@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.

The fringe meeting on dealing with the far-right was, perhaps, less useful, although for the benefit of readers, a more complete report can be found on my personal blog. Whilst UKIP are a eurosceptic, anti-immigrant party, they are not likely to be found roaming the streets intimidating people. We are, in that sense, lucky in terms of the qualities of our opponents.

And so to the Council meeting itself. My preview covered most of the main points, which for the most part were entirely uncontroversial, and policy resolutions were passed on political prisoners in Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan, on the Greek crisis and on events in Macedonia, where the government has been accused of corruption, subversion of the judiciary and other crimes up to, and including, murder.

Concerns about interference with the single market were aired, along with a resolution seeking a new asylum and migration policy for Europe. I had previously noted that springing such a resolution on Council with less than twenty-four hours notice was unhelpful, and a more meaningful debate will take place at the Party Congress in November.

ALDE Party finances are in good order and, in response to efforts to improve fundraising, a code of conduct for fundraising and sponsorship was endorsed, setting standards of transparency and ethical conduct which the Party’s Secretariat can be guided by. I am particularly pleased about this, having contributed to the original draft and the final document.

The membership application from the Liberal Party of Gibraltar was accepted with just one abstention, and actively supported by the Catalan delegation. However, we have lost some of our Slovenes, and our member party in Azerbaijan has suffered grievously from the arrests and persecution of many of its leaders. No matter how bad Thursday night was, tales of arrests and beatings remind us that there are worse places to be a liberal.

Finally, Sir Graham Watson, the President of the ALDE Party, announced that he would not be seeking a third term of office at November’s Party Congress. He wishes to devote himself to the pro-European cause in the run-up to the proposed referendum on our membership of the European Union, and felt that he could not do that and fulfil his obligations as President to a level that would satisfy him. And so, the campaign to replace him has begun, with lobbying already underway at last night’s reception and dinner.

The ALDE Party will gather again, in Budapest, Hungary, from 19-21 November. It will be the last occasion for some time for British liberals to attend in large numbers, as we will lose nine of our fifteen Council seats, and thirty-two of our sixty-two Congress votes, as of 1 January 2016 (both are linked to the number of votes we received on 7 May).

At least we will be able to get by with a little help from our friends…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the ALDE Party Council and of its Financial Advisory Committee. He is somewhat better for having felt the love…

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3 Comments

  • Peter Chambers 10th May '15 - 8:20pm

    @Mark

    “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.”

    This is the best advice I have read today.

    I am not looking for quick-smart messages that say “we wuz right, they were wrong”.
    I am looking forward to working with my Lib-Dem colleagues to rebuild for the future.
    This will involve discussion, not just being in receive-mode.

  • Thanks for this report, Mark.

    BTW — Any chance of providing details of how to apply for political asylum in Norway?

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