Federal Conference Committee report on selection of motions for Bournemouth


Federal Conference Committee met again last weekend to select motions that will be debated when we meet in Bournemouth. 41 motions were submitted, and usually selection proceeds in rounds. Motions are first eliminated on the basis of drafting, debatability and other such issues before subsequent rounds trim the agenda further based on time constraints.

However, due to the snap general election we received slightly fewer motions than usual for an Autumn Conference so only one round of debate was required. In most cases, the discussion gave a clear consensus and no vote was needed, but I have noted below where there was a vote that was particularly close.

A note on the European motions – the first four motions would all have altered the overall party policy on Brexit. There was a brief discussion about individual motions, followed a block vote on accepting any of them versus having a consultation on Europe. Only two FCC members voted in favour of having a motion, so a consultation will happen instead.

The outline agenda with timings should be published shortly, and the full agenda is due by the middle of August.

Many motions we receive are well drafted, but the committee has seen some submissions that would certainly have benefited from drafting advice. If you do are preparing a motion, please do consider making use of this service offered by Federal Conference Committee’s which is available here. The deadline for drafting advice for emergency motions and amendments for Bournemouth is 1pm on 21st August, and the final deadline is 1pm 4th September.

  • Business, and skills
    • Encouraging companies to be responsible corporate citizens (Federal Policy Committee) – selected for debate, 60 minutes
    • Employment in the 21st Century (Federal Policy Committee) – selected for debate, 60 minutes
    • Protecting Small Businesses (34 members) – selected for debate by a vote of 7/6, 45 minutes
    • Education, Training and Retraining throughout life (Southwark Liberal Democrats) – not selected for debate by a vote of 6/9.
  • Communities and Local Government
    • Holding Public Representatives and Public Bodies to Account ( Southwark Liberal Democrats) – not selected for debate
    • Safe Building Standards for all homes (Federal Policy Committee) – selected for debate, 75 minutes
    • A Liberal Future for Housing (Young Liberals) – not selected for debate
    • Housing (Southwark Liberal Democrats) – not selected for debate
    • The Leasehold Scandal ( Eddisbury and Weaver Vale) – not selected for debate
  • Crime, Justice, Equalities, and Civil Liberties
    • Gun and Knife Crime (Southwark Liberal Democrats) – selected for debate, 45 minutes
    • Equal Access to Abortion (45 members) – not selected for debate by a vote of 6/7
    • A Modern Framework for Responsible Air Weapon Use (11 members) – not selected for debate
    • Defeating Terrorism, Protecting Liberties (Federal Policy Committee) – selected for debate, 75 minutes
    • Abetting Immigration Enforcement (19 members) – not selected for debate
    • Assisted dying: dignity, compassion and choice at the end of life (15 members) – not selected for debate
    • Ending Privilege and Discrimination by the State on the Grounds of Religion or Belief (54 members) – not selected for debate
    • Reduction of the legal drinking age (10 members) – not selected for debate
  • Culture, media and sport
    • In Pursuit of Truth: Clip the wings of the Media (Adur and Worthing) – not selected for debate
  • Economy and tax
    • Creating Markets for Innovation (13 members) – not selected for debate
  • Education and families
    • Learning to Communicate in English (16 members) – selected for debate, 45 minutes
  • Energy and environment
    • European Atomic Energy Community (12 members) – selected for debate, 75 minutes
    • Natural environment policy (16 members) – selected for debate, 60 minutes
    • Fixing the Utilities Market (Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham Liberal Democrats) – not selected for debate
    • The Paris Agreement and UK climate policy (26 members) – selected for debate, 45 minutes
    • Emissions Tax and Dividend (Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham Liberal Democrats) – not selected for debate
    • Policy for on-shore extraction of fossil-fuels (Mole Valley) – not selected for debate
  • Europe (See note above)
    • Remain and Reform – LibDem position on Europe following Conservative-DUP deal on Hard Brexit (38 members) – not selected for debate
    • Our Place in Europe and the World (14 members) – not selected for debate
    • Article 50 withdrawal (20 members) – not selected for debate
    • The people of Britain and Northern Ireland in the European Union (16 members) – not selected for debate
    • Impact of Brexit on Public Services (Federal Policy Committee)  – selected for debate, 60 minutes
    • Brexit, Universities and University Students (Southwark Liberal Democrats) – not selected for debate by a vote of 6/8
  • Health and social care
    • Mental Health Act Reform (Beaconsfield, Wycombe) – not selected for debate
    • Social Determinants of Health (12 members) – not selected for debate by a vote of 6/8
  • International and defence
    • Centenary of the Balfour Declaration (11 members)  – selected for debate, 75 minutes
    • Armed forces personnel: recruitment, retention and welfare (22 members) – selected for debate, 45 minutes
  • Business Motions
    • Fighting hard Brexit and Winning morw seats under First Past The Post (36 members) – not selected for debate
    • Leadership Election Regulations (19 members) – not selected for debate
    • Council Group Coalitions (11+ members) – not selected for debate
    • Federal Levy – selected for debate, 10 minutes
  • Constitutional Amendments
    • Leader of the Liberal Democrats (19 members) – withdrawn

* Zoe O'Connell is Vice Chair of Federal Conference Committee and Vice Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

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  • Oliver Craven 17th Jul '17 - 12:50pm

    Oh another Israel/Palestine debate, how relevant. Why don’t we talk more about schools, health or anything else (except Brexit) that the vast majority of UK voters care about?

  • For the avoidance of doubt, I was one of the two who voted for us having a proper debate instead of a kick into the long grass, er, sorry, consultation.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Jul '17 - 1:14pm

    Why must some keep harping on about faith or abortion , these are and have been, in this political culture, matters of individual conscience , not party monopoly. We do not have pr, so it is the individual mp who should , cut across party divides that may or may not inform that view, but should not dominate.

    I think the submission of such motions was met well by the decision to not debate them.

    I think I shall submit a motion to not have debates at conference or a set party stance on any such matters.

  • ” if you do are preparing a motion…” Not the only ones who should seek drafting advice.

  • Firstly, thank you Zoe for writing this.

    Secondly, I think it is disappointing that in an organisation that prides itself that the members make policy four motions which would change our policy on Europe were not chosen for debate. It seems that the Federal Conference Committee has a veto on when we can change our policy and only if a majority of them agree can we even discuss changing policy.

    Thirdly, thank you Jennie for voting for a debate. I would like to know who also voted for a debate and who voted for a consultation and who abstained, so it can guide how I vote in the next set of internal party elections.

  • David Becket 17th Jul '17 - 2:37pm

    Once again we ignore education, taking no account of the crisis in our schools that is one of the main issues of the day.
    The international debates are for the select few, ignoring all the major international issues of the day.
    Nothing has been selected on Health, another major issue. I thought we were getting feedback from Norman’s working party.
    Nothing about finance, nothing about inequality
    We should have had a debate on Brexit. We need to make it clear that if we were in power we would kill article 50, BUT as we are not in power we will do everything possible to stay in the Single Market and preserve citizens rights.

    One of the reasons we did badly in the general election is that we were not seen relevant to the major issues. This agenda cooked up by the FPC and FCC empathise that point, we are not relevant. We will also not debate anything seen as risky. We need new thinking at FPC/FCC

    We also have too many members want to go on about abortion, faith and similar issues that have little relevance to party policy or the general public.

  • Thomas Papworth 17th Jul '17 - 2:41pm

    I see that young people’s need for housing has once again been brushed aside. Well done all!

