Grassroutes to Government – a new Lib Dem activists’ network launches today.

A new network of grassroots activists under the leadership of the veteran peer, Roger Roberts, has been formed to develop communications with the party’s senior management. and parliamentarians.

 Grassroutes to Government is drawn from across the membership and we launch today via a virtual launch on all the party’s social media platforms.

We can already point to a range of new lines of communication that will ensure the members have a clearer voice and we expect to have continuing discussions to underpin the importance of our activists.

Planning for the new group began soon after Federal Conference in Birmingham last September. Roger Roberts says:

 “Pressure to set up a grassroots network came from individual colleagues in the  conference bars and cafes and then from blogs and bloggers galore, candidates at PCA meetings, councillors around the regions and at ALDC and LGA meetings and, significantly, from activists right across the party. It was clear that an unease about our internal communications since we joined the Coalition was matched by a very strong will to do something about it.”

Roger was elected chair of the interim executive which includes parliamentary candidates, councillors and activists with a geographic spread of Berkshire, Kent, London, Birmingham, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Wales and with party experience ranging from two years to almost sixty.

We have started as we mean to go on with a series of discussions with key figures in the party hierarchy, including President Tim Farron, Chief Executive Tim Gordon.  Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the Parliamentary Party Lorely Burt, HQ Chief of Staff Tim Snowball and the Leader’s Senior Political Adviser Matthew Hanney.

Each of those conversations proved fruitful and perhaps surprising for any group of cat-like, un-herdable Liberal Democrats, we reached a unanimous resolution to strengthen two-way communications and underpin the importance of grassroots activists.

I emerged as interim director with the brief to get the network off the ground.

Our immediate plan is, of course, to develop a broad base of activists who will, I’m sure, expose all the inevitable pressure points in our post-Coalition organisation. Where we can see a resolution, we will seek the co-operation of the appropriate SAO in managing it.

An example of that is the range of new opportunities to integrate candidates more effectively with the parliamentary team. Martin Turner, the Parliamentary Candidates chair, has described it as “opening a new door” for candidates and the PCA will now assume leadership in making it work.

On the wider front, we are currently costing a new way of testing party opinion. Our IT expert Steffan Aquarone is on the case and he assures me we will soon have access to an instant polling system that will allow anyone on the network to make their views known on key issues.

We have reminded ourselves that the whole party, with eyes wide open, voted in Birmingham for the coalition and therefore the whole party has an obligation to try and make it work. There should not be a them and us.

We are unequivocally not a rebel group, which doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes be rebellious. We are not anti anything, which doesn’t mean to say we won’t, at times, sound off about issues affecting activists. We will be sensitive to the views of the grassroots and react accordingly.

Initially, our aim is really quite boringly benign. We simply want to see a resumption of normal Liberal Democrat service so we can each fulfil our individual roles within our party.

We want to restore some democratic equilibrium.

There is no subscription fee and everyone is welcome to register via our modest website.

* Jock Gallagher is a writer, President of the West Midlands Region, founder editor of Who's Who in the Liberal Democrats and Interim Director of Grassroutes to Government

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19 Comments

  • Daniel Henry 12th Apr '12 - 4:06pm

    Signed up! 🙂

  • Sadie Smith 12th Apr '12 - 4:51pm

    This looks useful. Hope you enjoy running it.

  • Not bad idea, signed up

  • “activists with a geographic spread of Berkshire, Kent, London, Birmingham, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Wales”

    Once again the North is completely unrepresented. Clearly the party is not interested in OUR views!

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th Apr '12 - 6:36pm

    Very useful, and necessary.

