Category Archives: Party policy and internal matters

Anything to do with Lib Dem internal business, including policy development, consultations, rules and constitutions.

The subjects selected and not selected for debate at the York spring conference

The new Federal Conference Committee met at LibDem HQ this Saturday to set out the agenda for York in March. The new FCC also held a meeting in November where feedback from the Autumn Conference was discussed, and officers were elected. Geoff Payne was re-elected as Chair, myself as Vice-Chair (General Purposes Sub Committee), and Jon Ball and Cara Jenkinson as Co-Vice Chairs (Conference Communications Group).

It is always difficult to sort through the motions that are submitted to the FCC for any conference. This year we did have a lower number of submissions – only 19, but there were some interesting motions that were selected. It seems that the December General Election may have had an impact on the lower submissions, so we are looking forward to more submissions for the Autumn Conference.

Timings are always tight at Spring Conference, and we have tried to maximise debating time. There are inevitably some items that must be held at Conference (leader’s speech, and Committee and Parliamentary reports.) We have also made time for two consultations, one Federal Board General Election review, and one Federal Policy Committee manifesto review. We have also allowed two slots for emergency motions, as various political changes are happening at the moment which may require motions to be submitted.

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Dorothy Thornhill will chair panel to review into both the General election and the European elections

This comes from a post by Party President and Co-leader Mark Pack, on the party’s website, explaining some output from Saturday’s Federal Board meeting:

Election Review

The (Federal) Board has commissioned a review into both the General election and the European elections.

This review will be run independently of those who ran the elections, with a panel of experts who have a broad range of skills from knowing about grassroots election campaigns through to understanding what the very best decision-making processes in organisations look like.

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Our President and co-leader writes: How you can get involved in helping to run the party

The Liberal Democrats are about to fill nearly 50 important posts, responsible for everything from oversight of our campaigns through to improving our record on diversity and making sure our finances are in good shape.

Please do both think about going for one of these posts yourself, and also who else you might want to encourage to put their name forward.

We need the best team possible – which means people with brilliant skills, time to do the job properly and a much greater diversity than we often manage with such exercises.

If anyone would like to know more about what a particular post involves, I’m very happy for you to put them in touch with me and I can either directly help or put them in touch with someone with experience of the post.

More details of the posts are over on the party website.

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Future Party Communications and Elections Committee Chair

Each new Federal Board elects someone to Chair the campaigning and communications function of the Party and having been re-elected for a cumulative period of 10 years in the role, I shall not be standing for a further three when the Federal Board elects the next Chair.

I was first elected as Chair of the Campaigns and Communications Committee (CCC) – the precursor to the current Federal Communications & Elections Committee (FCEC) – in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 General Election. Half the time since that the Party has been in Government in Westminster … and the other half seemingly dealing with the consequences.

Constitutional changes in 2016 ended the practice of the Leader appointing different individuals to Chair separate General, Local and European campaigns and transferred the responsibility to the elected Chair of the FCEC. Expectations at the time were that my first general election campaign would be in 2020. I relished the prospect – putting into practice all the learnings from 2015 would be a substantial task – but one which the Party was more than up to. Instead of which, I have served three Leaders and overseen two general elections, each of them called at short notice and in challenging circumstances.

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Federal Policy Committee report January 2020

Our meeting this week covered a number of areas.

We had firstly a very useful chat with Neil Stockley, chair of the working group on utilities, which is still at an early stage and whose timetable has been heavily disrupted by the excitements of the autumn. We reviewed the use or, if you like I suppose the utility, of this exercise in the rather changed political circumstances since we decided to set it up last year. We agreed that it remains a helpful area for us to focus on, not least as it has a clear direct impact on people’s everyday experiences – and costs – in a way which some policy areas do not. A full discussion concluded that it was helpful to retain its planned focus on utilities, not to expand it into consumer affairs more generally, and that while it shouldn’t exclude consideration of rail as a utility, it would not aim to be a full rail or transport paper, which there is a good case for but which we will come back to for further consideration.

