Category Archives: Party policy and internal matters

Anything to do with Lib Dem internal business, including policy development, consultations, rules and constitutions.

++Special conference is triggered – all members will be able to attend


On Thursday, LDV reported that Chris Rennard was elected to represent the party’s House of Lords group on the Federal Executive.

Since then, a petition has been submitted to the party by the group ‘Rock the Boat – Lib Dems against Sexual Harrassment’. The petition calls for a Special Party Conference to debate a Constitutional amendment to remove the seat on Federal Executive reserved for a nominee from the Lords group. The petition has been declared valid as it includes over 200 signatures of members from at least 20 different local parties.

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Kafka meets Spectre

I have just completed the strangest election I have ever been involved in. Candidates were banned both from knowing who the electorate were and from campaigning. You could apparently chat to any friends you had who happened to be entitled to vote, but only of course if you happened to know by some random chance that they qualified.

These were I’m told the English Party rules for holding Regional Party elections. A special extra twist meant that, due to an English Party ruling, Chesterfield voting delegates were barred from voting so I couldn’t even pitch to them for a batch of first preferences to get me through the all important first round in an STV count. Despite that I topped the poll for the Regional elections to English Council. Yes, contested elections for such positions! This Lib Dem Fightback idea is taking root in all sorts of strange places.


Are you interested in working on party policy on nuclear weapons?


The Federal Policy Committee is searching for members with an interest and/or some relevant expertise in the issues around Trident and nuclear weapons to join a policy working group.

At Federal Conference in Bournemouth, Conference passed this amendment to the Trident motion:

1. Commission a Policy Working Group to develop policy on the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, if any, following a full consultation within the party.

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Speaking for England?

The term ‘governance review’ is designed to chill even the most ardent activist. It’s something other than campaigning for election. It seems to have little to do with fighting the Government over tax credits, surveillance or indeed anything else. It’s frankly a bit dull.

But it does matter that we have a Party which works, which costs as little as possible to work and which is accountable to its members.

In 1988 the newly merged ‘Social and Liberal Democrats’ had many more members than we have today. Its institutions were suitable to a wider spread of membership and nodded strongly to the …


Why are you a Liberal Democrat?

That’s the question Tim Farron is asking this evening in the following mail to members:

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Result – Lib Dem London Assembly list selection

With a hat-tip to Mark Pack, here is the result of the internal Liberal Democrat party election to select the order of candidates for our London Assembly list:

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Liberal Democrat policy on railways

Liberals must be on the side of business – ambitious for business – tearing down the barriers that stop businesses from fulfilling their ambitions. It is unambitious for the government to power down the Northern Powerhouse by stalling promises to electrify the Transpennines route. Instead, we say – invest in the best rail links in Europe.

Tim Farron, 23rd September 2015

This is the first of a couplet of articles on the subject of the railways this morning.

In August, on a comments thread, I outlined the Liberal Democrat railways policy, in response to a commenter.

I notice that commenters are still asking what our policy is on the railways, so I thought I’d set it out in a post.

First of all, here is a statement from the BBC news magazine from March 2015:

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Emails go out to start voting on our Greater London Authority candidates

The ever-energetic and helpful Dr Mark Pack, formerly of this parish, has published a very informative update this morning on the subject of the election of our Greater London Authority candidates:

Emails with online voting links have been landing in London Lib Dem members’ inboxes over the last day.

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When politics gets so serious that politeness gets thrown to one side

I’ve been in the Liberal party/Liberal Democrats for 25 years. I am happy to say that I have great friends and colleagues in the party and it is a pleasure to work alongside them. 99.99999 recurring % of Lib Dems are unfailingly joyous to deal with.

But I feel I ought to observe that there is a minuscule number of people who have hearts of gold, have the noblest of intentions, but don’t seem to realize that they are not observing basic politeness.

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We need to work more on engaging party members

Autumn 2012 conference - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsAny passing observer will note the state of national politics with little more than vague disinterest and apathy. A Centre-Left Labour Party lurching between a nationalisation candidate and three also-rans. A Tory Party sharpening the knives ready for the evisceration of most public services, chasing the ghost of UKIP and Scottish Nationalists pressing a separatist agenda regardless of the recent referendum. There’s a malaise in public life of seeming inevitability to politics, that what is done is done and there’s no opportunity for change.

Most people have only a cursory appreciation of political rhetoric – Conservatives being for free markets and self-interest, Labour being for working people. But we’ve yet to establish the Liberal identity in common consciousness. Saying “We’re about freedom” doesn’t quite cut it. I’ve seen much discussion, on social media, and on blogs such as Lib Dem Voice, offering varying analyses of how we might have a deficient policy platform, or how a strategic mis-step might have cost us so dearly at the last election. This isn’t addressing the elephant in the room – perhaps we need to reform how we operate and engage with our internal supporters as a Party.