  • Roger Roberts 12th Apr '12 - 8:45pm

    Come on in from North, South, East and West – of course you are not only welcome but vital. The voices and opinions of ev ery part of the UK are needed in our Grassroots movement. Don’t just grumble – JOIN>

  • Alun Griffiths 12th Apr '12 - 8:55pm

    I’m not so sure about this. It doesn’tmatter how clear the voice of activists is if it isn’t listened to. It isn’t as if teh parliamentary party couldnt have asked local parties, council group leaders and interest groups if they wanted to hear what activists felt in the past. The problem appears to have been that when views were asked or more often volunteered they were pretty well ignored

  • Peter Watson 12th Apr '12 - 10:36pm

    I’m not a party member, but my view from the outside is that at the recent Spring Conference, the party leadership attempted to manipulate the terms of debate over NHS reforms, failed to secure support for its proposals, and then ignored the members.
    This does not fill me with optimism that the scheme described above will successfully “develop communications with the party’s senior management. and parliamentarians”: it appears that that group does not want to listen.

  • Jock, you are aware I hope that the party already has a free polling engine, Liberty Research, set up specifically to allow organisations like this to test member and public opinion. It’s what LDV use to do all their excellent member surveys. A number of MPs use it on their supporter databases. So spare your poor IT resource and Treasurer some duplicate effort and cost!

  • Tony Dawson 13th Apr '12 - 2:06am

    I am not sure that the advocates of this ‘new form of communication’ have communicated too well what they are actually offering.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Apr '12 - 8:17am

    Best wishes and good luck Jock.
    Taking Tony’s point a step forward:
    It is worth admitting that every public protestation by the Coalition has at some point in time received a green light from a group that includes a Liberal Democrat.
    At the peak of the decision making triangle is the Quad, but similar meetings operate for every decision. If they don’t then the Party in government has learnt nothing from our experience over thirty years in local government.
    One would hope that before these bi-party meetings take place our ‘people’ in a pre-meeting take a party position and develop a negotiating strategy.
    Given the times that the resulting decision has been poor politics (sometimes just for Lib Dems but sometimes for both parties to the Coalition), one has to wonder how much Liberal Democrat political and campaigning intelligence is brought to bear at the stage of the Lib Dem pre-meeting?
    Perhaps SPADS are great on policy, but the evidence is that they and those they advise are not so good on the campaigning implications of their potential decisions and in knowing the likely Party reaction.
    What is needed and what I hope your pressure group might consider pressing for is a role for the Party President (in the form of a team/panel he has put together) in contributing two skills:
    1. predicting and presenting how the Party will react
    2. assessing the political impact of the decision
    This would be an excellent service to Government decision taking and to the Party.
    Good luck.
    B

  • Delighted to see this. I’d spoken at Spring conference last year re internal communications; had a question to FE at autumn conference; had a string of questions for this spring conference that got lost, so not allowed to ask, but did go to the Tim Gordon meeting and raised concerns there. Surprised nobody asked me about joining then, but I’ve signed up now (although the website won’t let me in 🙁
    I’ll keep trying (as always!)

  • Paul Holmes 13th Apr '12 - 1:33pm

    In principle I support anything that improves communication between the ‘grass roots’ and the Leadership (however widely that is defined). So I have signed up to this website/email group although I note that a)No proof of membership was required so how will its views be confined to those of members (let alone grass roots) as claimed? b) As Suzanne notes the website doesn’t allow access! c) As Tony Dawson notes ‘it is not at all clear what is on offer’ -what we are signing up to?

    So far this article tells us that a self appointed group (drawn from English constituencies south of Birmingham plus one person from Wales) has had a series of fruitful discussions with Leadership figures and that the ‘Grass roots’ group is for those who want to make the Coalition work.

    So not yet a grass roots group that includes the North of England or Scottish constituencies, A group that has had ‘fruitful discussions’ -about what as they have not yet sought grass roots opinion on anything? A grass roots group that ‘is not’ for grass roots members who oppose the Coalition. What about those of us who voted for the Coalition at Birmingham, who support the need for Coalition now, but who object to the former ‘Rose Garden’ presentation strategy and to the breaches of the Coalition agreement (such as the agreements proviso that LD MP’s could abstain on Tuition Fees policy based on the Browne Report but who were instead ordered to vote for a trebling of Fees)? Are we ‘acceptable’ grass roots -or not?

