ALDE’s 2023 conference: the reflections of your newest Council delegate

After the newly-elected VP of the ALDE Party Malik Azmani centred his speech on cleverly-created ABBA puns, I question if this follow up article on the ALDE Congress could ever match that same energy and do the Congress justice. “Knowing me”, I’ll have to ask you all to “Take a Chance” on my bad puns, and hope that my lack of linguistic ability doesn’t lead to my reputation “slipping through my fingers” (sorry…).

Reflecting on my expectations, I was right in looking at the ALDE Congress through the lenses of bridge-building and policy-making, both of which were successful elements of the Congress. However, one particular area I unexpectedly found to be of great value was the ‘learning best practice’ element , where we could use successes (and indeed, failures) of partners from across our Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe to better inform the Liberal Democrats’ own activities and make us the far more effective fighting force we have the potential to be (think pre-2010).

With the talented David Chalmers, Hannah Bettsworth and Isabelle Pucher arriving days early to meet with our international partners from Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Northern Ireland, the building bridges aspect of our Congress kicked off strongly. Forging links that, with our untimely exit from the EU, bring together countries not in the bloc, but very close to it (Lib Dem Baroness Sal Brinton alluded to the need for a forum between liberal parties in these countries). Throughout the weekend, we continued getting to know our European colleagues, from Iceland to Ukraine, Norway to Portugal, something that will become all the more important as the UK prepares its general election, and our internationalist credentials stand to be proven to our voters: we are, after all, the only UK party to work with countries in Europe (in the EU and beyond) to this extent.

Indeed, some of these relationships proved particularly useful as the weekend went on, for instance working with our partners in Northern Ireland and Ireland (Alliance and Fianna Fail) to pass policy on the Windsor Framework. Furthermore, cross-party, cross-European cooperation meant unanimous support for our hate speech and air travel for those with disabilities motions. As if that were not enough, a strong resolution on China (on which our own George Cunningham represented the Liberal Democrats in the working group), was helpful to take back to our own party, with the combined contributions from our liberal friends likely having relevance in the UK and helping us forge a strong foreign policy on the regional power.

But to return to the ‘learning lessons’ aspect of the weekend, this may have been misleading. Whilst we of course, learn lessons through bridge building and policy-making, the success of our sibling parties is best presented in the number of programmes and organisations that are offered through ALDE. With affiliated groups like the European Liberal Forum (a liberal think tank), the Rainbow Alliance (promoting LGBT+ rights and representation), the Alliance of Her (promoting women’s rights and representation) and LYMEC (promoting youth policies and representation) being strong in their advocacy and resources, their savoir-faire should and can be used for our own policies, campaigning and wider liberal democratic activism je. I wonder how many of you have, or know people that have engaged with these groups… I struggle to recall any negative reviews of doing so.

With that in mind, I urge you all to get involved with our Alliance of Liberals and Democrats to a greater extent. We must remember that ALDE is a European party, not an EU party (Sal (who sits on the ALDE Bureau), staunchly defended this, alongside the wider Bureau). We are entitled and able to benefit from the projects and activities that ALDE run, and indeed we should. Whilst the Conservatives and Labour parties benefit from eye-watering donations and secretive think tanks, we can instead work through the pooled strength of liberals and democrats in Europe to make sure we are in as strong a position as we can be to challenge the duopoly of UK politics. Through ALDE and through the strong work of the delegation (all of whom I thank for their contributions and support), we can be the Super Troupers the UK needs (there goes my linguistic reputation…).

* Ulysse Abbate is the Party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Eltham and a member of the Party’s delegation to ALDE Party Council.

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  • Mel Borthwaite 5th Jun '23 - 3:29pm

    I am confused by things – I trust some can explain. I was under the impression that ALDE ceased to exist in 2019 when a successor organisation – Renew Europe – was created. So, does ALDE continue to exist?

  • Nigel Jones 5th Jun '23 - 8:40pm

    “the only UK party to work with countries in Europe…to this extent.” That concurs with the many times that a couple of our MEPs told me that Labour and Conservative MEPs did not do enough to influence the EU but still complained the EU was not doing enough of the right things. Partnership as always, works both ways to mutual benefit.

  • Yusuf Osman 6th Jun '23 - 9:46am

    An interesting piece, is there a web site where people can find more information? Were any parties from Cyprus — either north or south of the Green Line represented, or Turkey for that matter?

  • Robert Harrison 8th Jun '23 - 8:04pm

    Renew Europe is the name of the parliamentary group in the European Parliament in which our MEPs used to participate. It includes MEPs from the European Democrat Party (such as the German Freie Wähler, and the French MoDems) as well as the French Macronistas, who are not members of the pan-European ALDE (political) party.

  • Robert Harrison 8th Jun '23 - 8:06pm

    Yusuf asks for a weblink: it is here:

    You can sign up for their newsletter here:

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