    Also, I think “Holding Public Representatives and Public Bodies to Account” is a massive missed opportunity, at a time when large numbers of people are beginning to recognise quite how remote and unaccountable public representatives and bodies really are.

  • David Becket 17th Jul '17 - 3:09pm

    The answer Tristian is that they don’t, but nor did much of our last campaign. Vince really has to get hold of those running the party and shake them up, preferably in time to kill some of these motions and replace them with some that are relevant.

  • Zoe O'connell 17th Jul '17 - 3:37pm

    Michael – I was the other person to vote to have a debate on Europe. FCC votes are not formally recorded and I didn’t make a note of how many voted against hearing a motion versus who abstained.

    David Becket – We selected the only motion to be submitted on Education – we can’t select motions we don’t have. However, the lack of submitted motions will almost certanly have been because there is a policy paper on Education being prepared by the Federal Policy Committee. It was originally intended that we debate it in Bournemouth, but the General Election meant that the paper was not written in time so it’ll be spring instead.

    Thomas/Tristan – Those who submitted motions will have been given detailed feedback about the reasons for non-selection. This is often not because FCC believes the topic unworthy of discussion, but due to some other issue. It’s not unusual for motions to have to be submitted 2 or 3 times before they end up being debated.

  • Alisdair McGregor 17th Jul '17 - 4:24pm

    “Only two FCC members voted in favour of having a motion, so a consultation will happen instead.”

    Who were the two? I want to know who deserves a vote at the next FCC Election.

  • Five beards and well over forty empty seats ………………..Pass me a cheese sandwich ….then onwards, upwards and forwards to the Revolution….err… well, actually…… precious little there about inequality, poverty, corporate greed and the sort of policies that the ten good souls who voted for us in Middlesbrough last week are likely to be affected by or get excited about !

  • Lloyd Harris 17th Jul '17 - 5:18pm

    As someone who had to do this for regional conference I know how hard it can be to get an agenda together.

    As per normal there are plenty of complaints but in reality the FCC have to deal with a limited amount of time for debate and motions of various degrees of quality in drafting. If it is badly worded then it is normally automatically excluded no matter how worthy the subject. What we won’t be told is why something wasn’t selected – the movers of the motions will get this info so if it is a case of improve and re-submit they have that chance.

  • David Becket 17th Jul '17 - 5:24pm

    @David Raw

    They are 2006 beards!

  • The problem with committees is they tend to pick the issues they are interested in. What they have failed to understand is that for the majority of the population motions like
    “A Liberal Future for Housing” or “Fixing the Utilities Market”
    are much more relevant than
    “Centenary of the Balfour Declaration”.

  • @ David Beckett 2006 ? Ah, bliss – pre-Coalition. Six million votes, 62 seats and a radical party..

    No doubt the beards are a bit longer and whiter now.

  • The only motions rejected for what topic they covered were the four Europe motions, and even then that was to have a consultation instead.

    Not one of the other rejected motions was because we don’t want to discuss the topic. I can think of two where I, personally, really really would love to discuss the topic but the actual motion submitted made it impossible. Obviously I can’t publicly go into the reasons for each motion, but it’s very frustrating to be accused of rejecting a motion because “FCC want to suppress discussion on X topic” when we’d love to discuss it if there had only been a debatable motion submitted.

  • Perhaps then Jennie their is room for a sub committee to look at motions and amend them to make them debatable, subject to the original submitter agreeing to the amendment. All we can see is the title and I for one would prefer to see “A Liberal Future for Housing” or “Fixing the Utilities Market” debated rather than “Centenary of the Balfour Declaration”; although in an ideal world they all would be.

  • Ruth Bright 17th Jul '17 - 7:49pm

    Was trying to wean myself off LDV for a bit and have a political website detox but life was no fun without reading David Raw.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Jul '17 - 9:25pm

    There’s no way to please everyone when deciding which motions are selected. It’s important that the motions are diverse. I’m not a fan of continuously returning to favourite topics.

    Policy-wise the party needs to remain balanced. Don’t go simply for a “core vote” of left liberals. We need sustainable policy that appeals to a broad base.

  • This is nuts.

    This is policy making by process
    Where’s the connection to the voters needs, their priorities?
    Where’s the check’s that the policies selected are the ones which actually address the major issues of the day .
    Where’s the Vision, innovation and strategy
    This is policy making by committee and the selection of pet causes
    Is this putting people first that you are all supposed to be so passionate about.

    Many of us have spent the best part of our weekend on a parallel thread arguing for change and a more professional (in our eyes) set up and we have been assured by many “old hands” that the party is fit for purpose and knows what it is doing.

    Will someone please explain to us, what the heck is going on here and how those of us arguing for change are supposed to be reassured by this archaic system of making policy?

  • jayne Mansfield 17th Jul '17 - 9:28pm

    @ Ruth Bright,
    Same here.

    After ‘ Blair babes’, and ‘Cameron cuties’, are we ‘Raw radicals’ ?

  • Michael Mullaney 17th Jul '17 - 9:47pm

    Firstly thank you to Zoe for writing this detailed article letting us know the motions that were discussed/selected.

    We’ve just fought an election where we got 7% of the vote, in large part because people didn’t see us as relevant. We have a conference where we have a chance to set out policy stall out to the public. On the two big issues for many people, the poor state of their health and education services, we seem to have picked no motions directly about those issues (I guess the Brexit motion indirectly deals with those issues) our one motion on education seems to be about teaching English rather than the issues of a lack of school places, chronic underfunding of many schools, teachers/teaching assistants being made redundant which are the really big issues for many people. Whilst we have picked for discussion the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration which just seems to be an invitation for people on the two sides of the Israeli/Arab conflicts to have a go at each other…

  • A policy motion can have a very good sounding title and be complete contradictory nonsense and hence not selected.

    “Obviously I can’t publicly go into the reasons for each motion” – out of interest why (albeit slightly unfair picking on one of two people who are engaging with their members!).

    I’ve not understood why votes at Federal Committees can’t be routinely recorded. Though maybe from the time one FE member told me I was bullying him (there was some irony in this particular person saying this!) by saying I wouldn’t vote for him again on the basis of his stance I think I can.

    Health, housing and education are all major issues. But is it the lack of policy in those areas that is stopping the party campaigning effectively?

  • Ruth & Jayne…How sweet of you.. and I too was thinking of having a detox after reading far too much rhubarb recently from the right wing free market Cleggiclone Yoof on LDV..

    At last, and at an advanced, nay, decrepit age I have some groupies. I feel 21 again.

    PS Lorenzo will be jealous so please try to let him down gently.

  • @David Raw “2006. Bliss. 6m votes”

    Clegg got 8m.

  • One good thing is the armed forces bill.

  • Andrew McCaig 17th Jul '17 - 11:21pm

    I think tuition fees are another huge issue for many people and also a potentially existential one for our Party and there has to be a mechanism for debating things that have become important since people around the country were formulating their proposals…

  • Thank you Zoe for your reply. I was not expecting you to say who voted for consultation who abstained. However I am disappoint this information is not available and being made public by the committee itself. I remember there was talk of making people more accountable to the wider membership with OMOV and I would have thought this would have included the publication of minutes and having recorded votes in those minutes. We should be able to practice open governance!

    It is not the job of the Conference Committee to write motions. However perhaps it should consider if the Policy Committee should produce a motion for the autumn conference on a topic of interest to the voters, in case no suitable one is submitted from the members, local parties or party organisations.

  • How likely is it that revised & resubmitted motions and emergency motions will be selected for debate at this conference? Are any slots still available for them?

