Author Archives: Matt Dolman

When it comes to mental health, all’s fair in love and leafleting

We all feel it. Brexit is a battleground. It’s muddy trenches that stink to high heaven whichever side of it you’re on, and like sticky quicksand it’s near impossible to escape.

What’s more, the confrontational atmosphere is contributing to a mental health crisis in our political system, one that needs addressing fast.

For someone used to running fast-paced action days and writing punchy election literature, sometimes it can be hard not to view politics like a war. Elections become a battle of attrition. Your opponent is your enemy. Your leaflets are your ammunition. Your voters are a vital resource you must …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

This Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, remember to say ‘no’ once in a while

For this year’s stress-themed Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to write about my experiences with mental health and campaigning and some of the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully, some of it is useful for others in the party. 

To start off, I think it’s fair to say that most Liberal Democrat activists are campaigning for love, not money. 

That description certainly applies to me. I’m one of those people who loves to get out and knock on doors, man the phones, and rush through last-minute print runs. Politics is exciting, and a great doorstop conversation is almost as sweet as the first beer at the end of the day. 

And that makes the one-month deferral of the election in one of Southwark’s council wards something of a treat for me – after all, who doesn’t want to fight a very winnable by-election in the sun?

However, the extension is a bit of double-edged sword on a personal level. I say that because, several times in the last year, despite how much I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve had to slow down and step back from the campaign. Partly, that’s because I wanted to focus on looking for a new job, but equally it’s because I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I’d volunteered to do. 

In short, I’ve come to appreciate that I need to occasionally say ‘no’ and put my wellbeing first. 

This is a lesson I think many activists could do with learning. It’s taken me a while to crack. Back in 2014, I got a job as Constituency Organiser in Eastleigh, a bastion of Liberal Democrat campaigning. I wasn’t, in truth, the strongest addition to the team, lacking in experience and parachuted into a well-established operation with less than a year to go. 

This wasn’t exactly ideal, and I can’t say it did wonders for my mental health. I’m grateful to Rachel Palma Randle, who appropriately is now the party’s Director of People, for scooping me up after a serious wobble and making sure I got the support needed to make it through the campaign.

Looking back, what I lacked – in addition to a clue about how to do the job – was an appreciation of how to work smart, when to ask for help, and when to say ‘no’ to things that ultimately weren’t a priority. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

The new standard bearer for science and innovation is… Norman Lamb

Congratulations to Norman Lamb, the newly-elected Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, who overcame competition from fellow Lib Dem Jo Swinson.

In seeking the role, Norman pledged to offer “sound guidance, leadership and authority” to the Committee and ensure that science and technology are “fully considered in Brexit negotiations”, all while emphasising the importance of science for the UK’s future prosperity.

The new role gives Norman a great opportunity to hold this Government to account on a whole range of issues covering science, technology, research and innovation.

This is especially important in today’s political landscape, because Parliament’s Select Committees have become increasingly powerful in the last couple of years – and they can only get stronger with a weakened Government in place.

(To see what I’m talking about, it’s worth reading a recent paper by the Institute for Government that talks about how Select Committees can exert their influence during a hung-parliament). 

Posted in News | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Lib Dems have a strong message on energy and climate change, but there are still unanswered questions

Reading through our manifesto last week, I was pleased to see us champion the UK’s green credentials with a strong set of energy and climate policies.

While the environment isn’t a hot topic in this year’s campaign, it’s good to see Tim writing in Business Green about the need to change Britain’s future and clean up sectors like power, heat and transport.

Our manifesto will see the UK use renewables to generate up to 60 per cent of electricity by 2030; invest in solutions like energy storage, carbon capture and storage, and grid infrastructure; and pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set new targets on cutting emissions.

This is a fantastic platform, and we should be proud of our record on supporting clean energy and protecting the environment.

However, I’d argue there are some areas in which we need to develop our approach:

1) Lib Dems have committed to staying a part of EURATOM (vital for our nuclear industry), but what about the EU’s internal energy market, or the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Moving forwards as positive campaigners

If I took one thing away from the referendum campaign, it would be that voters and activists are being ever-more turned off from politics (high turnout notwithstanding).

People on the streets were reacting against the fearmongering, the negativity and the ad hominem attacks employed by many parties in the last few weeks and months.

Back in 2015, we learned that campaigns based on adding ‘brains’ or ‘hearts’ to other parties’ manifestos just don’t work.
My view?

We as Liberal Democrats need to energise ourselves and our communities with a positive, optimistic and internationalist message. And we need to be doing it from today, as many of us are already.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments
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