Category Archives: Party policy and internal matters

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

Federal Policy Committee launches Food and Farming Policy Working Group

The decision by Federal Policy Committee to launch a Food and Farming Policy Working Group comes at a time when food security is back on the global agenda for the first time in maybe three decades. The Russian invasion of Ukraine came at a point where grain prices were already causing problems in lower income importing countries. Last week WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the conflict could cause widespread hunger. Countries such as Egypt and Sudan are already struggling for supplies. With Russia also the world’s main exporter of nitrogen fertiliser, input costs have risen even faster than …

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Federal Board reform – structures are nothing without good people

I am here to support option 3, because I think it is the least worst option of those offered. It has guaranteed local government representation. Councillors need a louder voice in the party. They are used to doing scrutiny, and will be able to use that to our benefit.

My lack of enthusiasm is not due to being resistant to change. It’s that this is not the change I am looking for.

Consider how professionally we approach campaigning – the training, the use of data, the effort that we put in. Consider how diligently we approach our policies – the use of evidence, the attention to detail. And then look at how we approach running the party – largely as an inconvenience that gets in the way of the campaigning and policy-making. But all the campaigns and policy in the world are useless without a party that can deliver them.

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Federal Board reformed in “peak Lib Dem” debate

Chair Duncan Brack remarked late yesterday evening as he opened the debate on reforming the party’s Federal Board, we had reached “peak Lib Dem” as before us we had 4 options, constitutional amendments, standing order amendments, 3 requests for a reference back and 7 votes.

The Federal Board put forward those 4 options – 3 for reform, 1 to keep roughly the same arrangements in response to the Thornhill Review’s criticism of party governance in the 2019 General Election.

The option passed was to have a slimmed down board of 16 people who are:

The President, who shall act as its Chair;

B. The Leader;

C. The Chair of the English Party, the Convenor of the Scottish Party and the President of the Welsh Party;

D. The Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities;

E. Three people who shall be party members elected by all members of the Party except that persons who, at the date of the close of nominations for election under this paragraph, are members of Parliamentary Parties set out in Article 17 shall not be eligible to be candidates for election under this paragraph. Casual vacancies amongst this group shall be filled in accordance with the election regulations;

F. A Vice-Chair of the Federal Policy Committee;

G. The Chairs of the Federal Conference Committee, the Federal Communications and Elections Committee, the Federal Finance and Resources Committee and the Federal People Development Committee;

H. The Chair of the Young Liberals; and

I. A principal local authority councillor, elected Mayor or Police and Crime Commissioner, elected by the principal local authority councillors, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners of the Party.

This is controversial as it reduces the number of directly elected members of the Board from 15 to just 3.

A request for a reference back made by Board Member Simon McGrath, who criticised the plans here was defeated by a handful of votes.

Conference chose the option to create a Federal Council to scrutinise the work o the Board. Amendments were passed to give it some teeth – eg the ability to call in and overturn some Board decisions. The Federal Council will be made up of:

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I’d rather be delivering leaflets

If you know me at all, you’ll know I never wanted to be on the Federal Board. But…

In the wake of 2019 I dusted myself down from my Westminster campaign in Hazel Grove (you would be very welcome to get involved this time!) and decided that enough was enough. We need to do more winning.

Dorothy Thornhill agreed with me, and I got stuck-in to reform efforts by taking on the role of Chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (and therefore a member of the Board).

We’ve come some way in the last few years, but it’s …

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What is LDFU and how will we help Ukraine?

On 26th February, I tweeted “who would help me set up a Liberal Democrats Friends of Ukraine?” thinking I might get one or two people to help me set up a small Associated Organisation. What I got was multiple volunteers, a larger than expected interest and, very quickly, an organisation with nearly 100 members.

Myself, Jake Stevenson, Leo Dempster and Euan Davidson became the founding members, and first executive, of Liberal Democrats Friends of Ukraine (or LDFU). We launched a basic website, Twitter account and a sign-up sheet on Google Forms, and within 14 hours we had 70 members and over 100 followers. What we were most surprised at is the amount of members that said they would like to volunteer: as it stands, about 70% of members said they want to volunteer for LDFU.