    This seems the most obvious solution for those who feel the motions selected do not reflect the political reality.

    Also – what are the current policies that need revising / that we lack? i.e. Housing: is current policy bad / not good enough?

    I hear “Something Must Be Done!” a lot… but very few references to what has already been agreed (though perhaps badly communicated in GE2017).

  • @ TCO I admire your loyalty to Mr Clegg, but you really must try to get your facts right. “Clegg got 8m.” No, I’m afraid not.

    He managed to turn 6,836,825 votes in 2010 when still a novelty – to 2,415,862 votes when people knew him better. 57 seats to 8 seats indicates something – although you probably think the electorate misjudged him.

    On a personal level, he’s a charming intelligent man, and it’s impossible not to like him. But as to results I’m sad to say it’s the equivalent of Jose Mourinho taking Manchester United into the Conference League. I’m not sure whether the passengers on the Titanic shouted “I agree with Captain Smith” when they hit the iceberg – but you get the point ?

    On the issue of the party’s direction, I’d be interested to know if any reputable university has done an in depth study that we can learn from about what was clearly a Lib Dem car crash.

  • Sue Sutherland 18th Jul '17 - 11:38am

    Zoe thank you very much for putting this together. I share the general horror at what looks like a list of completely unrelated topics of little relevance to the voter. The policy process seems to grind on relentlessly and does produce some good policies. However, the way we do things has resulted in our leaders being able to ignore those policies the minute they get into government.
    We must debate our stance on economic policy before we can decide any other policy. Brexit is of course going to impact our public services but how can we remedy that if we keep on ducking the economic versus social liberal question? We need a serious debate about this and a consultation with members otherwise we will continue to be mostly irrelevant to the voter. It is cowardice not to face up to this issue which, in fact, may not be as large and looming as we fear if we have a look at it.

  • Martin Walker 18th Jul '17 - 1:27pm

    Thank you for writing the article, and I do appreciate that individual authors will have been given feedback.

    It is, however, incredibly frustrating that there is to be no debate on housing. At some point we have to realise, as a Party, that this is one of the biggest economic, social, and environmental challenges we face, and if we could develop a real, serious, distinctive policy on it, instead of trotting out platitudes, then that would be a major step forward.

  • Zoe O'connell 18th Jul '17 - 1:59pm

    Hywel / Michael BG – With current resources, we don’t have the time to compile a detailed report on all the motions, including which way people voted. And without information on the advice given to us, publishing just the individual votes wouldn’t be fair on members – sometimes a motion looks OK from just the title, but is obviously unworkable the moment you talk to a policy expert.

    As well as the extra time in the meeting to conduct roll-call votes, it’s probably a couple of hours work per motion to collate all the feedback currently given, compile a proper report and check it all for errors. That’s over two weeks of full-time work, four times a year, and quite often the results wouldn’t be available until after conference anyway due to the complexity.

    I’m continuously revising the format of my FCC reports to try to be as open as possible – for example, the indications on vote counts is new this year – but that level of detailed reporting is just not something I or anyone else on the committee has the time to take on.

    Several of the motions this time were from Federal Policy Committee, as we had anticipated a lower number of motions than usual due to the General Election and would normally have had more full policy papers to debate.

    AM – There are slots for emergency motions which will go to a members ballot, but they need to concern an urgent matter that has arisen since the closing date for submission of ordinary motions. FCC takes a dim view of motions that are simply resubmitted as an emergency motion with a passing reference to some predictable event dropped in at the start, and they tend to be rejected as not being proper uses of the emergency motion system.

  • Hi Zoe and Jennie

    It’s good to hear that you voted for a debate on Europe (full disclosure, “The people of Britain and Northern Ireland in the European Union” was mine).

    On the one hand I can see the benefits of a consultation: there is a whole range of differing policies and a consultation allows them all to go into the mix. On the other hand, we’ve all seen “consultations” that take place merely to add a veneer of involvement to a private decision.

    Are you able to give any details as to how the consultation will be carried out?

    I think that, at a minimum, the policy suggestions should come from the participants with discussion amongst the participants and the process should be able to lead to rapid policy formation. Without the participants being able to suggest policies the exercise would just be placing pre-determined options in front of members. Without the participants being able to discuss their own suggestions with other participants the policy suggestions would be entirely theoretical: they could never be taken up, championed or criticised and amended if no one else knew about them.

    The speed is essential given the very rapid pace of developments and the constant threat (promise?) of an early election. If the tide turns, we need to be ready. If an election comes we cannot afford to be stuck with last year’s policy.

    In fact, could the consultation not take place over August, online (perhaps a specially constructed forum), with the results feeding into an emergency motion at conference?

  • David Hopps 18th Jul '17 - 4:12pm

    “Tristan Gray 17th Jul ’17 – 2:57pm
    Can someone on the conference committee please explain the thinking behind selecting the Balfour declaration and the armed forces whilst snubbing the Liberal Youth motion on housing, mental health reform and dignity in dying? How exactly do they benefit our party more than these issues? How do they target our voter base more specifically?”

  • Lester Holloway 18th Jul '17 - 5:21pm

    What is the trick to getting called for debates? I haven’t spoken at the last 4 or 5 conferences despite always putting a card in. Each time I intended to make worthwhile points (although I accept the FCC might have thought otherwise) speaking from a point of knowledge and ready to back up my argument with facts. Each time rejected! Everyone tells me to go for one-minute interventions from the floor instead, but I’ve never done so on principle. Is that the only way to discuss race equality aspects of motions which have been burning issues with in BAME communities for thirty years at Lib Dem conferences? Or maybe it’s just a run of bad luck with popular motions. A long run mind. Has anyone else had a run of 4 or more conferences in a row of not being called? For the record, in ten years membership I’ve spoken twice, once as a mover of a motion so FCC had no choice there.

  • Look folks I really don’t mean to come across as rude here and maybe my comment above was a little pointed?
    However, it was coming from a place of genuine shock at seeing this process in action for the first time.
    Some may say, I have not been a member long enough to understand how things work and i will learn.
    Some may say a fresh pair of eyes looking in with no baggage, no preconceptions, knowing no-one personally and having no pet causes (yet – I’m not daft), is a good thing, as it allows you to be objective? I prefer to hope it’s the second, especially given I’ve been engaging long enough here now to get a feel for how people think and hopefully what the strengths and weaknesses are.

    This system you have for motions/policy formation appears to have a number of obvious weaknesses and it raises some fundamental questions for me:
    1. Who at the centre is actually responsible for the overall strategy?
    2. What channels of communication exist for the communication of that strategy (and messaging actually) to the members who are submitting all these motions?
    3. Are all these motions rooted/anchored in a clear strategy/message that everyone understand’s and accepts is/should be driving the policy formation?
    4. Who/what body is the ‘rudder’ ensuring that all these ideas that flow back to the centre is developed into a powerful National narrative that is capable of resonating with the target voters this party wishes to attract?

    This process above, it seems to me has a very high chance of leading to policy making that is simply a disjointed, fragmented list of what happens to fit into a process that meets the needs of a conference, rather than the needs of the electorate.

    This will result in the voters struggling to have any real idea of what the party stands for.

    If you want to be radical you have to generate ideas (lots of them), but those ideas need to be funnelled to people/person/a body at the centre who hold the vision and has the experience and the expertise to ensure that all the innovation is not lost, but just as importantly, what comes out the other end is consistent with the messaging that all the motions and eventual policy should surely be there to illustrate and substantiate.

