The Liberal Democrats have recently kickstarted the process for its next general election manifesto – which might be needed at any time between June 2009 and May 2010. Chaired by Danny Alexander MP, the process kicks off formally this weekend with a one day conference taking place at the London School of Economics.
2009 marks the centenary of the People’s Budget and the 101st anniversary of the Pensions Act (effectively the birth of the welfare state). With this in mind, the team behind Reinventing the State, a series of essays published in 2007 are keen to encourage the working group to develop distinct social liberal approaches within the manifesto.
They are hosting two workshops at the conference entitled “Who are the UK’s poorest and how can we best help them?” – this of course ties directly in with the publication of the Social Mobility Commission’s full report earlier this week.
Hopefully these workshops will prove stimulating and useful – but the process shouldn’t end there! With this in mind, the Reinventing the State group have approached me, as the convenor of the Westminster Liberal Drinks, as well as the person responsible for the local party discussion pack developed for the “Meeting the Challenge” policy review in 2005/6, to help co-ordinate a wider debate.
The way we plan to do this is this: each month we will be hosting a discussion evening in Westminster with a different speaker, which is open to anyone to attend. And since not everyone will be able to attend this meeting, we will also be producing a short discussion paper written by the speaker which local parties will be encouraged to use for their own “pizza/popadom/pie/delete-as-applicable and politics” discussion evenings. Local parties can then either submit the feedback from their meetings to the manifesto working group directly, or they can send it to us ([email protected]) and we will compile the responses we receive into a single document for the manifesto group to consider.
Kicking off the series, Steve Webb will be speaking on “a liberal state” on 7.30pm-8.30pm Wednesday 21 January (Committee Room O, Portcullis House – booked by Evan Harris MP). Then, at the same time on Wednesday 25 February, Paul Holmes MP will be leading a discussion on education policy (also Committee Room O). Future events (which will be on the third Wednesday of every month) will be posted nearer the time.
But wait! I hear you cry. What about Liberal Drinks? I’ll still be co-ordinating the Westminster Liberal Drinks (at the Silver Cross as before), but starting at the later time on 9pm after the policy discussion evenings. People are welcome to come to the discussion evening and then retire to the pub, go to the pub early or just turn up at 9pm – whatever suits you best.
Meanwhile, I am in the early stages of developing a new Liberal Drinks website to make it easier to set up a local drinks evening in your area. Watch this space.
Wherever you are, I hope you will be able to take part in this new project of ours. We hope to post regular updates of our progress, including the discussion papers themselves, on Lib Dem Voice.