  • Jennie Rigg 14th Apr '12 - 9:22am

    Overwhelmingly male and southern, I notice. If you can’t speak to well-known and well-positioned activists outside your purview before setting up, it doesn’t bode well for your ability to put THEIR views to the leadership, does it? And the male and Southern are already pretty well catered for, from what I can see. Still, it’s nice of you to let ANYONE sign up to be fed emails about what you’ve already done on our behalf without asking any of us.

    Frankly, I get enough of those from the leadership…

  • Steffan Aquarone 14th Apr '12 - 1:10pm

    Some very valuable feedback, thanks. I’ve posted a few thoughts on http://forum.libdemvoice.org/viewtopic.php?t=5126 (I have posted on page 3 – you will need to me a member and to register at http://forum.libdemvoice.org/profile.php?mode=register in order to see)

  • Jock Gallagher 14th Apr '12 - 2:35pm

    Give us a break guys. We have to start somewhere and as it happened the initial executive simply represents those on the spot at the time. The object of a launch – which included a densely-packed four-page tabloid offering extensive background, objectives etc – was to widen our baseline as quickly and effectively as possible (and it’s already happening with the likelihood of doubling the strength of the interim executive). Anyone who hasn’t seen the tabloid and would like a copy can email me on [email protected]
    We’re trying hard to set up some form of two-way communication between the grassroots and the leadership (and we have made considerable ground as we will report in future bulletins).
    Who thinks that’s not an essential?
    We’re not setting ourselves up to represent anyone’s views but to help anyone express their views with a chance of them being listened to. I’ve been a grassroots activist for nigh on sixty years (come September) and I know we’re a bunch of strong-willed, often bloody-minded individuals. I know better than to try to sell myself as a representative of anything except my personal liberal pedigree. Even in writing this I have to stress that the views are mine and not necessarily representative of the interim executive!
    Anyone who isn’t interested in what G2G hopes to do can ignore us with impunity.
    Anyone who is suspicious of our motives can test them in this or any other forum (although I guess LDV would probably happier if that happened on our own site). Anyone who things we’re not well-enough organised can come aboard and help us get things right. Constructive criticism is also very welcome and I’m sure the current LDV comments will be on our next agenda.
    As for our very noble chair Roger Roberts (from Wales) says, we welcome involvement from north, east, south and west. Join the network now.
    Jock Gallagher

  • Jock: A quick response to your comment about LDV – you and others are most welcome to continue that debate on LDV, if that’s what you prefer, both through guest posts on the site and our members-only discussion forum.

  • Jonathan Hunt 14th Apr '12 - 10:09pm

    Those who complain about the lack of a structure, constition, laws, by-laws, admission criteria, health & safety checkslists, disciplinary codes and a set rota for whose turn it is buy the drinks may be missing a simple point.

    Grassroutes to Government is not intended to be a prescriptive, pre-packed, ready-made orgnisation designed to follow the dictates of of a cadre of politically-motivated members.

    We want those who like the idea of party members having a greater say in how the party is run, and what strategies will be followed to get us about of the mess many think we are in. It is an embryo body ready to listen to those who are now joining us in significant numbers, and those who will soon follow in their more substantial droves.

    It would be arrogant in the extreme to lay down anything more than general principal and aims and objectives before we are representative of our geographical spread and of all the people we seek to represent. That work begins soon, with hopefully all you skeptics involved.

    The dilemma we faced was how soon do you open up a new group like this. We took the view that it should be as early as possible, as soon as we had members ready to take up interim appointment. I for one would be only too ready to be displaced by a more able newcomer. .

    Those of us who care deeply whether there will be a parliamentary party to communicate with after the next election believe we must enagage with the laedership now, before it is too late. We also believe that we can create mechanisms where members in the local groups can meet to discuss policy options, and make them known to the centre.

    So join in now and hep to make Grassroutes to Government a body that accurately reflects our name. Members actually involved in the routes we take to power.

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