We reviewed a draft motion on constitutional reform we are submitting for spring conference, in discussion with Wendy Chamberlain MP, the party’s new spokesperson on constitutional affairs. We felt this was a useful area to focus on following the constitutional issues arising from the autumn’s shenanigans, and one where as Liberal Democrats we generally have a clear and strong view. A full discussion took the view that it would be most useful to narrow the initially planned quite broad scope of this to focus specifically on the electoral reform aspects. The intention of this motion is to highlight clear Liberal Democrat answers to the issues here, rather than to develop major new policy. We have submitted this motion for spring conference and it will be up to FCC whether they select it for debate. This discussion also threw up a useful early review of how we might approach some of the important and tricky challenges around UK and English federalism and devolution, which we will come back to.

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Opening up party conferences for all

If you would like to attend the Spring Conference in York from March 15th – 17th and are worried about the cost of attending, then the Conference Access Fund may be able to help you.

The fund is taking applications up until January 22nd.

If you would like help with the accommodation, travel, childcare, disability or access-related costs related to attending the conference, then please do apply using this form.

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An update on Lighthouse – our new Local Party Management tool

Happy New Year!

Over Christmas and New Year, a team of HQ staff and almost 60 volunteer testers from across the party as well as the team at Prater Raines have been hard at work testing Lighthouse, the party’s new Local Party Management tool.

The feedback from those users has been really encouraging. They’ve found the system really intuitive and easy to use.

It’ll also work for all parts of the party – from branches up to state parties and will solve a number of other long standing issues as well (thought not all on day 1!)

Of course, launch day is fast approaching – and you’ll all soon be able to get your hands on it.

This is how we’re planning to roll out Lighthouse:

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Whatever happened to the class of 2015? – the full list


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I suppose that it is very easy to get into the mindset that politics is everything in life. But it turns out that there is life outside of Westminster.

I read the other day that former Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, is training to become a gym instructor.

That started me thinking about what had happened to our vast number of MPs from before the election in 2015.

Stephen Gilbert, former MP for St Austell and Newquay, for example. Whatever happened to him after he posted a “Gone Surfing” post-it note on his Twitter account in 2015? Well, it turns out he’s a teacher.

I then thought I’d better find about some of the others and, before I knew it, I was launching a vast spreadsheet and had started a huge task.

Anyway, here is the result of my researches, in alphabetical order. If you spot any omissions or errors, please let me know in the comments below:

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Whatever happened to the class of 2015? – third and final excerpt


Embed from Getty Images

I suppose that it is very easy to get into the mindset that politics is everything in life. But it turns out that there is life outside of Westminster.

I read the other day that former Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, is training to become a gym instructor.

That started me thinking about what had happened to our vast number of MPs from before the election in 2015.

Stephen Gilbert, former MP for St Austell and Newquay, for example. Whatever happened to him after he posted a “Gone Surfing” post-it note on his Twitter account in 2015? Well, it turns out he’s a teacher.

I then thought I’d better find about some of the others and, before I knew it, I was launching a vast spreadsheet and had started a huge task.

Anyway, here is the third and final part of my researches, from P to W in alphabetical order (Part 1 is available here and part two is here). If you spot any omissions or errors, please let me know in the comments below:

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Whatever happened to the class of 2015? (2)


Embed from Getty Images

I suppose that it is very easy to get into the mindset that politics is everything in life. But it turns out that there is life outside of Westminster.

I read the other day that former Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, is training to become a gym instructor.

That started me thinking about what had happened to our vast number of MPs from before the election in 2015.

Stephen Gilbert, former MP for St Austell and Newquay, for example. Whatever happened to him after he posted a “Gone Surfing” post-it note on his Twitter account in 2015? Well, it turns out he’s a teacher.

I then thought I’d better find about some of the others and, before I knew it, I was launching a vast spreadsheet and had started a huge task.

Anyway, here is the second part of my researches, from H to M in alphabetical order (Part 1 is available here). If you spot any omissions or errors, please let me know in the comments below:

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Music news: Two albums released by former Lib Dem MPs



During my researches for my “Class of 2015” articles, I have been delighted to find that two of our MPs from the “Class of 2015” have released musical albums.

Norman Baker, who lost his Lewes seat in 2015 and previously recorded with his band “The Reform Club”, has released a solo album called “Staying Blue” which is available widely on Angel Air Records. A couple of the tracks are on YouTube including “Shipping Forecast” (above) which includes a snippet of the BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast and these classic lines:

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Reminder: there’s still time to get the early bird discount for the York Spring Conference

This is a gentle reminder that you can still take advantage of the “early bird” discount if you register before January 7th – that’s this coming Tuesday – for the York Spring Conference.