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jul '17 - 10:40pm

    For heaven’s sake, Mike, this is our democratic party, not a business. ‘Who at the centre is actually responsible for the overall strategy?’ We have a system of governance which, during the two and a half years in which I have been an activist again, has been progressively developed to widen understanding and participation by members, and to reform the supporting committee system. The national strategy is led by the Leader’s priorities, approved by the Federal Board, but the Federal Conference allows binding policies to be passed by the membership . This is the democratic way we work, and the aim is. it seems to me, the admirable one of having as much participation as is compatible with producing a coherent platform of policies which fit our values.

  • @ Zoe O’Connell
    “With current resources, …”

    Where there is the will, the way will be found. I don’t know if Federal Committees have staff support for minute taking and if so, what the extra cost would be to produce minutes that include the advice and who is giving it, and the voting record. It would not be necessary for roll call voting, the minute takers should be able to record how everyone voted with a few extra seconds of holding hands in the air. I don’t understand why you think two weeks would be needed to produce these meaningful minutes, I would think it would be a couple of hours extra at most. Perhaps you don’t have anyone taking minutes and then starting from nothing I would only expect it to take two or three days per meeting. If I was doing it, it might take longer because I am a very slow typist and I think it takes me over twice as long as the meeting took to type up my notes from a meeting. I have never asked my Local Party Chairs how long it took them to read my minutes and suggest any amendments (much less time than the meeting took I am sure) before we would agree the minutes for forwarding on to everyone else on the committee.

    @ Mike S

    One of the important things for us, is that the members make our policy, not the leader and not some central person or committee. When out recruiting new members this is one of our “selling points”.

    Strategy is not policy.

    The members at conference during the debate on motions are responsible for ensuring our policies comply with our beliefs. I have not attended conference for a long time, but I remember some speakers would often relate the motion to have how it furthers liberalism.

    There is a manifesto writing group which in the past has been dominated too much by the Parliamentary Party that produces the manifesto for the Policy Committee to approve.

    Our beliefs are the driving force of our policies not some here today gone tomorrow strategy.

    Strategy is the overall plan to achieve victory; Policies are what we implement once we are in government to achieve our aim of a more liberal society where no one’s liberty is restricted by their economic situation, lack of education or the need to conform.

    As I have posted elsewhere, the Federal Board is responsible for strategy and our political narrative.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Jul '17 - 9:06am

    @Lester Holloway

    “Everyone tells me to go for one-minute interventions from the floor instead, but I’ve never done so on principle.”

    Isn’t that rather cutting off your nose to spite your face?

  • @Michael BG
    As you said in your response to Zoe “where there is a will there is a way”

    You seem to agree from your earlier comments that the process is weak.
    It is resulting in motions being brought to conference which at best can be described as a disjointed, fragmented list of what satisfies a process.

    They may satisfy the values and belief system, but are not anchored by any clear “message” that I can see.
    Policies need to illustrate and substantiate a clear message not the other way round, otherwise you get David Raw’s ” liquorice allsorts” approach to policy making resulting in a collection of ‘stuff’ which lacks coherence.

    Result: the electorate can’t see clearly what the party stands for and what it’s overall message for them is.
    There is no clear narrative and so they ask, ‘Why should I vote for them”
    Result: they don’t, apart for the 7.4% which just get it, despite the messaging.

    Your comment below worries me:
    “Our beliefs are the driving force of our policies not some here today gone tomorrow strategy.”

    A clear strategy is everything. Without it, each member is simply free to write-in his/her own ideas about which way they think the party should go and you get a bag of liquorice allsorts which the conference committee then pick from.

    You say: “One of the important things for us, is that the members make our policy, not the leader and not some central person or committee”.
    But that’s not what’s happening is it. This committee is effectively dictating the strategy by the motions they are selecting.
    Just to clarify, it’s not their fault, they are simply working within the system they are given.

    The Federal Board in my view needs to ensure that their strategy and vision is embedded in everything that other committee’s and the members then do, otherwise the electorate will continue to be confused.

    I agree members should definitely be able to suggest what they think is strategically important and be encouraged to come up with ideas/solutions.
    But that needs a much greater use of digital to reach many more members than the small number dominating the motion setting at present.
    It would also involve thousands more members than just those able to get to conference. But the Federal board MUST hold the vision & the strategy to ensure ideas/solutions are in line with the messaging and that innovation is not lost.

  • @ Mike S. I agree with the thrust of your post, Mike and hope someone is listening up there.

    My hope is that Vince, who is no pushover, will start sending a clear message about both policy and policy making because, frankly the whole thing is a well meaning dogs breakfast at the moment. You could always email him direct.

    At the end of the day the elected parliamentary party must bear some responsibility in policy making. At the risk of raking up history yet again, back in 1960, Jo Grimond grabbed the party by the scruff of the neck and produced a whole raft of radical policy papers using truly expert opinion in specialist areas and in the universities. This could be done now by Vince.

    If it’s not done, it leaves the field open to Jeremy Corbyn who, whatever his faults, is presenting a coherent world view about society and the impact of austerity.

    I’m afraid the damage wreaked over the last ten years by small state so called classical liberal economics goes much deeper than mere electoral success. If it’s not remedied then the proverbial dustbin of history looms as it did post 1914.

  • Thank you for the comments Zoe.

    I understand then that a number of policies were drafted federally to compensate for an expected lack of submissions.

    Seemingly many here are actually asking for more of the same, but specifically to address strategic priorities like housing, education etc.

    Perhaps in the lead up to Spring 2018, we should aim for a wide digital consultation followed by expert-drafted policy ideas submitted to the FPC.

    But the commentors above, calling for these new policy motions, haven’t yet pointed to anything that’s wrong about our current policy.

    Is there a need to debate something at conference that is already settled policy?

    Surely it is only worth putting to conference if a motion presents fresh ideas or addresses new developments?

  • Just to be clear – I don’t mean to suggest that there is no room for improvement of current policy.

    … just that so many are disappointed that we aren’t debating specific topics just because the topics are important – not because the motions were good, nor because our current policy is bad / out of date.

  • Zoe O'connell 19th Jul '17 - 4:48pm

    Michael BG – comprehensive minutes of an agenda-setting FCC meeting, to include all motions and advice received, would likely run to 40,000 words. I would expect the emergency motions/amendments meetings to be significantly shorter – perhaps 10,000-20,000 words each.

    There are quite a few things we’d like to do given more resources, but this wouldn’t be at the top of my list. (Improving online streaming is higher priority for us right now)

  • @AM
    “But the commentors above, calling for these new policy motions, haven’t yet pointed to anything that’s wrong about our current policy.
    Is there a need to debate something at conference that is already settled policy?”

    The short answer is – well that depends on the message the policy is designed to illustrate and substantiate?

    I think this illustrates a big part of the challenge.
    I’m getting the impression that the party generally thinks, communicates and acts back to front.
    Everything seems to revolve around policy formation which is then desperately attempted to be woven into messages that will hopefully illicit an emotional response with the electorate?

    I believe the Lib Dem’s need to lock down the vision, the ‘I believe’ type stuff first. Then communicate a clear strategy/set of messages to both the members and the electorate in line with its values, the society it wants to create, the realities of the UK in 2017 (what is practical and will be seen as being so by the target section of the voters), and then and only then start to think about the policies needed to create that vision.

