23 minutes left to have a say in Lib Dem leadership election

Next month it will be 36 years since I signed up to the Liberal Democrats on my 16th birthday.

My parents thought it was a phase.

I’m still here and I’ve long since given up caring what they think of my political beliefs, however much I love them.

This party, with its establishment busting, planet saving, freedom loving, poverty bashing ethos never fails to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and to try to make the world better and kinder and friendlier for everyone.

It absolutely warmed my heart to see 16 year old Emma  sign up to the party this morning.

This party has, over the years, infuriated and inspired me, provided me with most of my friends and found-family and basically is part of the basic infrastructure of my life.

And I found out today that one of the people who had first inspired me in politics died last night.

Chris was a leading light in Edinburgh SDP in the 80s.

I first met her on a training day in 1985. My first ever conference speech was in a debate on drugs in 1986. She proposed the motion and, as the hall emptied, I remember her ironically pointing out that people were leaving for their fixes of nicotine and caffeine.

She was a passionate internationalist, feminist and advocate for social justice. Her career was spent making life better for the most vulnerable, from Scotland’s voluntary sector to Bangladesh.

She actually left the SDP in 1986 to rejoin Labour. I couldn’t go with her but I was always going to be friends with her, wherever she was.  I never lost touch with her. However it was only in the last few years that Facebook reconnected us. It was brilliant. One Messenger chat and the years melted away.

She joined the Liberal Democrats to fight for our place in the EU after the referendum. But she was diagnosed with Cancer shortly afterwards. She couldn’t go to the People’s Vote march last October but she was there in spirit and her name was on a placard.

She’s one of the wisest and kindest people I ever knew and I am missing her very much tonight.

If you believe in the kinder, more compassionate politics, if you believe that our country is crying out for radical reform, if you believe that we need to throw the kitchen sink and more at saving our planet, if the thought of ensuring that no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity, then you might want to join us because those things are what we are about.

And if you do so within the next 20 or so minutes you can help choose our next leader. 

And Greg’ll be happy.

That will be not a million miles off 20,000 since the local elections.

At this point we should say a massive thank you to Greg and his team. He is the party’s head of membership and any large influx of members makes a hell of a lot of work for him.

He’s obviously not complaining, but we should acknowledge his herculean effort.

And, if you haven’t joined already, just do it. 


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Neil Sandison 8th Jun '19 - 8:13am

    Lets hope all members new and old get a ballot paper .When will they be distributed ?
    how will local parties be able to check .We are having some problems locally with up to date lists which Greg is aware of .

  • Paul Barker 8th Jun '19 - 1:54pm

    Party memberships go up & down & I believe that Liberals are mature enough to cope with that, lets leave it to other Parties to make inflated claims.
    Our membership has gone up by around 20,000 over the last 5 Weeks & now stands at 105,000. That means that 5 Weeks ago it was 85,000; Who Knew ? I certainly didn’t.
    The next time our Membership drifts down lets have more honesty about it. We can take it.

  • Peter Watson 8th Jun '19 - 4:32pm

    @Paul Barker “Our membership has gone up by around 20,000 over the last 5 Weeks & now stands at 105,000. That means that 5 Weeks ago it was 85,000”
    Is that figure accurate?
    It would mean a huge drop from 99,200 in August last year (https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05125) and a significant fall from 103300 (https://www.markpack.org.uk/143767/liberal-democrat-membership-figures/) under Vince Cable’s leadership, with this apparent recovery coinciding with his departure.
    That would be appalling, and I would expect the current number of members to be nearer 120,000.

  • A membership figure of around 85000 in April 2019 seems consistent with the Lib Dem England & Wales Euro election candidate selection total votes cast and then factoring the quoted turnout. This figure was slightly under 85000 but did not include Scotland. As a comparison last years Green party leadership election saw only 10000 votes cast which compares unfavourably with their claimed membership total of around 40000 I believe.

  • Paul Barker 8th Jun '19 - 6:12pm

    The figure of 105,000 fully paid up members now is official so that makes the 85,000 figure a simple bit of subtraction. I dont find that appalling, just a bit disappointing.
    If you want to compare with other Parties then Voting figures for Leadership Elections is indeed the only reliable method. On July 23rd we will be able to compare ours with The Tories.
    Labours claims of 500,000 are dishonest & silly, they include “Members” who are Years behind on their dues. 350,000 would be more like it. Thats still more than triple ours of course.

  • marcstevens 8th Jun '19 - 8:08pm

    But does that membership figure include the Supporters?

  • Marc – that figure does not include supporters. Including supporters, we’re at 115,000 total.

  • Paul Barker 10th Jun '19 - 1:48pm

    Well we could do with an official statement here but as I understand it, the number of Supporters stands around 250,000.
    So, Members + Supporters = 350,000, about the same as The Labour Membership. That could be a reasonable comparison as The Labour definition of membership seems a lot looser than ours since the influx of 2015.
    Of course Labour has The Unions & The Co-operative Movement behind it too, that gives them strength in depth that we don’t have.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jun '19 - 3:12pm

    Paul Barker “Well we could do with an official statement here but as I understand it, the number of Supporters stands around 250,000”
    I have a feeling that 250,000 might have been a reference to the number of people supporting Lib Dem campaigns (e.g. “Exit From Brexit”) rather than registered supporters of the party. Though sometimes the way that numbers are spun makes me feel the party has taken lessons from Donald Trump! 😉

  • David Evans 10th Jun '19 - 5:16pm

    When Paul Barker says “Party memberships go up & down & I believe that Liberals are mature enough to cope with that”, I wish he was right, but experience tells me sadly he is not. In every organisation I have had experience of, whether a large plc, local council, small voluntary organisation, charities or even political parties, the senior hierarchy always has a keen aversion to having to face up to problems, and prefers to delay, close ranks and obfuscate rather than act, share a problem with the wider community and fix it.

    In the case of the Lib Dems, I’m sad to say that the bureaucracy do control the availability of data to meet its own ends rather than have face up to problems promptly – in particular membership figures are often quoted when things are going up, but somehow people become reticent when membership falls. In particular, during coalition when the party’s membership collapsed, I remember a valid question being asked at conference as to our up to date membership figures. Suffice it to say it got a detailed erudite response as to how figures were published annually (as required by law) but up to date ones were not available and also could be misconstrued or used by our opponents, so no answer would be given. You might conclude that it was too embarrassing for those at the top to admit to, but I couldn’t comment. One thing is certain, any opportunity for local parties to realise the depth and urgency of the problem, and develop new strategies to deal with it was lost.

    After coalition of course as membership surged, figures were released on many occasions – indeed LDV published quite a number of articles celebrating the fact. It now seems that they then drifted back, perhaps because some local parties were not as good as others in contacting, engaging and consolidating new members as others. However, I don’t remember any advice, other than at the most general level (e.g. hold socials) coming from head office to guide local parties. Now they are rising again, we again get good news messages. I do hope this time local parties do get good advice and things are monitored and reported on to ensure we do not drift back once again.

    Members are our lifeblood, our future and the embodiment of our values. We cannot afford to squander them because some are not mature enough to face up to the reality of emerging bad news.

  • Greg Foster 10th Jun '19 - 6:53pm

    Paul – I think you’re confusing campaign supporters (what we used to call supporters) with registered supporters (launched after conference).

    There are 200,000 campaign supporters and around 9,000 registered supporters. Best not to confuse the two.

    As for an official statement, I’m the Head of Membership – will that do?

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