Due to feedback from our esteemed LDV editor, Caron, the deadline was extended especially to allow people sufficient time after the hard work of the election.

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Spare a thought for our poor agents…


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While most of us are enjoying a bit of rest and recuperation following the election, spare a thought for our agents.

After ensuring that a “thank you” leaflet went out, most of them are having to knuckle down to sort out the expenses.

They are over-shadowed by a huge pile of receipts and facing a form, the complexity of which makes an HMRC Self-assessment form look simple.

Added to that, they face legal penalties if they don’t do it all correctly and on time.

No pressure then…

So this is a big “thank you” to all our agents for the complex and highly responsible job that you do!

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Rebellions are built in Hope – the launch of the Northern Liberal Network

New year is a time for new projects. And with a parliament likely to last four years, we have time to devote to thinking about where we want the party to be by 2024 – and how we get there. So before Christmas, Lisa Smart (Hazel Grove) and I met up for a pub lunch in the Peak District. We picked Hope, partly because it’s halfway between our homes, and partly because… well… we could use some hope.

While this election was disappointing across the board, the result masks significant regional variation. We did relatively well in London and the south east, despite heartbreaking near-misses in Wimbledon and Carshalton and Wallington. But elsewhere in the country our performance was weaker – even in areas, like Sheffield Hallam, that voted remain.

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Federal Policy Committee report – 16 December 2019

The first meeting of the Federal Policy Committee since the recent internal committee elections took place on Monday night. Clearly our discussions were much coloured by the General Election and some of its consequences, but nevertheless we had a constructive and positive meeting. It was great to welcome several new members of the committee: Helen Cross, Aria Babu, Alyssa Gilbert, Peter Thornton, Elinor Anderson and Rob Harrison. We were very pleased also that the party’s new chief executive, Mike Dixon, joined us for much of the meeting, which was very helpful.

First up was some committee business: Sally Burnell and Jeremy Hargreaves were elected as vice chairs of FPC, and Belinda Brooks-Gordon and Duncan Brack were elected to represent FPC at Conference Committee (FCC). We elected Lizzie Jewkes to chair the group which will carry out equalities impact assessments on policy proposals, along with Helen Cross, Mohsin Khan and Tara Copeland to be part of it. They will also involve others from outside FPC. We elected Lucy Nethsingha to represent FPC on the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) and as FPC delegate to ALDE Congress. We decided to co-opt the new chair of FIRC, the Young Liberals policy officer, and a representative of LDCRE to FPC.

We had a good discussion about how we can develop as effective as possible working relationships with party SAOs, AOs and regional parties. We very much welcome them being as involved as possible as we develop policy, and are keen to do whatever we can to encourage this. We will make a more pro-active effort to contact them with information about what we are doing, and we are as usual compiling a list of FPC members to be link people to individual groups. In the past we have had an FPC working group looking at what we can do practically to encourage more members to engage in policy – we agreed to re-start this, and they will also look at what more we can do particularly with party groupings such as these.

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Our party co-leaders want to hear from us

Our current co-leaders, Sal Brinton and Ed Davey, have written to party members asking for their initial thoughts on the general election campaign and results.

They write:

…we know we have a lot of work to do and many lessons to learn.

In the new year, we’ll be conducting a full independent review of this election. This will include a chance for you to give us all of your views on what worked, what didn’t, and what we need to do differently in the future.

But we also want to give you a chance to share your views before the Christmas break.

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Democracy in the Liberal Democrat family

Liberal Democrats are agreed on equality and democracy, right? We all assume that this so. I am reminded of the old adage that to ‘assume’ can sometimes ‘make an ass of you and me’ (ass-u-me)!

In the run up to the European Parliamentary Elections in April 2019, we went through the procedure for the selection of our candidates for each European Parliamentary Constituency and, as expected, Party HQ sent out emails informing all the Membership of the process for these elections. Good so far? Many LibDem members living outside the UK were registered and eligible to vote in these European Parliamentary …

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Something which might be an essential investment for the winter campaigning!

Thanks very much to Jane Reed from York Liberal Democrats, who has emailed us about “touchscreen gloves”.

These are gloves which keep your hands warm but allow you to input data into your mobile phone or tablet.

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Welcome to the Lib Dem Health and Care Association!