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Dorothy Thornhill writes: What we must do next to learn the lessons of 2019

The headline “two new MPs so far in this Parliament” is a welcome one. Winning, especially winning with record swings, is what we all want. 

Underneath the headline is a lot of hard work, plenty of tough decisions, and a drive to improve. We should all be thankful to our activists, staff and supporters. 

It is clear to me that the diagnosis and recommendations my team and I set out after the 2019 disaster were right, and that they are being taken seriously. Not least among them was that a Federal Board of 41 members cannot, and should not, be the clear leadership team we need to steer our party and help us all win elections. Something of that size is a talking shop, and talking shops are neither democratic nor effective. 

I therefore welcome the Federal Board’s motion to Spring Conference setting out options for reforming the structure of the Board.

My thanks to those who took part in the supporting consultation, collectively you have been clear that it is time for change. The feedback was crucial in helping the Board refine our options to a sensible number for consideration. With limited time, not all ideas could be brought to the floor. 

Conference is being asked to choose between three options for change, and then finally between reform and the status quo. 

As you can see (below) from the proposed set-up of a new Board, the options deliberately ensure key voices from across the party – geographically, demographically and in other respects – are built in. 

I am pleased that the reform options presented address the concerns highlighted in my review. The options provide for a smaller, more nimble leadership team.

They also retain the democratic selection we cherish while clarifying responsibilities, individual and collective. 

I see in these options a chance to better encourage cooperation. To build a real leadership team. Only when we have that team can our leaders be held collectively accountable by members: currently a missing ingredient. 

That accountability makes for a better democracy for members. Too much power, now, is wielded outside of our official structures, and so outside of accountability. 

I look forward to a rigorous, healthy debate at Conference. This is a complex question and I will be listening hard to colleagues and friends to help make my own decision. My principles will be democracy, accountability, electability, and not letting the best be the enemy of the good.

Organisational change is not easy. For us, though, it is necessary. 

Do see below for a quick summary of the options coming, in more detail, to Spring Conference.

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Cllr Sarah Cheung-Johnson takes the helm of Chinese LibDems

At a virtual AGM last Sunday, South Cambridgeshire Councillor Sarah Cheung-Johnson (pictured) was unanimously elected as the new Chair Chinese LibDems (CLD) for 2022. The meeting was well attended including by members from the Korean and Vietnamese diaspora communities.

This has of course been the vision of CLDs. – To be a network representing not just Chinese people but those of East and SE Asian heritage as well. In fact CLDs attempted a name change to BESEA (British East/South-East Asian) or CESEA in the past year, but the resolution did not pass.

During the formal part of the meeting, attendees received reports on the activities of CLDs over the past year including a virtual Chinese New Year celebration in February with Sir Vince Cable as guest speaker.  Members of the CLD executive Linda Chung, Victoria Collins and Dr Yeow Poon have also been active in the anti-racism campaign (CARG – Covid19 Anti Racism Group) including participation in rallies in London and Birmingham.

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How should we behave in the party? – have your say this Thursday at 6pm

There are some fantastic examples of supportive behaviour towards each other within our party, but we don’t always get it right.  So the Federal People and Development Committee is reviewing our Members’ Code of Conduct, and we want to hear from you what should be in it.

The current version can be found at Members’ Code of Conduct, and we also have an Online Code of Conduct and a Candidates Code of Conduct for Parliamentary candidates.  Fortunately they all say similar things.

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Ed Davey replies robustly to a Tory MP’s enquiry about our selection procedures

Philip Davies MP recently wrote to Ed Davey enquiring about the Liberal Democrats’ internal selection procedures.

Ed’s reply is a joy to behold! It is worth reading the correspondence in full.

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The Young Liberals need you (terms and conditions apply)!

This year’s Young Liberals elections are up and running, with nominations open until 4 October and the winners being decided by 25 October.

Naturally, here at Liberal Democrat Voice, we not only don’t endorse candidates, but maintain strict neutrality, working with Returning Officers to ensure that, as far as the pages of this organ are concerned, we don’t tilt the electoral playing field towards, or away from, individual candidates.

