to fund events without directly funding a political party’s campaigning activities.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: ALDE Congress: Après le deluge, liberalism reclaimed?

Rainy Lisbon by vidixitIt had been raining in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Indeed, it had been raining for so long and so hard that local taxi drivers couldn’t remember it being worse. Not, perhaps, an auspicious opening for a meeting of European liberals, although for the Germans and ourselves, the notion of poor political weather might well have been vaguely familiar.But, gather we did, and amongst our midst were strangers, hoping to be friends, and some of the new MEPs and European Commissioners, showing their faces and networking. There were emerging issues to discuss – what to do about Russia, how to grow the economy, what to do about the digital economy, privacy and data protection – and a desire to reclaim liberalism from those who use it as a term of abuse.

The first order of business was the ALDE Party Council meeting, but I’ll cover that separately.

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