Future Party Communications and Elections Committee Chair

Each new Federal Board elects someone to Chair the campaigning and communications function of the Party and having been re-elected for a cumulative period of 10 years in the role, I shall not be standing for a further three when the Federal Board elects the next Chair.

I was first elected as Chair of the Campaigns and Communications Committee (CCC) – the precursor to the current Federal Communications & Elections Committee (FCEC) – in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 General Election. Half the time since that the Party has been in Government in Westminster … and the other half seemingly dealing with the consequences.

Constitutional changes in 2016 ended the practice of the Leader appointing different individuals to Chair separate General, Local and European campaigns and transferred the responsibility to the elected Chair of the FCEC. Expectations at the time were that my first general election campaign would be in 2020. I relished the prospect – putting into practice all the learnings from 2015 would be a substantial task – but one which the Party was more than up to. Instead of which, I have served three Leaders and overseen two general elections, each of them called at short notice and in challenging circumstances.

This has been a huge part of my life over the past decade. And it’s now time for me to hand the baton to someone new. As things stand, it is reasonable to assume that the current Parliament will sit for its full term (possibly slightly shorter given an understandable desire to avoid a future December election). We will have a new Leader and hopefully time to operationalise and implement the learnings we will identify in the forthcoming review.

This is no less a challenging time to be overseeing the communications and campaigning functions of the Party than it was in 2010. While the Federal Board is the electorate, the position itself is open to all Party members.

It is a role that will bring you into frequent discussions with both Leader, Chief Whip and President, overseeing all federal elections and working closely with ALDC and the Parties in Wales, Scotland and England, plus responsibility for oversight of federal communications, branding and research. It works as the liaison with both Federal Policy and Federal Conference committees and plays a full role in them accordingly.

In what turned out to be the run up to the 2019 General Election this role was required to do face to face negotiations with other parties ahead of the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election and continued afterwards to conclude the Unite To Remain agreement with the Greens and Plaid Cymru.

There is rarely a dull moment, and all are essential to the way the Party fulfils its reason for being – to contest elections, increase our representation at all levels, reflect the society we serve, and to fight poverty, ignorance and conformity.

There’s a huge number of tasks I will have left off. But if you’re thinking of taking it on, then I’d be really happy to talk about what it involves in practice.

My final task will be to contribute to the general election review. December 2019 was a truly disappointing result and I know the review will be robust, detailed and insightful. It’s crucial we learn from what went wrong, as well as what we did well. Because, as we prove week after week in local government, we can most effectively change lives for the better when we’re in power.

I have had the undoubted privilege of working with some of the best politicians, staff and activists in the country, and have been supported, motivated and challenged (in equal measure) by some of the best committee members a Party can hope to have. I’ll continue to be a member of the Federal Board and look forward to playing my part in the future of our movement.

* James Gurling is Chair of the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee and the General Election campaign.

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  • Hear, hear

  • Nigel Hunter 17th Jan '20 - 10:31am

    Reading this info ,to me. it seems that it is a slow cumbersome operation that when it needs to act quickly cannot do it. When an election can be called anytime it seems not to be robust enough.

  • Graham Jeffs 17th Jan '20 - 11:05am

    It would also be useful to understand the management structure at party HQ and how this interfaces with this role.

  • David Evershed 17th Jan '20 - 4:55pm

    Let’s hope the new Chair works with local parties rather than against them.

  • “I know the review will be robust, detailed and insightful.”

    Rather a big platitude. How do you know this?

  • Cllr Llew Monger 18th Jan '20 - 8:40am

    Oh how I agree with David Evershed!

  • Good.

  • Alison Crawford 18th Jan '20 - 2:59pm

    I too agree with David Evershed. We really need to revolutionise our communications system to make it less frustrating for the troops on the ground.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jan '20 - 12:19am

    Thanks for all your immensely hard work in that enormous role, James. I remember gratefully that you found time to advise me, as a newly invigorated but rather lonely activist in a derelict constituency in 2015, and were always friendly and helpful if I sought advice ever after. I’m glad you will remain on Federal Board.

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