However, we do want to encourage all eligible members to take part in these upcoming elections, be it as a candidate or a voter. Many of us have worked with, or held positions in, the Young Liberals over the years and, as an opportunity to contribute to the success of the wider party, but also to take an active role and learn new skills, they offer a space for anyone to get engaged.

There are seventy positions up for grabs, at Federal, State and Regional levels, each with a different skillset required, from policy roles to representation, from organisation to leadership, from design to communication, and all will be key to building up the campaigning capacity and strength of the organisation as a potential General Election nears.

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Democracy and Public Debate

Fake news and hate speech online – much of it spread via the giant tech platforms. Government ministers brazenly lying. Threats to the integrity of our elections through the dissemination of misinformation on social media. National newspapers that are increasingly partisan, and a local press too financially enfeebled to hold politicians to account.

In recent years, the quality of public debate in Britain has deteriorated sharply, thanks to all these factors and the increasing rejection of traditionally accepted norms of behaviour. And this threatens the very fabric of our democracy. We have lost a set of shared truths and facts around which we can base political debate. What can be done to reverse the decline?

A policy paper prepared by an FPC working group, to be debated at Autumn Conference, proposes a bold and distinctly liberal set of initiatives that carefully balance our rights and freedoms, especially the right to free speech, with the need to combat online harms and allow misinformation to be challenged.

Also posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Volunteers needed to set the party’s strategic direction on Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

This opportunity has appeared on the Liberal Democrat website:

Hours: 4 hours a month, this may vary.
Location: working from home, occasional meetings in London.

The Party is seeking committed volunteers to help set our EEDI strategic direction. The working group’s inaugural Chair will be the Party’s Chief Operating Officer and will work on actioning the delivery plan that has already been created. This action plan is wide ranging but includes fundamental tasks such as:

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And the new chair of Federal Conference Committee is…..

… Cllr Nick Da Costa.

Nick was one of the Committee’s Vice-Chairs and is also a Councillor in Haringey.

In a post on Facebook, he said:

I am delighted to have been elected as Chair of the Federal Conference Committee taking over from the brilliant Geoff Payne who stood down as Chair at the end of May.

Firstly, a massive thanks to Geoff for his hard work for this party as member, Vice Chair and then Chair of the Federal Conference Committee. He has always championed the importance and sovereignty of Conference in our party and will be sorely missed as he moves onto his next exciting work.

My previous position as Vice Chair of FCC will be filled at the next meeting of the Federal Conference Committee on 11th July, which will also be the agenda setting meeting for Autumn Conference.

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Help shape our new Universal Basic Income policy

At our 2020 Autumn Federal Conference members voted to commit the party to campaign for a universal basic income and called on the Federal Policy Committee to work on the details of the implementation.

For the past three months a working group, including members from England, Scotland and Wales, has heard from external experts and campaigners on how a UBI could be implemented and paid for in a socially just and equitable manner.

In our discussions the working group has tried to discern what members may have had in mind in voting for UBI as a broad policy whilst balancing the impact of a basic income on the party’s ability to fund other policy priorities in a future general election manifesto.

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Federal Conference Committee – Autumn Conference to be online again

Federal Conference Committee met on 28th April 2021 to make some preliminary decisions about the format of Autumn Conference 2021.

We have decided that Autumn Conference will take place from 17th to 20th September. It will be held online. That was a very difficult decision to take and we had a very lengthy discussion about it.

We recognise that a lot of people would like to meet again in person – believe me, so we would we – but the question is whether, at this time, we can absolutely guarantee that conference could go ahead in the format that we know and love. Having consulted a range of others, FCC considered, with some reluctance, that it was not possible at this time to give such a guarantee. Although things are now a lot better in terms of the pandemic, we do not know if there are any final bumps in the road still to come. Medical experts say they expect a third wave in the Autumn but the extent is not yet clear. Of course, things seemed better in the early Autumn of 2020 but then took a marked turn for the worst a few months later. We do not, at this stage, know what social distancing requirements there will be or how many people will be able to attend the venue. We therefore cannot make meaningful plans and set any meaningful budget for the event. The risk of going ahead in person but having to cancel or heavily restrict the event such that it is not inclusive, is just too great. In the same way, we take any risk to the personal safety of party members very seriously. That is why we cancelled Spring 2020. We would not want to expose anyone to any unnecessary risk of catching this dreadful virus in a close setting.

