Author Archives: Miranda Roberts

Should I jump into a debate with transphobic “feminists”? No.

Imagine for a moment that a group started up in your local area wanting to ban you – just you, personally –  from the local post office. You would probably find it odd, a bit unnerving, but you would probably shrug it off. The campaign grows and now they’re banning you from the local supermarket, then the pubs, then the town centre as a whole – except for one hour a week when you’re permitted to enter. You start to get hate mail and threatening messages on your phone from the campaign group. Then your local Lib Dem Executive starts talking to this campaign group, to get to the bottom of the problem. Your local party Chair says that the campaigners seem to be sincerely worried about your presence in town, and the local party are going to debate the issue.

How would this make you feel?

Something similar is happening.

The Government has begun its consultation to amend the Gender Recognition Act. The proposed changes would allow transgender people to amend the details on their birth certificates more easily. This would probably be done by a process involving a statutory declaration like the ones that exist already in countries like Ireland, Norway and Malta. At the moment, if you want to change your gender on your birth certificate you enter a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare where a panel that you don’t even meet decides whether to allow your application, with no right of appeal. 

This consultation has kicked off a wave of controversy that is deeply unpleasant.

Of course there are the normal bigots and hate-filled rants filling the internet. That’s sad, but hardly out of the ordinary. What’s new this time is the much more seductive approach of the “feminists”. (I’m putting that word in quote marks because I do not buy into the idea that these people are feminists at all.)

These faux-feminist campaign groups say they are concerned about the unintended consequences of changing the Act. They are worried that non-transgender men will somehow abuse the new legislation to argue their way into women-only spaces. They say that they are concerned about how the needs of cis women and trans women intersect. (Cis meaning that your gender identity matches the gender you were assigned at birth.) And some of these groups add on other concerns about gender roles and protecting children from misguided gender confusion or hormone therapy.

A fundamental belief of Liberal Democrat philosophy is the right to free speech and the right to question things. But our belief here needs to go hand in hand with some common sense, sensitivity and caution. Because this is one area where engaging with people’s concerns can actually cause harm and hurt.

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Federal People Development Committee report – 28th June 2017

This was a rather unusual meeting, in that it was dominated by one very large agenda item, discussing the idea of a registered supporters scheme. In fact, for the first time, we applied our 9pm meeting guillotine and postponed some other discussions to our July meeting.

We started in the normal way with staff reports. The committee was enormously impressed by the retention rates the Membership team have achieved this quarter, currently standing at 94.5%. That’s a fantastic achievement, and a credit to the team’s hard work. The Membership team have also started tracking Exit data – reasons why people have decided to leave. This is a really helpful innovation. It will be shared with State Parties but not beyond that for now, as it is obviously quite sensitive data. The team agreed to consider whether there was a way to share the data with local parties, but we need to find a reliable, secure system to do that and this is a brand new metric we are monitoring. I’ll let you know if that starts to be filed somewhere that local parties can view it. 

We did also note the changes to the Membership Incentive scheme – essentially this model gives a percentage of each member’s joining subscription back to the local party they live in. The system is being changed to reward renewal as well as recruitment, with a portion of subscription fees being paid to local parties in the second and third year of a person’s membership.

The Training team are doing great work too. The Autumn Conference training schedule is in the last stages of being finalised. They have slightly changed the process for allocating training sessions this year. All providers were asked to bid for courses, and given themes that the training should focus upon. Then everyone’s ideas were collated and where more than one provider wanted to run a course, they were asked to join forces, collaborate and present a joint course. We are also welcoming some new providers, to expand the training offer that members can enjoy at conference. It’s exciting to see this coming together so well and we will be monitoring feedback closely after conference to see if participants enjoy these co-presented sessions.

The Diversity and Candidates team are currently without a “Head”, as the recruitment of a replacement for Arfan Bhatti is not yet concluded. However they still submitted a report, and we were delighted to hear of some very pro-active ideas for measures that could improve diversity among our approved candidates. We look forward to more concrete suggestions once the team leader is in place.

Then we came to the largest agenda item, the idea of a registered supporters scheme.