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A small step for trust in the manifesto

It has been obvious since long before the election that we have a trust problem. We did the right thing on tuition fees, bringing more young people than ever from disadvantaged backgrounds to university, a contribution system that fairer in terms of graduate incomes than general taxation would be, and therefore more “left wing” in the distributional sense, if not in the clientilist sense. This, graduate tax in all but name, on a moderately generous interpretation (! yes I know) honoured the second half of the pledge “work towards a fairer system of student finance” in spades, and made the first half redundant.

But politics doesn’t work like that. Labour can repeatedly break their promises to students when they have a majority in parliament and money to spend and it does not define them. We can all but honour ours and face a massive trust issue.

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How to go to conference on the cheap – and have more fun into the bargain!

Caron recently talked about the forthcoming conference and nudged me into writing about being a conference steward. I have dabbled in being a conference steward over the years. There are far, far more experienced hands than me. But hopefully my limited experience will encourage more members to volunteer for this honourable and enjoyable role in the party’s smooth conference operation.

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The vintage image on one of those new photo membership cards – Churchill and Lloyd George as Liberal colleagues

There has been considerable interest in the series of new photo party membership cards. When you sign up these days, you can choose from a range of around a dozen cards featuring photos of Liberal and Liberal Democrat heroines and heroes, past and present.

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Manatee needs your help!

Look at this beautiful manatee! Isn’t he adorable?

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++Lib Dems hit another big fundraising target

Great news! Just after midnight last night, Tim Gordon, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats, sent this message to party members from his Blackberry:

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Penny Lane or points in parenthesis? Tricky decision….

In a windowless room, those members who made it to the conference centre in time, and weren’t skiving on the Beatles tour, went through a package of Powerpoint slides this afternoon.

The slides showed, line by line, in red, all the deletions and additons to the party constitution which are proposed. These proposals are for an extremely important and refreshing reason: they open up attendance and voting at conferences to all members, rather than representatives.


Christmas is coming, draw tickets need to be sent back!

Vince Cable and Father ChristmasThe Liberal Democrat Christmas Draw is a much-loved and lucrative fund-raising institution for the party. From their organising nexus in Surrey, the Christmas Draw elves work hard all year to round up great prizes and send out ticket books by the sleigh load.

The top prize this year is a holiday voucher for £2000! There are 39 other wonderful prizes, such as half a case of champagne, which the elves will endeavour to get to winners before Christmas.

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Lib Dem Party Committee election results

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderThe Lib Dems have this evening announced the results of the elections to its Party Committees as voted for by conference representatives. Congratulations to all elected; commiserations to those who weren’t.

The lists of those elected (and not), ordered by first preference votes, follows…

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My proudest day as a Liberal Democrat

fordham and eaglingAccording to the cash receipt slip I was given by the membership secretary of Stanford and Spalding constituency local party I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 26 years 4 months and 25 days. I have experienced the lows and highs of losing and winning elections, I have been involved in conference debates, fringes, attending key speeches and declarations, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, influenced government policies, and when I married Russell Eagling on 5th July this year I was the direct beneficiary of the Liberal Democrats in Government.

Yet today Tuesday 18th November 2014 will go down as one of the days on which I was proudest to be a Liberal Democrat. The two instances could not be more related and yet more different.

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Shirley Williams promotes Community Award in memory of West Midlands student

Shirley Williams groupCommittee member of West Midlands Lib Dem Youth and local party diversity officer, Stephen Sherwood died aged 25, earlier this year. Despite having two kidney transplants and losing his sight, Stephen was involved in his local community and planned to stand for Herefordshire Council in 2015. Everyone who met him was amazed by his ambition and determination to overcome the obstacles that life had thrown at him.
Herefordshire Lib Dems have launched a new community award competition in memory of Stephen.

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Information on party committee candidates

libby on the wall3Calderdale Liberal Democrats punch above their weight when it comes to enhancing the internal democratic processes of the party.

Leading up to our conferences, we see Calderdale Lib Dems positively gushing forth with amendments to motions. They even offer to help other local parties with amendments if needed.

Local party chair Jennie Rigg is now helping party democracy in an extra way. Where she can contact them, Jennie is putting a series of questions to each candidate in the Liberal Democrat committee elections.

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Opinion: Transparency and Openness from the FCC

On Saturday afternoon conference voted overwhelmingly for more engagement by members through OMOV, and for transparency and accountability from the party and its committees, in order to nourish this engagement. The amendment, put forward by Mark Pack, Duncan Brack, and others was purposeful and helpful, and made clear that we need to make sure that the party is more accountable to members. The party needs to show its firm intent to follow up on this motion as soon as it can, preferably for endorsement by spring conference next year, so that our next autumn conference operates as members wish.


Liberal Youth Elections 2014… Policy Officer: Ryan Mercer

liberalyouthLiberal Youth policy matters. It’s how we, as young Liberal Democrats, can make a clear and credible case for change on the issues we care about. The disengagement from politics by so many young people has made it easy for the views of our generation to be overlooked. Despite this, the Liberal Democrats have long been the strongest advocates in both tackling the challenges young people face and building the future society in which we want to live. The unique perspective Liberal Youth provides can help to ensure the party will continue to listen to young people and be that advocate for our generation.