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Federal Conference Committee – pre-Conference report

On Saturday, 13th March the Federal Conference Committee met to review the amendments, late motions, emergency motions, questions to reports and appeals for this weekend’s next Spring Conference which commences on Friday.

You can still register for conference. We also have a claimants’ rate, and provide support for those who require it through the Conference Access Fund. You can also donate to the Conference Access Fund as part of your registration.

This will be our second online Conference with our partners at Hopin. As always, we would like to thank the Conference Office and wider HQ team for their support and hard work in bringing together our online conference.

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The Party’s disciplinary processes – justice delayed is justice denied?

It sometimes seems as though the Party has been adjusting its internal conduct and discipline system since its foundation. And, of course, you have to have one because not everyone is reasonable, and people don’t always behave reasonably towards each other in an organisation where the idea is to convince people of the rightness of your views, to win the argument, if you like.

The problem is that, with any process, you have to supply the resources to make it work, and if the experiences of too many people are to be believed, that simply isn’t the case currently. It would be very easy to blame the professional staff responsible for managing the system but, from painful personal experience, I can vouch that they are too few in number to manage the flow of complaints, and too dependent on volunteers to fill all of the roles that the process requires.

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Despite Covid, the Guardian predicts “no escape” from the Lib Dem disco

The Guardian sketch writer, John Crace, gives a witty mention to our beloved disco in his parliamentary sketch this morning:

A return to normal: 21 June. There would be no escape for those hoping to avoid the disco night at the Lib Dem party conference.

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The party’s latest advice for campaigners in the pandemic

Mike Dixon, the Chief Executive Officer of the Liberal Democrats, has recently written to activists about campaigning in the pandemic, as follows:

In the last few days, anger has been growing about the Tories’ brazen attempt to skew the May elections and stop elected councillors and volunteers doing their jobs by safely delivering literature. Independent councillors and other parties have now joined us.

We have spoken with the Electoral Commission and National Police Chief’s Council at the highest level. In some circumstances it is legal and permissible for volunteers to deliver leaflets.

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18 years after the Iraq war protests, the party remembers and honours Charles Kennedy


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The Party President’s report for February… how is it working for you?

As usual, the Party President has graciously contacted us, asking that we place a spotlight on his monthly report. Equally graciously, we would note that you can read it here.

Mark has been President now for more than a year, and it’s been a pretty eventful term so far. But how has he performed? What, in your opinion, has gone well, and what badly? Has he changed your view on the Party Presidency itself?

For me, the jury is out on whether or not Mark has established a profile outside of the Party’s membership. It’s seldom easy, even for …

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Liberal Democrat electoral and policy pact with Labour, or not?

The party has been buzzing with pro and anti ‘pact’ debate, and some parliamentarians have been espousing contrasting views.

On 11th December the Guardian featured an article ‘Starmer Urged to Start Co-operating with the Lib Dems’ on the necessity of a pact for Labour. A Liberal Democrat branch of the ‘Compass Group’ has been formed.

Here I have a stab at synthesising the two Liberal Democrat arguments. The party as a whole needs to decide. Which view do you support?

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The lurch to the right of the Conservative Party has changed the landscape for the Lib Dems. Since the Tories adopted the tool of encouraging anti-immigrant sentiment to undermine Labour in its heartlands, and since the rise of the SNP, it has become very difficult for Labour to achieve a parliamentary majority on its own. This is true however popular Keir Starmer becomes.

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New Liberal Democrat Peers should be elected by Liberal Democrat members

Editorial note – I forgot to add the critical link to the motion, which has now been restored to its rightful place. Apologies to all…

As Liberal Democrats, we have long supported the abolition of an unelected House of Lords and its replacement by an elected second chamber of Parliament. However, there is little chance of it happening soon, or even in the next ten years.