    It does raise another more fundamental question of : what should the conference actually be for/seek to achieve.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jul '17 - 8:22pm

    Mike, our party is never going to accept being ‘on message’, like the Blairist Labour Party. But you are writing it seems to me without proper knowledge of the party processes and recent history. We have many policies already worked out, which contributed to our Manifesto, and as AM observed, maybe in some areas they are still what we believe in and want to keep, and if updating is needed I suppose the Federal Policy Committee will look to that.

    You also ignore, probably are unaware of, the deep work that goes into producing the motions prepared by the FPC itself. They have established working groups, and invited the membership to consider if others are needed, and to apply to join these working groups if they have relevant experience or expertise. But it doesn’t stop there. The working group on welfare had extensive consultations before bringing that excellent motion passed by the Brighton Conference, and so I suppose do the others. I know the working group on the economy does, because they had special consultative sessions at the Spring conference for everyone there, in addition to taking on board questions and suggestions raised in articles and comments here on LDV, and they publicised their willingness to receive other suggestions from members and supporters. I am disappointed only not to see the fruits of their labours in a comprehensive motion for Bournemouth, but I suppose the suddenness of the GE campaign must have prevented its completion.
    By all means let us have further ways, digital and otherwise, of aiding both the FPC and FCC, allowing continual and better inputs from members, but they both do fine work for the party, in ways I have observed improving over the last two years.

  • @ Zoe O’Connell

    I would hope no minutes of a meeting would be 40,000 words long. (I took minutes for an English Party consultation session in 2001 and I only have 1250 words for the session. Therefore if the Conference Committee Meeting lasted 8 hours this would only be 10,000 words.) If the advice given is written, it can be pasted into the minutes, as could the wording of the motion if it was decided the wording was needed. The only way we could settle this would be for someone to actually produce such minutes. I wish it could be me.

    If online streaming is Conference sessions on the internet, then I agree it needs improving, to be not only available to watch live, but to be available in session sections for watching after conference has finished for the day or week. For example, so I could watch sessions of Conference after midnight and days afterwards.

    @ Mike S

    Our beliefs are almost eternal, but a strategy has to change, hence here today and gone tomorrow. We know what we believe and our values, it is called liberalism. Our vision must be built on our liberalism and our policies need to be created from our liberalism.

    Having a clear narrative is important. It is also important that our policies fit into this narrative. I don’t think strategy should dictate policy and if it did I would want to change it.

    The members at Federal Conference make policy. The Conference Committee does not make policy. It is not dictating the strategy; it is only trying to ensure that our policy makes sense. I have made some suggestions to improve the system.

    You wrote, “The Federal Board in my view needs to ensure that their strategy and vision is embedded in everything that other committee’s and the members then do”

    This is not my view. It is not the role of the Federal Board to dictate to any member what that member can submit to conference to change our policy, our constitution or the standing orders. The power must be with the members. Our liberalism should be embedded in everything we do, policies, vision, strategy and how we run the party and respond to members.

    I agree more needs to be done to get members involved directly with policy creation and part of this will be via the internet or other virtual conferring.

  • “The power must be with the members”

    The logical conclusion of this statement is that you reject leadership? expert opinion? and above all, therefore accept the result of the referendum which is directly against then Lib Dem’s USP?

    PS: Michael just to clarify, I have followed you and respect your input.
    You appear one of the most balanced and if I can say so consistent people here.
    However, I’m becoming more confused by the day on how your vision can possibly be practical and relevant in Britain in 2017.

    I follow this website closely, but I’m at the stage now I think where I have to admit, I’m not at all sure what the Lib Dem vision for Britian actually looks like.

    I’d also take a fair bet that if I feel this way, f(ollowing as closely as I do), what are the other 45-60,000 new members/rejoiners thinking/feeling?

  • @ Michael BG
    meaning that if you believe in giving ‘power back to the people” and a referendum is called which results in those people democratically casting their vote a certain way, how can the Lib Dem party then not respect the result? We simply come across as hypocritical and against our own philosophy. You can’t give power back to the people and then cry foul when they exercise that power in a way you don’t like or don’t believe

    So maybe it’s not wise to assume everyone is equally qualified to take important decisions they know little about?

    This is another problem, the Lib Dems in its current form
    They think that by giving power back to the people, that those people will make good decisions – but they won’t, at least not on the scale of a political party or a large population.
    That’s why you need leadership and expert opinion, otherwise you get no direction. Community politics is great, but it does not scale to national level – at least not in the way the Lib Dems are trying to do it at the moment.
    So people don’t know what the key message(s) are and do not vote for us in enough numbers to make a difference.

    @Kathrine Pindar
    “our party is never going to accept being ‘on message’,”

    Then the party will die and simply be squeezed out by forces that do understand the important of National messages that resonate emotional with the voter and the policies that back them up.
    This party has to find a way of translating the community politics that served it well in a world which no longer exists, to one which is driven by people who understand that evolution is needed. That means leadership – real leadership.

  • @ David Raw

    It is not the role of the Parliamentary Party to make policy and nor should it. This does not mean that “shadow” spokespersons can’t present papers for discussion at conference which leads to new policy as happened before 2010.

    @ Mike S

    In a democratic organisation the power can never be vested in the leadership, it is only a dictatorship that works that way. Leadership should not be about power. It should be about convincing people to support your vision and strategy not a leader who thinks he (or she) can dictate to the membership. From my management studies I would argue this is the best way to lead an organisation including a company.

    The idea of giving people power means that things should be decided by referendum is false. A representative democracy where it is easy for the elected representatives to be replaced would provide this. Smaller electorates would also help. It would be helpful if there was a ban on false news and representatives ensured that they presented the why of their decisions in a very open way. Therefore expert opinion is needed to assist the decision making process but not dictate it.

    You wrote, “So maybe it’s not wise to assume everyone is equally qualified to take important decisions they know little about?” Nearly everyone is qualified to make informed decisions about things that affect them. It is vital that they are well informed and do not base their decision on lies or misrepresentations.

    I don’t think there is a common vision of what a liberal Britain looks like. However the Liberal Democrats are the best vehicle to create my vision of a liberal Britain. Knowing that I can submit motions to conference to change policy or how we work is one of the main reasons I am a member. A party with a more powerful unaccountable leadership who dictates policy, strategy and the party vision is not a party I wish to be a member of. During the coalition we nearly became that party.

  • @ Michael BG
    Many thanks for your reply Michael. I suspect we may have slightly different views on the role of leadership. However the main points I’ve been trying to get across are these:

    1. the fact is that the process is not coming up with policy aligned to a strategy should be a massive concern.

    2. We need to look at ways of encouraging more people to take part in the policy making process – so a big part of it almost certainly needs to go online

    3. If you can think of any organisation where strategy is determined by juniors I’d be amazed. Surely democracy is not about everyone formulating policy but that they can fire the leader (s), if they fail to deliver.
    A leader does not have to be/should not be a dictator. Neither though is it desirable that everyone in the team suddenly assumes the role of ‘expert’ on every policy, is my view.

    4. At the moment you appear to have a few individuals/groups submitting drafts/motions to a committee who are selecting it (or not) based on how well it is drafted and with seemingly (even with the well drafted ones), little or no consideration as to whether they substantiate or illustrate the key messages the party wishes to get across.
    I’m not even sure what the key messages are at present. That is surely crazy.

    5. In deciding to accept or reject motions the FCC is automatically making strategic decisions unless there a strategic overview from the FPC/FB is applied. This has to be wrong surely.