In May, I stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate in a Norwich City Council Ward formerly held by Norman Lamb MP. The ward has a young population and standing gave me a real insight into how big a challenge we face showing other young people what we stand for and that we’re on their side.

I’m standing as a candidate for Liberal Youth Policy Officer partly because I believe in the essential role that Liberal Youth policy needs to play, but also because I believe more has to be done to engage our members in our policy making. With more young members adding their voices our policies will be better informed and have the support behind them to be taken seriously.

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Liberal Youth Elections 2014… Membership Development Officer: Naomi Farhi

liberalyouthVoter apathy has never been higher  among students and young people.

Liberal Youth should be a clear voice in a political wilderness.

To the disillusioned youth, politics appears to be a static and increasingly wearisome battlefield, with each side wasting a lot of time and gaining very little ground. Many cannot see the progress that is being made by groups just like Liberal Youth.

It is my vision to make this progress clear.

I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2013 because I was fed up of entrusting the way my country is run to ‘people who knew better than me.’ Young people are the future and Liberal Youth is the voice of a future where equality and fair treatment is achievable for all. I am willing to invest my time and energy in ensuring this will happen – but we need others to do this too.

That is why I am running for Membership Development Officer. As a previously politically apathetic young person, I understand why so many are feeling left out of the picture and I believe I know how to make them feel included. I am now Press and Publicity Officer for the Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats and currently organising our representation at the Freshers’ Fair, which means appealing to over 15,000 students. As such, I am accustomed to dealing with a wide pool of potential members.

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A reminder: It’s Party awards time!

key_awards1A quick reminder of this message from Tim Farron, originally posted last month

It’s that time of year again when members decide who should be in line for an award at Conference.

It could be someone who has worked tirelessly in their local area to elect Liberal Democrats or implement our policies or someone who has given years to our cause by working hard as councillors or candidates.

Maybe a political assistant to a councillor or someone who has supported a local MP in the hard work that they do.

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ASD Lib Dems: Reducing Barriers to Activism

Autism Awareness Ribbon, Colorful Puzzle Pieces,  Free Creative Commons Public Domain DownloadThe Lib Dems are currently at around 8-11% in the polls, and with c.20,000 fewer members of the party than in 2010, with less than a year to one of the most important General Elections that this party has faced since we were formed. But it is within this time period of emotional stress and exhaustion where tempers are frayed and relationships between people are made and indeed broken.

Since the formation of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Lib Dems I have had several members come up to me explaining how they would like to help their local party but feel totally unable to go canvassing despite wishing to do so. Whilst everyone on the spectrum is different – no two people are the same – there are some common areas of difficulty such as picking up non-verbal clues, lack of empathy and memory.

photo by:
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Lib Dem party membership: the occasional ups and mostly downs since 1988

The Lib Dems published the party’s 2013 accounts this week. The report included the latest membership figures, which showed for the first time since 2010 an increase on the previous year’s: up 2% to 43,451. Here are the Lib Dem membership figures since the modern party’s formation as the successor to the Liberal Party and SDP in 1988:

lib dem membership figs since 1988 - as at july 2014

For interest’s sake, here’s the increase/decrease in party membership under each leader:

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Lib Dems publish latest accounts: £439k surplus and membership up to 43,451

Libby - Some rights reserved by David SpenderThe latest set of accounts for the Lib Dems have been published – I’ve uploaded it at the foot of this post. (You can compare it with last year’s here.) Here are 5 points that struck me I read through the document.

1) Party bounces back from deficit to surplus

Last year, the Lib Dems recorded a deficit of £410k (described then as a “disappointing result”). This year (ie, the year ending 31 Dec 2013), the party has recorded a healthy overall surplus of £439k, with £7.3m of income and £6.9m of expenditure.

photo by: NCVO
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Lib Dems need to stick their head above the parapet on immigration and asylum seekers #slfconf

Immigration breakout Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterLiberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary held a thoughtful and impassioned break-out session at the Social Liberal Forum conference today.

Suzanne Fletcher gave some interesting updates from her key involvement in the recent policy working party on Immigration, Asylum and Social Cohesion. Suzanne stressed how important it is for policy-makers to get their terminology right. Illegal immigrants get mixed up with asylum seekers. Asylum seekers get confused with refugees. Deportation gets conflated with removal. It’s not just the Daily Mail …

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Opinion: Does our party’s structure and constitution need an overhaul?

Liberal Democrat Conference 2011There are many issues facing the Liberal Democrats at the moment and there has been much discussion about these issues. But one which has been overlooked, in my opinion, is the need to apply our traditional enthusiasm for constitutional reform to ourselves

At the moment the structure of the party is essentially a replica of a national political system. We have constituencies of local parties whose members (the voters) elect a local government in the form of a party executive and who also elect voting representatives (MPs) by proportional representation to send to conference (parliament) where they in turn elect the Federal Executive and the Federal Policy and Conference

photo by: NCVO
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