One of the great things about the Liberal Democrats is that whatever you’re interested in, there’s a group of like-minded people you can join to talk about it and exchange ideas with. Interested in the environment and climate change – join Green Lib Dems. Interested in Europe – join the Lib Dem European Group. Business your area? Join the Lib Dem Business and Entrepreneurs Network. From the Humanist & Secularist Lib Dems and the Lib Dem Christian Forum, all the way to the Lib Dem Friends of Vegans and Vegetarians, and the low-intensity Swiftian …

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Would you like to help at the exciting Lib Dem HQ?

The Lib Dem HQ is almost literally protected by Lloyd George’s raincoat

I was wandering around the exhibitions at the Bournemouth conference when my eye was caught by a most glamorous display. -Lots of glitter and lovely gold-wrapped chocolate hearts. These adorned the LibDem HQ volunteering stand. The cheerful helper there explained the whole HQ volunteering thing.

There are volunteer roles for people who are interested in them. But also, it is possible to volunteer to do tasks at the HQ as and when they fit in with your other commitments and activities.

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WATCH Online hustings for party President

You can watch the whole of the online presidential hustings below. The event was chaired by Lorely Burt last night. Questions were submitted by members on a range of issues. You can see the two candidates, Christine Jardine MP and Mark Pack, outlining their vision for the role of the President and the future of the party.

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Online Presidential hustings at 7pm tonight

There is an online hustings for the two Presidential candidates tonight at 7pm until 8pm.

Here are some relevant links:

RSVP form for the event

Put forward your questions for the candidates

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Want to get involved in running the Federal and State Parties? The clock’s ticking…

There are just eleven days left to get your nominations in for the candidates you’d like to see elected to Party committees.

If you need a reminder of which roles are up for election, here it is:

Top of the bill is Federal President, to take over from Sal Brinton on 1 January and serve for 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is a major role chairing the party’s Federal Board, protecting and representing members, and acting as guardian of the party’s interests. Hustings will be held throughout the country during the two-month campaign, and candidates may raise and spend £20,000 campaigning …

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Get Ready For Our Three-Yearly Internal Elections

Our three-yearly round of internal party elections gets underway when nominations open this Thursday (12 September), ahead of the party conference at Bournemouth – which is traditionally the opportunity to gather signatures on nominations. (A new online nomination process is also being trialled, alongside the old-fashioned paper method).

Every member of the party gets the opportunity to vote in these elections, which are largely on-line.

Top of the bill is Federal President, to take over from Sal Brinton on 1 January and serve for 2020, 2021 and 2022.  This is a major role, chairing the party’s Federal Board, protecting and representing members, and acting as guardian of the party’s interests.  Hustings will be held throughout the country during the two-month campaign, and candidates may raise and spend £20,000 campaigning for the job.

The party’s senior Federal Committees for the next three years are also up for re-election:  Federal Board members (15); Federal Policy Committee members (15); Federal Conference Committee members (12); and Federal International Relations Committee members (6).

These elections will run concurrently with the Presidential election.  There are no hustings or campaign budgets for committee places, but candidates are entitled to submit a short manifesto which will be posted on the election pages of the party website and on a ‘click-through’ when members cast their votes.

Members in each of England, Scotland and Wales will also elect one State Representative to the Federal Board.

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Lee Dillon elected prospective parliamentary candidate for Newbury

Councillor Lee Dillon has been chosen as Prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury Constituency.

Local members overwhelmingly elected Councillor Dillon to win back the seat from the Tories.

Lee is a local family man who has been an activist in the party since he was 15 years old in Thatcham. Both Lee and his wife both work locally and their children go to local schools. Lee’s wider family is long established in the area.

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Autumn Conference FCC Report

As well as setting out the agenda for this Autumn, we also discussed future venues for Spring 2020 and beyond. We know many of you are eager to book travel and accommodation as soon as possible but this is the one area where the committee observes strict secrecy until an official announcement can be made – when it has leaked out before we have found commercial companies block-booking accommodation in advance, putting the prices up for ordinary members. Staff are in the process of finalising arrangements to ensure favourable rates and the venues will be announced as soon as this is completed.