  • Mike S.
    You clearly have a very different view to me of what it means to be a member of a democratic Political Party. If I had wanted to be a forelock tugging ‘Junior’ I would have been more at home in the Conservative Party or New Labour. I still enjoy the memory of the pompous Tory MP who unsuccessfully tried to tell me in a Commons debate that I was a ‘subject of her Majesty’.

  • Ok Paul – maybe not the best term to choose.

    How do councils work? – unelected members are consulted yes, but who is responsible for policy formation?
    Why should this be any different at national level?
    What % of the members actually attend conference?
    What is the parties attitude to “expert opinion”?
    How truly democratic is the process at present?

    Has the party been doing things the same way, for so long, it has ceased to really challenge what it assumes is the best method of getting itself elected.
    I would ask if the process at present is even the most democratic one?

    Then you presumably start to get into a debate about representative democracy? and the whole leadership issue?

    Just throwing a few challenges out there 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Jul '17 - 1:36am

    ‘We know what we believe and our values, it is called liberalism… our vision must be built on our liberalism and our policies be created from our liberalism.’ So wrote Michael B.G. above, beautifully, it seems to me.
    ‘They (the policies) may satisfy the values and belief system, but are not anchored by any clear message that I can see.’ writes Mike S. above – seemingly not seeing that the message IS in the values and belief system underlying our policies.
    ‘Liberal Democrats need to lock down the vision stuff first’, Mike also wrote, as if we are not aware of our vision. He fears that our party may be squeezed out by not having ‘national messages that resonate emotionally with the voter and the policies that back them up’.
    Even if we did not have them, Mike, how has that worked for the two big parties? ‘Strong and secure’ was I seem to remember Mrs May’s message in the General Election (or was it steadfast or safe, I can’t recall the meaningless words), and that emotional message resonated until one of her policies fell out of favour and began her destruction: no solidity apparent there. As for Labour, the emotional messages for the Election were linked to Socialist policies that the leadership had never spelt out before and half the party probably disagreed with. So has the success of the two parties arisen from the marketing methods you advocate? Certainly not from strong leadership!

    Depend upon it, although we will of course continue to improve our communications and update them suitably, the Liberal Democrats are strongly rooted and have great capacity for healthy growth. Which is more than can be said of their vacillating, vacuous rivals.

  • @ Katharine
    Hi Katharine. OK thanks for engaging.
    “seemingly not seeing that the message IS in the values and belief system underlying our policies”
    No it isn’t Katharine. As we’ve been discussing for weeks, people make political
    decisions based primarily on emotion rather than reason. In any decision-making how people feel about the information they’re being given is paramount.
    So the messages are the stuff that brings the policies and the values to life, for the people you are trying to reach. So, that voters know what you stand for in ways that are tangible to them and cause a positive gut reaction towards you. The policies are the “what” the messages are the ‘why’.
    You have to tell a ‘story’ that gives the voters a sense of unity and purpose and optimism that gives your policies a clear and tangible framework. Then they start to understand what it is you’r trying to do for them. How your policies are attempting to help them solve their problems. Then they will have less cause to ask “why should I vote for them, I don’t really know what they stand for.

    ” as if we are not aware of our vision.”

    It matters not one jot, whether we know what our vision is or not.
    What matters is that the voters know, and they clearly don’t (or if they do, don’t agree with it, or trust it or what they see is not making them feel safe)

    “strong and stable” didn’t work because the messenger didn’t reflect the message, which rather makes the point.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Jul '17 - 6:01pm

    Hi, Mike, I think there is a real confusion in what you are putting over – much of which has a surface attraction – owing to your imprecise use of language. ‘These are but wild and whirling words, my lord’, to some extent. Image, vision, idea, emotion, identity, message, meaning, brand, policy, strategy … it’s like a crowd of pretty butterflies circling round my head. But as I said on the other thread, You can’t trap an image in a few words, like a butterfly killed and pinioned in a case. And I think our friend Michael B.G. has done a very good job above in trying to clarify for you how things are actually worked out in our party.
    Because of using words so lightly, I think you are muddling categories. To my idea of ‘an image .. is alive, it is…shifting and changing shape all the time’ you responded, ‘Which is why a party which is inflexible, stuck in heavy process-driven procedures without any clear direction and leadership does not cut through to it’s (sic) potential voters.’ Can’t you see, Mike, though I am no logician, that reply is not appropriate to the idea presented? We can discuss ideas, images, visions on the one hand, on the other the processes of the party, but they don’t fit together in words like that.

    So yes, we know our democratic liberalism as feelings and ideas, and we also know how as Michael explained we can then produce policies, we the members, by working out how to confront the problems and improve the prospects of our country. The policies suggested and then passed at Conference are brought together by our central elected bodies and our staff, and from them working together with our leaders who are also on the committees, a strategy is formed, and tactics developed.

    The public, meanwhile, from our present actions and announcements combined with their existing understanding of what we are about, derive their attitudes to us. It all starts though with that vision we have, and that image they have of us. I hope this is a tiny bit meaningful, and others better equipped can perhaps build on it?

  • Katharine
    I’ve done what I can and fed in my thoughts.
    It’s for others now to decide how to progress.

    The present committee based system does not work
    The voters do not know what the party stands for.
    The core vote is tiny and collapses completely under any pressure.

    It’s for the strategists in the party to now decide what they want to do.

    My only hope is that the present Silo/committee based system is disbanded because it clearly does not work and is not truly representative of the membership.

    At the very least, the whole thing needs go go online so that consultation is much wider, innovation is not stifled and people not able to get to conference (workers, members with young families are 2 groups almost certainly not represented fully) spring to mind
    Otherwise you get the same cohort voting on policy constantly. That is simply not democratic

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Jul '17 - 11:48pm

    Mike, I feel sure the party will always value people who have put as much time and honest effort into trying to help us as you have. Don’t think it’s all been wasted; when earlier this month you wrote more simply, I for one wrote some of it down, and thought about it – for instance when you wrote, ‘I think our policy-making process is too far removed from our voters’, and, ‘I think we need to find innovative ways of allowing them to tell us what they think’ . More direct communication of voters’ needs and wants, and also more chance for members to make themselves heard (since as you say lots of people can’t get to Conference), are surely among important suggestions you have made. You would be surprised how many notes I personally have gathered and kept from your comments over the past year – I have learnt a lot from you, Mike.

    But I also feel a bit sad that we can’t agree now, because I have really valued the way you have communicated on LDV; you seemed in the past so interested, open-minded, and really encouraging to others, that you stood out in that way. Hence I have always felt goodwill and kindness towards you, really in gratitude for your humane and generous approach, and I want to record that because my acerbic comments lately might have led you to think otherwise. We have both sharpened up, and I can’t help but feel that your marketing nohow has narrowed your views, but my regard for you remains – along with the notes I kept! I think you will come back later and will be welcome. What do I know, after all? We both care for this party.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    Thank you for your kind words.

    @ Mike S

    We have a different view of what a strategy is. A strategy is “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term aim” https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/strategy.

    In the past our long-term aim was to replace Labour as the alternative to the Conservatives. While I think this would be good, I am not convinced it is achievable. Our long-term aim now should be to achieve over 20% of the vote and get more than 60 MPs elected so we can implement our policies to move Britain in the direction of being more liberal. To achieve replacing Labour we wanted to become the main opposition in Conservative seats and win Labour seats. Naturally our policies should not be seen as Conservative, because in the nineteenth century we were the main alternative to the Conservatives. If we were discussing a conservative policy at Federal Conference hopefully we would not pass it. I would accept that the role of the leadership is to take part in conference policy debates to point out why the policy being discussed furthers liberalism and is an alternative to the Conservative Party’s policy. In the past the leadership has failed to do this and has supported conservative policies and even ones that agree with the Conservative Party. The leadership are too concerned with having policies that conform to the current orthodoxy. When our leadership fails it is down to the members to take up the task of pointing out and achieving liberal and not conservative policies.

