Category Archives: Party policy and internal matters

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

The new complaints process – our first year

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When the Lib Dems’ new members’ complaints procedure went live on 1 July 2019, we committed to an independent, fair, member-led process. The Federal Board agreed to review how the system was working at the end of its first year and I’m pleased and proud to say that the first steps in that review has identified some clear positives.

The system is independent. The Federal Board has no role in – or knowledge of – individual complaints. Instead, the Senior Adjudicators’ Team (SAT) leads and advises our volunteers. This team of four specialists, lead by our Lead Adjudicator, Neil Christian, reflects the federal nature of our party and it means there are up to three people from outside the state party of the complaint to provide impartial advice to our volunteers.

It is well-staffed: since our volunteer call last year we’ve trained over 100 volunteers to act as adjudicators, mediators and investigators. That’s well in excess of the 55 volunteers Conference originally agreed we needed, and we are working to train more.

The rules are much more transparent and flexible than they have been in the past. We have spoken to members and party bodies across all the state parties since last July to ensure it works – and to make amendments where it doesn’t. These changes are drafted by the Disciplinary Sub-Group and agreed by Federal Board as needed. The procedure is published on the party website and we welcome input from all members on how we can improve it.

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Further reflections on the English Party

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Recently, as a new member, I became flummoxed when trying to work out what the English Party is, does and who makes up its committees. I wrote up my frustrations here at Lib Dem Voice. Having started with no axe to grind, I have become near axe-wielding now that responses have come in from that article. Members of as long as thirty-five years have admitted not knowing anything about the English Party and others have pointed out how it resists change or even blocks progress. Yet, there is an alternative and one that may help kick-start the reform that our recent Election Review has called for.

My main gripe with the English Party had been that they didn’t appear to have a website (it turns out that they do but it says so little about what the English Party is and does that in Google rankings terms, it’s basically on the ‘dark web.’) And they didn’t have social media or the other indicators of transparency and openness one might expect from a liberal, political institution.

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What is the English Party?

If you’ve seen the recent Election Review, you’ll have read that the Lib Dems have obscure processes and committees that seem to get in the way of democracy and/or effectiveness. In this, we’re probably not much different to many other parties and groups but if we want liberalism to flourish we should probably aim to liberate our party from such things where possible. As a new member, I thought I’d try to work out the makeup of the party and hit a wall: the English Party. What is it? Who runs it? What do they do?

Google indicates that the …

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The party President writes…Key party decisions coming up at the Federal Board meetings next week

How do we improve as a party and achieve greater success in future elections? That’s the theme running through the bumper set of key decisions the Federal Board is looking at next week at our meeting. (Or rather meetings, as to avoid Zoom fatigue, we’re splitting one long meeting into halves on consecutive nights.)

Included in that will be the Board’s first considerations of the independent election review, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill and coming out later today. Thank you for all their hard work to her, her colleagues and everyone who contributed evidence to the review.

Even without that review, there are some things we already know we need to change, in particular our use of technology. That’s why the Board will also be looking at major plans to overhaul our approach, learning from the best of those outside politics and from politics overseas. A big part of the plan is much better use of volunteer expertise.

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A review of federal committee elections – your chance to comment

Readers of Lib Dem Voice with good memories might remember, in early February, an article from me about the review of the Federal Committee elections. We put the process on ice over the past couple of months, due to the lockdown and the cancellation of the spring conference, but now we’re getting it going again.

Last year’s elections to the federal party’s committees – the Federal Board, Policy Committee, Conference Committee, International Relations Committee and ALDE council – broke new ground, especially in the efforts to engage as many party members as possible, and also through the management of the process …

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Our President welcomes new and renewed members

Our Party President, Mark Pack, has posted the following upbeat message on Instagram today:

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Welcome to Sir Ed Davey as new patron of Chinese Lib Dems

Ed Davey with Cllr Sarah Cheung Johnson, Vice-Chair of CLD

In April, Ed Davey talked to Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor and Secretary of the Tunbridge Wells local party, Marguerita Morton, about green growth and his new role as patron of the Chinese Lib Dems. Over Zoom, Sir Ed explained how the UK must stand up for the rights of Hong Kong’s people and fight coronavirus-driven spikes in anti-Chinese racism at home.