Returning to this Autumn, regular readers will be familiar with the process by now. In the first round, FCC considers the timeliness, accuracy, quality of drafting, overlap with other motions and so on to decide which motions can be debated. In the second and any subsequent rounds, timings are allocated to motions and motions culled in order to fit into the limited debating time available. Over the last couple of years, we have had more pressure on debating time as the 2017 General Election disrupted the Federal Policy Committee’s schedule for policy papers. We are now roughly back on track, which has left a little more time for member and local party motions. The selection process is name-blind, which means that the detail below on who submitted a motion was not available to committee members until after sections have been completed.

The full text of motions will be available once the agenda has been typeset for publication. If you are thinking of submitting an amendment or emergency motion to autumn conference, the deadline is 1pm on the 2nd of September – but please do consider making use of the drafting advice service, as many motions and amendments fall purely to to problems with how they are structured. The deadline for that is the 20th August.

Business and the Economy

Brexit Bonus (Bexhill and Battle) – not selected
Bringing Prosperity to the Regions (North West Region) – not selected
Business Tax Reform: Fair for business and fair for society (12 Party Members) – selected for debate
Corporate tax avoidance (Oldham) – received after deadline
More Sustainable and Responsible Business (13 Party Members) – not selected
Well Being First (30 Party Members) – not selected

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Future Women MPs’ Weekend 2019

Applications for the 2019 edition of the Future Women MPs’ Weekend are now open. The training will be held in Milton Keynes on 20-21 July 2019.

The Future Women MPs’ Weekend is an intensive course, specifically designed to equip aspiring female MPs with the knowledge and skills they need to kickstart their political career.

We’ve witnessed incredible election results in the last few weeks in both local and European elections, but we need to get more liberal women elected across the country. So, if you’ve even thought about becoming a candidate or know someone who should, please encourage them to apply.

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A country gentleman attends Federal International Relations Committee…

I’d spent the afternoon attending a pension seminar (about my own, not about selling them) and there is little to beat a consideration of your post-retirement finances for reminding you that you’re beginning to get on a bit. And so it was a somewhat more thoughtful than usual rural bureaucrat who turned up at Great George Street, the Party’s London HQ, for the year’s second meeting of FIRC.

The meeting started with a presentation from Gordon Mackay, the rather dashing Secretary General of Liberal International, who outlined his plans for reinvigorating this august organisation. Talk of individual memberships, of providing added …

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+++European Election candidate lists announced for England and Wales

Today the Liberal Democrats announce the list of MEP candidates in England and Wales for the EU elections on the 23rd May (Scotland should follow later today).

The diverse list of candidates includes former MEPs, current Councillors and other hard working community activists.

The Liberal Democrats will fight the elections as an unapologetically pro-European Party campaigning hard for People’s Vote with an option to remain in the the EU.

Vince Cable commented:

Today we’ve announced a strong, diverse mix of candidates, from those who’ve joined the Liberal Democrats recently to those with long experience of the European Parliament.

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Time to drag party policy making into the 21st century?

Before we start, let me make something clear. I’m not a policy wonk. It’s not that I’m disinterested in policy, far from it. It’s just that, as a bureaucracy geek, I’m interested in how things work.

When the recent governance review took place, I found myself wondering if it was going to look at how we could engage more members in what interests many of them – policy. And, in truth, I was disappointed. It was mostly about reordering the committee structures and, whilst I have my views on that, it didn’t really do anything that would engage ordinary members.

Our policy …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJames Belchamber 22nd Jan - 11:40pm
    Join! For only £1 a month YOU TOO can access the many POLICY PAPERS, hand-crafted by teams of authentic Liberal Democrats members. JOIN NOW! https://www.libdems.org.uk/joining-us
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 22nd Jan - 10:50pm
    Huh? Cool photo though.
  • User AvatarIan Shaw 22nd Jan - 10:04pm
    Yes Jo keep going, politics needs you, the Lib Dems need you and people need you. You were a big part of me leaving the...
  • User AvatarJohn Peters 22nd Jan - 9:50pm
    Are policy papers meant to be publicly accessible? If not, why not? I tried following the https://www.libdems.org.uk/policy_papers link but it requires a login to the...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 22nd Jan - 9:09pm
    @ Julian Tisi "But hold to your view that it was all the fault of the coalition if you wish." I don't wish, Julian, I...
  • User AvatarAlex B 22nd Jan - 8:49pm
    There's nothing selected which would debate how to improve our economic performance. Like improving our technical education for a starter. Or Brexit apart making it...