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Federal People Development Committee Report – 20 March 2018

The Federal People Development Committee met on 20th March for our Spring meeting.

We started with the usual staff reports from the Heads of Training, Diversity and Membership. We were delighted to welcome Greg Foster to the meeting in his new role of Head of Membership and Engagement. Despite only starting that week he had a full and fascinating report for us about the new innovations the Department is trialling with member communications, like the recent survey and chatbot pilots.

We congratulated Greg, and Rachel Palma-Randle as Director, for the membership retention rate this quarter reaching 93%. That’s down to a lot of hard work across the team, and deserves applause.

The committee was also very pleased to see the report from Dan Purchese as Head of Training, outlining the anticipated training provision over the next 18 months. It was particularly good to see that he is planning to reinvigorate the network of volunteer trainers, working in close co-ordination with Sarah Green and the Training Subcommittee. We are all very hopeful that this renewal of the partnership between staff and volunteers in the training field will bring a lot more training into life.

Arfan Bhatti as Head of Diversity in HQ reported on the drop in the number of women applying for PPC approval compared to 2017, and agreed that he would look into this more to see if trends can be identified and remedies proposed. He also reported on the proposal of creating candidate diversity targets for regions, that feeds into some of the other diversity work being developed in the Party. 

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Federal People Development Committee Report – 30 January 2018

The Party’s Federal People Development Committee have had our first meeting of 2018. There was a lot to discuss – here is a quick summary of what we talked about and agreed.

First up we made a couple of important amendments to our Standing Orders. The first amendment was to create the role of Committee Clerk. This is a volunteer role, to assist the Secretary. The Clerk is not a voting member of our committee, they are purely there to help supply administrative support for the Chair and Secretary. The Committee felt this was a good way to “live our values” as the cliché goes, of using volunteers more widely to increase capacity. We later appointed a member called Nicola from Somerset to be the first post-holder of this role. In future if this vacancy arises again, it will be advertised as a potential volunteer opportunity.

The other amendments to our Standing Orders were to help the Membership and Training SubCommittees function properly. The membership of these groups was previously limited to two representatives from each State Party. That remains true today, but the Subcommittees can now co-opt more people, to help get more work done.

Then we moved on to Staff Reports. These are a routine part of our meetings. We currently receive reports from the Director for People, Rachel Palma Randle, who also reports on Membership figures while we await the appointment of the new Head of Membership and Engagement (if you would like to apply, the advert is still open until 19th Feb here )

We also received reports from Dan Purchese, Head of Training and Arfan Bhatti, Head of Candidates and Diversity. We are working with all the staff to try to expand the engagement, training and membership work that they provide. Expect to read more about those projects here on LDV as they come to fruition.

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Committee Reports: Federal People Development Committee – 21 February 2017

Tuesday night saw the inaugural meeting of the Party’s new Federal People Development Committee. This group oversees the Party’s work in the areas of Diversity, Membership and Training.

The committee was established by the Party’s Governance Review, with the idea being that the work in these three areas has a lot of overlap and would benefit from co-ordination.

This first meeting was mostly about us getting set up as a committee, electing our various Officers and representatives. To that end:

  • I was elected as Chair of the committee
  • Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett was elected as the Chair of the Diversity Sub-Committee
  • Sarah Green was elected as Chair of the Training Sub-Committee
  • Claire Halliwell was elected as Chair of the Membership Sub-Committee
  • Prue Bray was elected to serve as our Committee Secretary
  • Steve Jolly was elected as our Committee’s representative on the Federal Conference Committee

We discussed our future meeting dates and agreed that the four meetings the constitution sets as the minimum did not feel enough for a new committee with such a large remit.

We decided to hold an extra meeting before May, focusing on the committee’s strategic purpose, to explore how we could work as a committee, scope the different projects and ideas that committee members have and explore possible avenues of work. We felt it was important to add in this earlier meeting, since waiting until May to decide what to do felt too late to us. We were very conscious that the big membership surges happened in the summer months, meaning that those members will come up for renewal (or lapse) this summer, so we need to have engaged and activated them before that time arrives.

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