Sir Ed would uphold the recommendations of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights in March 2019 to monitor and take appropriate measures, for any unwarranted excessive force and erosion of autonomy, rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration and Basic Law. He also deplored the arrests of the 15 lawmakers against the background of the Coronavirus pandemic together with any calls for pressure on the HK judiciary or on legislators. In order to resolve the crisis of confidence of the HK people in its administration, we must call on China to uphold the “one country, two systems” rule enshrined in the Basic Law.

What are the UK’s prospects for green growth?

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+++Update on the Leadership Election

Last month, the Federal Board decided to postpone the party leadership election, due to kick off in May, until May 2021, so that the party can focus on dealing with the coronavirus crisis instead.

Following this decision, an appeal against it was made to the Federal Appeals Panel (our internal Liberal Democrat equivalent of the Supreme Court). The Appeals Panel has agreed that the Federal Board can suspend the leadership election while exceptional circumstances exist, but not delay to a fixed date next year. It has asked the Board to keep the timetable for the leadership election under review, as circumstances continue to develop.

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I have high hopes for the next three years – let’s get to work!

It’s been just weeks since Brexit ended my brief term as an MEP, but today I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been elected as Chair of the Federal People Development Committee.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the outstanding training and support offered by the party.

Like many of you reading this, I’m a relative newcomer to politics and to the Lib Dems. I joined in 2016, so I think I bring a fresh perspective to this role as a newbie. I’m eager to help the party expand and improve on its strategy, structures and processes for recruiting, engaging …

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Not the Spring Conference – F16: Welcoming Child Refugees

So, as promised, here is one of the policy motions scheduled to have been debated in York over the weekend, something that probably isn’t that controversial in Liberal Democrat circles, but I never fail to be surprised by Liberal Democrats, so let’s see what comes in…

Conference believes that:

  • Child refugees who have been forced to flee their homes and separated from their families are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We must do all we can to protect them.
  • The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but now the Conservative Government is turning

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How to send your views to the Lib Dem elections review

Over 22,000 (yes, twenty-two thousand) submissions have already been made to the party’s independent review into the general and European elections. But that’s not stopping the review team, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill, from wanting to hear more…

One opportunity to do that in person is at the party’s spring conference in York, from 10:10am on Saturday 14 March in the main conference hall.

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the party conference.

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Lib Dem spring conference in York and coronavirus

We’re keeping under close review our plans for the York conference in the light of the spread of coronavirus. Based on the health advice from the NHS and government, along with that from York Council, there are no current plans to cancel the conference.

We will, however, be ensuring that those coming to conference are reminded of health advice, such as the need for regular hand washing and the circumstances under which people should self-isolate. Hand sanitizers will also be made widely available.

Obviously if the advice we receive changes, we may have to revisit these decisions as the health of our colleagues and our suppliers must come first. It would be a decision for the Federal Board to take.

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Scottish internal elections

We’ve got a raft of vacancies open on various Scottish Liberal Democrat committees.

Being on a committee is a really potent way of having your say on how our party is run. If you’re keen to get more involved, why not take a look?

Scottish Executive Committee – responsible for the day-to-day management and conduct of the party.

8 vacancies remaining to be filled

 

Scottish Policy Committee – responsible for researching and developing policy, as well as putting together election manifestos.

2 vacancies remaining to be filled

 

Scottish Conference Committee – responsible for organising Scottish conference

3 vacancies remaining to be filled

 

Never stood before? Don’t worry – the federal party has put together a guide to the process that you might find useful: https://www.libdems.org.uk/getting-nominated

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Shaun Roberts stands down as Lib Dem director of campaigns & elections

Writing in a public Facebook post, Shaun Roberts has announced his departure as the party’s Director of Campaigns & Elections:

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Federal Policy Committee report February 2020

Our latest meeting covered a range of policy issue discussions and future planning items.

