Author Archives: Miranda Roberts

Trust our voters to choose our leader

I chair the Federal Committee that designed the structures for the Supporter Scheme. My committee members worked incredibly hard on these discussions, reading long reports and complex spreadsheets and interpreting data to come to the best decisions for this new project. On almost everything we reached consensus views. The one area where there was no consensus was the most controversial question – whether these new supporters should be allowed to vote in Party Leadership elections.

I absolutely understand why this is a difficult issue. There are good, sensible reasons to pause and worry. I was very against the idea at first but, after a lot of thought, I changed my mind. I now, personally, think we should feel the fear and do it anyway.

At a General Election, many voters are temporarily hypnotised by the media into thinking they are voting for the next Prime Minister. They forget that they are a voter of Anytown, and are voting for Anytown’s MP. Instead, they get caught up in ‘who do I prefer as Prime Minister’? They vote for the Party they want to see in Government. 

This narrative often causes a big squeeze on our Party’s vote. That’s why we need all our leaflets, to remind people that their vote decides who represents their area in Parliament. But it’s impossible to stop people from looking at Party Leaders as the people they are voting for. 

This is the heart of why I think supporters voting for Leader is sensible. We need a Leader who inspires our members, who understands our Party and has good internal leadership. But we also need our Leader to appeal to our voters. To be someone who they are inspired by and with whom they feel a sense of connection. It’s not enough to be a Lib Dem Leader who inspires internally. They must inspire our voters too.

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Federal People Development Committee Report – 24 July 2018

It’s a rather odd feeling to be writing up one of these meeting round-ups when the media is reporting (inaccurately) on the things you’ve been discussing! Still, here we are. FPDC met on 24th July and started by getting through the business we had deferred from our last meeting.

We noted some excellent new developments from the Diversity team in HQ with how they’re monitoring statistics and doing more to solicit ideas and feedback. Small changes, but the impact may be huge. We also approved a paper from Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, the Chair of the Diversity Subcommittee, to set some new objectives for his committee. 

We moved on to talk about an impact of GDPR on our membership recruitment procedures. The GDPR and Compliance teams in HQ, together with the Membership team and Pastoral Care Officer drew up a new process that will comply with GDPR. Essentially, it says that those under 18 must supply their date of birth, and those under 13 must provide the consent of a parent or guardian before they can join. This is because GDPR insists that under 13’s cannot give consent (which I find pretty awful, but we still have to comply). We also agreed to try to do more to promote the availability of Young Liberals membership to all those new members who did not say they were under 18 but may still be eligible by being under 26. (If you want to know more about this new joining process, please do ask me in the questions section below.)

We finished this first part of the meeting by noting that the FPDC Boost guide on member engagement had been pulled back from publication due to GDPR guidance changes, and to incorporate the outstanding work of a volunteer who has been looking at membership data management in local parties. The amendments should be completed and the guide finally published later in August.

Then we moved on to the continued discussion on the proposed supporters scheme. We began by honouring the committee’s request to be briefed on the messaging work led by FCEC (the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee). Shaun Roberts, Director of Campaigns and Elections at HQ gave us a short presentation on the messaging work and took questions. I can’t share the briefing with you of course, as it is confidential, but you will be seeing the outcomes very soon from FCEC and HQ teams.

Content that the new messaging was in place and high-quality, the discussion then progressed onto the details of the supporter scheme proposals.

As with the last meeting, the contentious issues were around whether to charge a fee to register as a supporter and what rights those supporters should then be given.

At the last meeting, we had asked a lot of questions of the HQ staff, looking for data on membership subscriptions, donations etc. Using these, and some confidential research results that we had requested (paid for by a donor), we eventually came to a consensus view.

So, the FPDC recommendation is that the Party should introduce a registered supporter scheme. 

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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 2018

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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