Category Archives: Party policy and internal matters

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

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.

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 87 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 47 Comments

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 …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 29 Comments

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 …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Reducing the size of the Federal Board and giving power to the members

Last week Mark Valladares wrote an article – ‘How the Party is managed – can you be democratic and efficient’ and some in the comments called for a smaller Federal Board.

The Thornhill 2019 Election Review talks of a Federal Board of 40+ members (page 34) which is too large to be a ‘realistic decision-making body’ (page 22) and implies that during a governance review this should be reduced (pages 24 and 49).

Mark Pack in his report on the July Federal Board meeting states that the Federal Board has a membership of 43. The Constitution sets out a …

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Leadership election ballots hit doormats and inboxes

Leadership email and paper ballots have been going out over the last 24 hours.

Party members have until 1pm on Wednesday 26th August to place “1” or “2” or “blank” against the names of (listed alphabetically) Ed Davey and Layla Moran, or to abstain.

I received my email this morning from Alan Masters, the returning officer. The email included a unique number which I should use to place my vote.

It included the following links for those who are yet to decide:

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Register now for our first online conference!

Members are just receiving an invitation to register for the first Liberal Democrat online Autumn Conference, being held from 25th-28th September 2020.

The email from Geoff Payne, chair of the Conference Committee is as follows, minus my membership number (if you’ll forgive me!):

It’s official: Registration is now open for our first-ever online conference!

You’ll need your membership number.

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How the Party is managed – can you be democratic and efficient?

As something of a governance geek, and a veteran Party bureaucrat, I tend to take an interest in how my Party is run and led. Policy is interesting yes, but you can tell a lot about any organisation by whether how it operates is in accordance with its declared values.

The “problem” with that is, if your values refer to democracy, transparency and accountability, you might not achieve optimal efficiency, if efficiency is defined as “getting things done”. It is a more pressing concern if you want to change things, and most, if not all, Party Presidents are elected on a mandate of changing things. The catch is that there are very few levers that a President can pull that actually do anything – they rely on people skills to persuade those who actually have operating authority to act as they wish them to.

Also posted in Op-eds and Party Presidency | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

Report from Federal Conference Committee – motions to Conference

The Federal Conference Committee met via Zoom call on Saturday, 11 July for the agenda selection for our first virtual conference. The meeting was a lengthy one, which was in part due to the large selection of varied motions we received, but also to give us breaks from staring at computer screens for a number of hours.

As you will be aware, this year we will not be heading to the sunny beaches of Brighton, but instead you will be able to take part in Conference from your own home via our third party provider, Hopin. You will be able to find more information about the virtual conference.

The FCC wants to pay its thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Conference Office team and members who have worked so incredibly hard to make our first virtual conference happen. It is been a long and challenging process, as we wanted to make sure that we are able to replicate – as much as feasibly possible – the physical conference for our members. I also understand that Glee will also be happening virtually; although we will not all be crammed into one room at the conference hotel to enjoy it.

You will see from the timings of Conference that it is slightly different to the usual format, and we hope that this will give more people an opportunity to attend virtually.

A total of nine conference motions (plus two emergency slots, two later deadline motions on COVID and Europe.) In addition we have reserved time for two consultation sessions as requested by the Federal Board and the Federal Policy Committee.

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New party director of strategy appointed

The Liberal Democrats have appointed Mimi Turner as the Party’s new Director of Strategy, Messaging and Research.

Mimi started her career as a journalist, and has since worked across PR, brand and strategy roles for digital and media organisations.

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Report from the Federal Policy Committee meeting on 24th June

We met again on Wednesday 24th June, with a focus this time on motions we plan to submit for the virtual autumn conference. As previously reported, for a combination of reasons we don’t have any full policy papers this year, but are putting forward stand-alone motions in a few areas we’d like to raise.

It is of course up to the Federal Conference Committee which, if any, of these they select for debate, and if they do then of course they will be published in the normal way in due course, so I’m not going to lay out here their detailed content, but will give a general report.

First up was a motion written by our working group already looking at the “Nature of Public Debate” about information and how it has been used and misused during this crisis, and claims made by the government. We discussed the right way to get more accurate information, and also to hold the government to account. This also includes the role of the press, its regulation and how we can support good quality journalism.

Second was a motion that some Federal Policy Committee members have drafted in discussion with Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality and some other BAME representatives in the party, entitled ‘Racial Justice Cannot Wait’.  This makes a wide range of distinctively liberal and urgent proposals in response to the current debate, for ways in which Britain can really confront and make a difference on race equality.

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Move Forward Together

In the aftermath of this crisis, our country has an opportunity to change.

Watch video here

And we must change. Going back to normal means continuing to damage our planet. It means entrenching educational inequalities before a child even steps foot in a classroom. Treating people differently because of the colour of their skin, and prioritising GDP over wellbeing.

Change is in the air; no matter where you go, you can feel it. Communities are coming together to help those in need. More and more young people making their voices heard on climate change. And when you turn on the news, you see statues of slave owners and supremacists finally coming down.

This is a once in a generation chance. We must be brave and use this energy to be better; to build the society that we want to see. The Liberal Democrats, and progressive ideas must be at the forefront of this.

At the heart of my leadership campaign is a vision to make this happen.

Also posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

Nominations for leader open tomorrow at 9am!

Tomorrow morning at 9am, members will be able to begin nominating candidates for leader.

Members will also get an email with a confirmation of how they’ll receive their ballot (or if you need to renew).

The emails are going out over the course of the day and if you haven’t had one by 9am on the 25th June, please email [email protected] and we can take a look and make sure you don’t miss out.

To nominate a candidate, you’ll need to go to www.libdems.org.uk/nominate

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