One of our main discussion items was on potential topics for future policy motions and spokespersons’ papers beyond the scheduled policy papers being developed through our working groups. The Federal Policy Committee is keen to support and encourage other parts of the party to develop policy motions to enable a range of current issues to be taken to conference. Recently we’ve worked in collaboration with spokespeople to take forward motions on tourism, rehabilitation of offenders, and rail. We considered a range of policy topics including modern slavery & trafficking, international development, childhood, planning policy and housing, specific areas of transport policy, small business, tech/AI, and arts/culture.

We discussed these options and others considering what could be worked up in time for Autumn conference and what would provide strong messages to support us in the elections in May 2021. Based on the feedback we’ll engage with spokespeople and relevant SAOs/AOs and other party bodies to progress the ideas. We also looked ahead to start thinking about some future topics for working groups and this is a discussion that will continue.

We had an initial discussion about an idea tabled by Tony Greaves on a piece of work to address the so-called left behind areas of the country, taking a bottom up approach led by our councillors and campaigners in these communities. There was a lot of support for such an initiative but some questions around timing and resourcing that will need to be considered further.

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Andy Corkhill selected by LibDems to be Liverpool City regional mayor

Good luck to Councillor Andy Corkhill who has been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Liverpool City Region (LCR) Metro Mayor

Selected by party members for this May’s Metro Mayor contest, Andy Corkill stood in Wirral West at the 2019 general election and has been a councillor in Wirral since May 2019.

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Isabelle Parasram elected as Vice President of the Liberal Democrats

Late last year members elected the majority of members to our Federal Committees, included the Federal Board. More recently nominations were invited for a range of other positions, and the elected members of the Federal Board held a min-election to fill them. On Monday we reported the results.

One late announcement is that of the Vice-President of the party.

Congratulations to Isabelle Parasram! She was re-elected having previously been elected last March to that role when it was first created. Caron Lindsay shared that news with us then.

Isabelle is a PPC …

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Fascinating stuff at York!

It’s not too late to register for the York Spring conference, which is happening on the weekend of March 13-15th. You can register here.

We’ve already covered the main policy motions which will be debated in the main hall.

But there will be oodles of other stuff going on – both in the main hall and in rooms around and about the conference venues of the York Barbican, the Novotel York Center and the Hilton York.

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The spring conference motions explained

Over on the party website, Conference committee chair, Geoff Payne has provided a helpful rundown of the motions to be debated at the spring conference in York in the weekend of March 13th-15th.

Here are his summaries of the motions, which party members can access in full via this page on the party website:

F4 – Hong Kong
This motion introduces new party policy on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. It calls for:

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2020 Federal Committee election results

Back on January 20th, our President Mark Pack told us about opportunities for members to get involved in running the party. It seems there was a very good response to this, with many members putting themselves forward to be on federal party committees and such like.

Those nominated were put forward to the voting Federal Board members, and the following people have been elected to serve:

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Our President writes: I’m immensely proud of how we’ve stood up for our values over Brexit

Our Party President, MarkPack, sent this email to members yesterday evening:

For the last four years, the Liberal Democrats have proudly fought to stop Brexit.

I am immensely proud of everything we did. We stood up for our values. We campaigned so hard. But I also accept that at 11pm tonight, we will no longer be members of the European Union.

Our European story is not over. Tomorrow our fight continues, to make sure Britain has the closest possible relationship with our allies in Europe.

Today, I want to take stock of everything we did achieve in our fight to stop Brexit.

When the results of the European referendum were announced on that sad day in June 2016, we knew that something must be done. Our leader at the time, Tim Farron, did not wait to say that we deserved a vote on the final Brexit deal.

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Dr Phillip Lee selected as Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson for Wokingham

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Wokingham Today reports:

DR PHILLIP LEE is to carry on his connections to Wokingham after being appointed by the local Liberal Democrats to be its parliamentary spokesperson for the year ahead.

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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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