    There are surprisingly many members who do not wish to get involved in policy formation and we should not be forcing members to get involved. However opening up the process would be a good idea and we need to get elected on the Federal Committees people who wish to do this and not be put off by expense or perceived difficulties. If we think getting more people involved was a very high priority we would find the money and expertise to put into place methods of involving the members more in a meaningful way.

    The party is “owned” by the members and so as the “owners” it is them or those elected by them who should set the strategy and not people who have been elected by the general public to represent a particular area.

  • I dislike the idea of electing one person as leader who makes the decisions, I call it an elective dictatorship and it is not true democracy. Also we have a problem of the membership being able to remove leaders. While there is a process [see Article 10.2 (f)], it failed in 2014 when it was most needed.

    When I was a councillor I thought consultation exercises didn’t give the residents the power to make their own decisions. The councillors often didn’t support what the residents wanted. For me this was a problem.

    We have recently changed from representative democracy to One Member, One Vote for internal elections and every member can attend and vote at conference not just those who had become voting representatives as in the past.

    While I accept that we have not got a readily identifiable image. The problem is not our structures. The Federal Board was only set up this year and is going to bring to conference a motion setting out our strategy following a “consultation” (online survey) for 6 ½ weeks starting on 6th April. Before we change the structures again we need to give the current new structure time to work.

  • The absence of openness and transparency – without which any meaningful accountability is impossible – is both obvious and disappointing here. These decisions are effectively determining which changes to party policy might or might not be made, yet we don’t have access to the details of the proposals, the party’s professional advice, or who voted for them and who did not.

    No local council would be allowed to operate in such a secret and unaccountable way. Credit to Zoe for publishing what she has, but truly she is simply highlighting the problem rather than providing much of the solution.

  • @ Katharine Pindar
    Thank you for your kind words also Katharine.
    If you are spending time writing down some of my musings, you have way too much time on your hands 🙂

    @ Michael BG
    Michael – thanks for your clarification.

    I don’t think we are too far apart on our definitions of strategy? I
    If we are then I’ve misinterpreted you earlier.
    On our long term aim – agreed it must be to get the core vote to around 20%. Without this we will never make any real progress.
    Strategies to me, are the specific actions you decide to take to achieve your goals – the road map if you like to get to your destination.
    So it’s thinking about the who?, what?, why?, and how?
    So who are your Target group, what are your key overall messages for them (what’s the story, why should anyone vote for you), which policies best support them. How best to communicate them. etc

    I have no issue with the new Federal board which I understand to be a kind of “board of directors” if you like? As long as they hold the strategy and the expertise (or can source it), then I believe that’s a good thing. The leader I assume is on the board?

    It’s the next bit I don’t see from the evidence above as working.
    The minute you start to create Silo’s and decision–making through a series of committees then you’re in trouble.
    Innovation tends to get squeezed out in the need to establish consensus and unless there is a very tight and clear direction given from the board, the vision and strategy can easily be squeezed out too.
    The decisions above seem to indicate this is indeed happening, as the motions suggested appear to have no coherence and relevance to the key messages that I can see in Vince’s manifesto, which presumably are the key priorities for the party going forward from here?

    The next bit is what system will work better?
    This I think not obvious, as I can see that the OMOV system introduced since 2014, could also create issues in direction.
    Even if the motions selected were all in line with the strategy the FB felt was the best to grow the core vote, this system of effectively giving every member who attends conference equal say, could result in policies crucial to the parties future direction and growth being voted down by enough members not understanding the overall strategy, vision or direction (or indeed not agreeing with it).

    PS: I may come up again the comment flood wall now, if so I’ll complete when I can

  • However, given that conference represents only a small % of the membership and almost certainly is skewed to older members (retired?) this is not good. It could be argued they are the ones most likely to be invested in the states quo and least likely to be innovative (although I accept that is a generalisation).
    The social v economic dimension will not be resolved this way and innovation is unlikely to arise this way either.
    So you could just put the whole party and it’s decision making online (as Paddy has suggested), to gain maximum networking, maximum chance of innovation being captured and maximum chance of participation.
    But this to me risks “expert opinion” being lost, which I think is important – hence the FB as I understand it.
    I’m not certain what the answer is, partly as I’m not sure how everything works exactly and I’ve not been to conference.
    However, what does seem clear to me at least, is that this system is not it.
    Whether the FB (as you mention above will be able to help give a clearer steer) is open to debate I guess.
    My worry is that you now have 3 layers of fragmentation rather than two, mostly London centric and I’m not sure whether the innovation will arise from there. As has been said elsewhere, nearly every example of disruptive innovation comes from the margins (Bill Le Bretons “garage politics” I think was trying to address this).

    The challenge I think is how to ensure the margins are not lost/captured whilst maintaining democracy, expert input into specific policy areas and above all everything needs to work together to create a central, empowering vision that resonates with our target voters.
    I also do think at present, that policy formation is too far removed form the target voters. How we capture that element without becoming populist is another challenge I think.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Jul '17 - 8:02pm

    Zoe, could you let us know, please, why the Economy Working Group has not apparently produced as expected a policy motion for Bournemouth? I went to the consultative session in York and heard about other research and inputs afterwards, and that there was expected to be a motion ready for this September’s Conference. Having been impressed by hearing of so much work being put into this, I was disappointed not to see a result appearing as yet. Our economic policy does seem in need of development, and our new leader is ‘ambitious for Britain’s economy’, as indeed we might expect of him. I hope we are not simply waiting for his guidance, though! There have been many useful suggestions for our economic policy development made here on LDV also.

  • @ Mike S

    Perhaps I should write an article with some suggestions for our strategy which includes our narrative as I expect not many people are reading this thread now.

    The Leader is on the Board. You can find our constitution here – https://www.libdems.org.uk/constitution. I note the Leader section is not 10 anymore it is 17. Our constitution was amended greatly at the September 2016 conference and I hadn’t realised the extent of the changes.

    I don’t think that everyone only votes for political parties for what they promise to do for them. Therefore our policies should provide for the creation of a liberal Britain. Our target voter is anyone who shares our vision.

    I am not sure if you accept the liberal view of humanity – that people will makes choices for the good of everyone given the facts and the right encouragement. This means that people working in a committee are more likely to come up with a solution for the good of all than an individual acting alone.

    We do not make policy in silos. It is made by Federal Conference in public.

    I don’t think there is any evidence that older members are less radical than younger ones. In the past we have had radical policies. I don’t think there is any evidence that we would have more radical policies if it was dictated by the leadership rather than made by the members at conference. I hope that our youth movement will come up with radical policies. In the past it has been the leadership who have opposed radical policies. As you say the “margins” provided our radicalism in the past via our conference.

    It would be a failure of liberal leadership if liberal policies were voted down because of lack of understanding. It would be a communication problem. It should not be pushed aside and a dictatorship imposed, even if an elected dictatorship.

    If Federal conference was wholly online there would be an income hit for the Federal Party and there would still be the issue with who can “attend” virtually. I expect school teachers will still have problems “attending” and I expect there will be other groups. It is not the answer. Greater involvement including virtual and online involvement is the solution. The problem is achieving, administrating and managing this greater involvement (at I expect greater cost to the party).