Until that time, we must carry on with the current House of Lords and at some stage the Leader of the Liberal Democrats will invited to nominate people to sit the House of Lords as working Liberal Democrat Peers to replace those who retire or, sadly, die.

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Ed Davey added to range of pictorial membership cards

As of today, you can order an Ed Davey membership card.

The suggested donation for a replacement membership card is £2 but anything else you can donate on top will go towards helping the party fight elections next May.

You can order online here.

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 33 Comments

My wishlist for our new Chief Technology Officer

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When I saw the job advert for a party’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), I was very excited.

As someone who works as a Head of Product Development for a startup, and has previously worked as a consultant specifically around digital strategy transformation, I see a great opportunity for the party.

To me, it seems the party’s current technology systems consist of tools that were bought off-the-shelf and are (mostly) perfectly good at doing what they were bought for. But these tools tend to be isolated, and coherence when trying to join things together, as anyone who’s ever run a Typeform survey and then had to manually get it into Connect will tell you. Now HQ have hired that CTO, here are my 2 main wishes: get a powerful foundation for data in place, and build a culture of open source around it.

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The party’s preparations for elections


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The party’s website carries a report from the Communications and Elections Committee by Lisa Smart and Iain Donaldson. We reproduce the report in full here:

Last week we officially welcomed our newest member – Director of Strategy, Research and Messaging Mimi Turner.

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Is there something rotten in the state of candidate approval?

Sadly, the only surprising thing about the revelations about Geeta Sidhu-Robb is that something like this hadn’t happened before.

You see, there’s something rotten with our candidate selection procedures.

In the party at large, there’s a perception that candidates go through a rigorous approvals process. They don’t.

People believe candidates are vetted. They aren’t.

People believe our processes are robust and make sure we get the best candidates. They aren’t.

The simple fact is, all you have to do to become a LibDem candidate is to complete a pretty basic application form, get two other people to say you’re basically fine and then pass a not very rigorous approval day.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 52 Comments

Constitutional reform: amending Motion F11 “The Creation of a Federal United Kingdom”

In my earlier two-part article ‘Constitutional reform: a coherent national policy or not?’, I described how I view it as essential that a constitutional reform policy be framed to encompass the constitutional arrangements of all parts of the United Kingdom, lest it otherwise make a mockery of the term ‘federal’. This requires us to answer the English Question.

In discussing English regionalism and federalism on various forums including the Liberal Democrat Federalists group on Facebook, I have observed criticism of Motion F11, our proposed amendment and the party’s overall policy slate, some focusing various aspects such as the lack of detail on the fiscal arrangements within a union of bodies having considerable autonomy, legislative and tax-varying powers. Unfortunately, we seem to be rather good at not putting flesh on the bones of complicated policies: Land Value Tax has been on the back-burner for 100 years, the Universal Basic Income motion up at Autumn Conference faces criticism of its lack of depth, and Local Income Tax came and then vanished in a puff of smoke over twenty years ago. The latter was something I hoped would lead to the diverse political landscape I espoused in part one of my earlier article. With regards to federalism, what did we do with Policy Paper 117 after it was endorsed in 2014? I’m tempted to paraphrase Indiana Jones and say “we might as well have mailed it to the Marx Brothers”.

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Party reform: why I wouldn’t set out from here

As Mary Regnier-Wilson has pointed out in a comment on David Murray’s article, the Liberal Democrats Party is meant to support proportional representation; yet the Scottish and Welsh state party representatives on every committee are there to represent only a small proportion of the party’s total membership while the English state reps are meant to represent the rest, which is not proportional at all. The practical effect is that the members in Scotland and Wales have built-in massive over-representation on federal committees.

It is a bit like the US electoral college which gives more say over the White House …

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On reforming the Liberal Democrat organisation

Last September I stood for election to the Federal Board because I was aware of things which had gone wrong and needed to be put right. I didn’t expect my term of office, if elected, to start with picking up the pieces after a catastrophic general election. But it did.

The Thornhill Review has called for change, including to the Federal Board: a huge, sprawling thing with 35 voting members, the influence of any one of whom is very dilute. The Board would be better if it were less than half its current size. But whose seats should go? It …

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