Category Archives: Party policy and internal matters

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

Whatever happened to the class of 2015? (2)


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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 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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A fork in the road for the Lib Dems

The long predicted realignment in British politics has started. Whether it helps or harms the Lib Dems depends on how we respond to it. We can embrace the future with confidence and open arms or we can turn in on ourselves and stick to the old ways.

We are at a fork in the political road and our future success or failure depends on whether we make the right choices. Some important decisions will be made at Spring Conference and it is imperative that we get them right.

They are the keys to the success of our …

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So, what might we be looking for in a Party President?

I rather allowed myself to be distracted last week, but I did promise to offer some thoughts on what skills an incoming President might need.

I’ll start with something rather dull, but critical. The ability to manage meetings is imperative. As President, you’ll be chairing Federal Board, a body which can be fractious at the best of times, and moulding it into an effective decision making entity is critical. You can’t just turn up and go, you need to determine potential flashpoints, decide how you might deal with disagreements.

That in turn will require good communication skills and a sense of empathy. …

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Federal Policy Committee report – 6 February 2019

FPC met on Wednesday 6 February. We started with a good discussion with Ed Davey, home affairs spokesperson, and Vicki Cardwell, chair of the working group developing new policy on crime and policing. Ed talked through the issues he is focussing on, including responses to the increase in violent crime and the Immigration Bill. It is clear that crime is an important and increasingly important issue to voters. We then discussed in more detail the consultation paper written by the crime and policing group (which will be available shortly here). This included a review of the current picture of …

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So, you want to be Party President?

It is easy to forget that, for many of our Party members, Sal Brinton is the only Party President they have ever known. In that sense, they’ve been pretty fortunate, because (at least in my view) she’s been a good one. But all good things come to an end eventually, and Sal is now in her last year before term limits kick in.

Now I’ve heard rumours of possible candidates for the succession, and whilst I wouldn’t want to name names just yet, perhaps it is time to start thinking about what members …

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What will the party debate at Spring Conference?

The party meets again at its Spring Conference in York on the 15th-17th March, and if you have not registered yet there is still time! Federal Conference Committee has also now met to decide the agenda so we can reveal what topics will be up for debate.

Motion selection proceeded in the usual fashion that by now will be familiar to many readers – in the first round, members of the committee debated the suitability of each motion for debate considering how well it was drafted, how recently the topic was last debated and so on. Once that has happened, timings are allocated to each motion, and the committee considers the relative priority of the remaining motions.

Of the 19 motions submitted, 6 were eventually selected for debate. Constitutional amendments must be selected for debate if they are in order, which applied to one of two submitted amendments. A 105-minute slot has also been reserved for a later deadline on Europe, as given the current state of politics any motion submitted now would certainly be old news by March!

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Can you help us make our new disciplinary process a big success?

Have you watched in horror as one organisation after another has got itself into hot water when an owner, a member or an employee has behaved in an appalling way?

The impact of the #MeToo Movement has really highlighted the need for every organisation to get this kind of issue right. We are proud to say that the Lib Dems will be rolling out our new and upgraded disciplinary process in 2019. In order to become an effective, inclusive and diverse organisation this is absolutely vital.

Whilst Brexit is grabbing all the headlines, we are going to need help from members to make this Lib Dem project a big success.

Lord Macdonald started the project with an excellent review and set of recommendations for the new Disciplinary Process. It was then adopted by the Federal Party at the Brighton Conference last September. The English Party has agreed to implement the new process and the Scots and Welsh Parties will look at doing the same at their Spring Conferences early in 2019.

So that means we need volunteers across all three State Parties to get involved and make this a reality. Experience you have from outside the Party may mean you are just the person we want! It might mean you could help us by getting involved as an investigator, or by sitting on a disciplinary panel. Please look out for an email coming to all members in the New Year. It will have links to more information and details on how to apply. In the meantime please click on this link and go to https://www.libdems.org.uk/macdonald-implementation-signup

We are really keen to hear from people not otherwise involved in the Parties’ structures. Investigators and the people on the panel may stand as candidates for the Party or hold office at a Local Party level, but can’t be on other committees.

If you think you could be one of the independent people we need to run a fair and equitable internal disciplinary system, please get in touch today!

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South East Liberal Democrats back dynamic ideas for “People’s Advocate” in planning issues and bigger role for chambers of commerce in local economic development

Liberal Democrats from across the south east of England gathered in Canterbury on 17thNovember for their annual regional conference. Held at the city’s Spires Academy, the conference heard from MPs Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne), Ed Davey (Kingston) and Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) as well as Baroness Judith Jolly and the Leader of the Opposition on Kent County Council, Cllr Rob Bird. 

Canterbury and Coastal Liberal Democrats proposed two motions. Both were endorsed by the conference by overwhelmingly majorities.  They will now be considered at national level.

The first idea proposed is in response to the widely held feeling in communities across the country that ordinary people don’t get a proper hearing on planning matters. 

In cities, towns and villages across the South East ordinary voters feel the cards are stacked against them. They see developers hiring expensive lawyers, planning consultants and PR firms that dominate the process and shut out objections. 

The Liberal Democrat idea is that communities will be able to able to apply for a match funded grant of up to £5,000 from their local council. With money from their own resources added to the council grant, a community will be able to hire a legal, planning or public relations expert, known as “A People’s Advocate,”  to guide them and help them shape their campaign. 

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Proposed new party disciplinary procedures

I love working with a party that is so committed to giving everyone in society a voice. At the moment, though, our disciplinary process doesn’t live up to those values. Far too often it lets down those making complaints, those complained about – and the whole party. That’s why I’m moving business motion F11: Reforming our Party’s Disciplinary Processes at federal conference in September, a motion I hope you will support.

This reform has been a long time coming: for many years now, experts (yes, we Lib Dems still think there is value in experts!) have been looking at our systems …

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I’ve experienced the hostile environment – that’s why I’m determined to end it

I arrived in the UK just over eleven years ago from Brazil, eager and ready to build my career and life many thousands of miles away from home.

Fast forward to 2018 and I have just received in the post my first British passport. Hooray? Yes, hooray now, but even though I was lucky enough to first “enter” the UK immigration system in pre-“hostile environment” times, the journey from being a Brazilian citizen to a British one hasn’t been easy.

There were the exorbitant fees – for a spousal visa, indefinite leave to remain, and finally citizenship – the intrusive document …

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