  • @ Michael BG
    “Therefore our policies should provide for the creation of a liberal Britain. Our target voter is anyone who shares our vision.”

    So, here’s the biggest challenge – I believe most voters do not know what your vision of a Liberal Britain looks like.

    I asked you further up the page “what does a Liberal Britain look like – it was a deliberate question. You said:
    “I don’t think there is a common vision of what a liberal Britain looks like.”

    And therein lies the problem, hardly anyone appears to. It’s a big part of:
    why the core vote is tiny
    why only 7.4% just voted for the party,
    why so many of these threads get longer and longer and longer.
    why if you ask them to sum up in a couple of sentences the LibDems hardly anyone can (and neither can most people here)!

    There IS no agreement, there is no vision at the moment that can be articulated and communicated with any clarity to the electorate

    At present Liberals are simply not being heard!

    Someone said the other day, trying to pin Liberals down to anything clear they all agree on is like ‘herding cats’ (or words to that effect).
    The problem is, that for people who don’t engage with politics very much that just leads to total confusion. So we come full circle.
    That’s why I have been attempting (in vain I think), to try to encourage much tighter communication of the key messages and vision.

  • and the policies that come out of those messages and vision, giving the Lib Dems a CLEAR identity which is DIFFERENT to the tories or labour……

    otherwise the left of the party may as well go of and join the right wing of labour and fight for their EU vision there and the right to the left wing of the tory party and fight for their similar vision there.

    As no-one can divine what a Liberal Britain looks like, the Liberal dimension is simply irrelevant to 94% of voters.
    So the situation in this party looks hopeless unless it can divine to the electorate what it stands for and believes in a tangible way which they understand clearly – full circle.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Jul '17 - 7:55pm

    Mike (hi again!), I think this is not a question of herding cats, but of accepting complexity. It’s something I have to live with all the time, in my profession of one-to-one counselling, so I am used to it. Our party is richly complex, but there is a continuity of values which we can read again in the long Preamble to the Constitution.

    Do the two largest parties anyway have clear identities? I doubt it, if you take into account the recent Tory success with working-class and elderly voters and those of ‘closed personalities’, and the Labour winning of educated middle-class people of more open and outward views.

    But I also don’t accept that voters don’t have much idea of our identity. I was struck for instance by an op-ed by Deborah Orr in yesterday’s Guardian, which at first made depressing reading, until I realised that she had a pretty good idea of what we are about, and in fact was lamenting what she believed we had lost. (It is not too late, Deborah, but you’re right we do need Proportional Representation.) Vince Cable with his pithy sayings should meantime increase popular knowledge of us.

  • @ Mike S

    Until the coalition our percentage share of the vote was growing from 16.8% in 1997 to 23% in 2010. I am not sure that the Labour Party or the Conservative Party have a clear vision for what a Labour or Conservative Britain would look like. Their core vote is based on interests and class and they appeal outside their core vote with policies and the image of their leadership.

    Just because there is no narrative and no clear vision to be presented to the electorate of what a liberal Britain looks like does not mean that our recently reformed system is broken. We are working on it.

    In another thread you wrote, “When I was trying to decide which party was the best fit for me, the Lib Dem’s and Labour were very close (the tories (sic) were miles behind, so I think I can discount that option). However, like many recently, what finally tipped me over the edge was the Lib Dem’s stance on the EU. Coupled with the fact I have an ecology degree and am passionate about the environment, it appeared to me obvious which party was the best fit?”

    When I joined the party I didn’t know much about our political philosophy, but by attending Federal Conferences I learnt about it and discovered that I was a liberal. I think you have stated that you joined in November last year and you haven’t attended a Federal Conference. I suggest that you should attend some Federal Conferences to discover if you do agree with our political philosophy. For many of us the party should embody our political philosophy in how it is run. I think that in 2010 we had many people in the party including amongst the MP’s who rejected this idea and almost despised the membership (I recall being shocked about what David Laws wrote about the membership in his book 22 days in May). There is the idea within the party that it is only by our party being run according to our philosophy that when we get MPs and Councillors elected that they will be able to implement our polices to achieve this for the country or council.

  • @ Katharine
    “Do the two largest parties anyway have clear identities?”
    Hi Katharine:
    Clear enough for the vast majority of the population to vote for them, it would seem.

    “But I also don’t accept that voters don’t have much idea of our identity.”

    In all the time I’ve been commenting here, I’ve met very few people arguing this.
    If voters were clear, they would surely vote for the party in much higher numbers – unless of course, they don’t like/agree with the perceived identity.

    @ Michael BG

    Michael thanks for your kind advice. You of course are correct. I can’t get to conference this autumn, but would love to next year if possible.
    Of course things would be very different if so much more was online (which we’ve already discussed, so no point going over old ground).

    Renewing my membership (or not) next year, I suspect may come down more to perceived intransigence than anything else.
    It will be interesting in a couple of years to look back over many of these recent strategy/policy type threads, to see what actually happened.

    Maybe this thread is now long enough and should be allowed to die gracefully?
    My feeling is that we will not get much further. Reading over it again, I have nothing else that may be helpful, that I think I can add at this stage to what has already been said.
    It is for others now to decide whether any of this time and effort we have all made here has been perceived as been useful.

  • David Evans 24th Jul '17 - 9:55am

    Hi Katharine,

    I must agree with Mike S, I don’t think we have a clear identity with the public any more, but the other parties all do. Ultimately it isn’t a list of specific policies, but more of an understanding or a trust in what that party will do in general terms when in power.

    If you ask people what the Conservatives will do, they will talk of the economy, law and order, defence and low taxation. For Labour it will be the NHS, protecting the less well off, supporting the workers and unions. The SNP, PC, the Greens or UKIP will be trusted on their key areas too. And I would contend, you will get the same answer whether the person you speak to supports the party or not. Conservative voters don’t usually agree that benefits need increasing, but they know what Labour will do, 9 times out of 10.

    But for the Lib Dems? It’s all a bit complicated. Liberty? Well I am free now. Community? Well I like my part of town, its parks, night life or whatever. Equality??

    How about the best decision based on the facts at the time??

    This is the problem the Liberals faced for about 50 years from the arrival of the Labour party in the early 20th Century. And up to the 1950s we didn’t have a clue what to do as the party collapsed.

    Then Jo Grimond came along and set us on a journey where we spent the next 50 years building an identity from the bottom up, based on representing the local community to the best of our abilities – We work for you.

    And we did work and it did work. Slowly at first, but then with increasing success. In Truro until it covered the rest of Cornwall. In North Devon, in Yeovil and out into the rest of Somerset, the Scottish borders, the Highlands, in mid Wales and increasingly in the rest of England.

    People knew we worked for them, as their representative on the council or in parliament. It was a better way of doing politics, based on our promise to do the best we could for local people.

    We even spread out wider and identified that young people were particularly badly done to, and we had a clear commitment to them on Tuition fees. And then came coalition. And our leadership chose being on the side of the Conservatives in government as being more important than being on the side of our communities.

    And that is where we are now.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jul '17 - 6:30pm

    @ David Evans. Hi, David, just spotted your comment. But no, that is not where we are now! Aren’t you in Tim’s constituency and are you forgetting already the progress we have made under Tim’s leadership? I agree that our identity may be seen as a bit vague, apart from our identification with staying in Europe, but I think the image of it has brightened under Tim. And I do contend that the other main parties are shifting identity, because of the way each of them appealed to new tribes in the elections. However, we probably need to pursue any such questions on other threads now. Thanks for writing. 🙂

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