Introducing the Liberal Democrat Federalist Group

Federalism as an aim and a concept has a long history in the Liberal, and now the Liberal Democrat, Party. The benefits and feasibility of federalism have been much debated over the years and what has evolved from those debates not only forms the basis of our own party’s structure and governance but has also become part of our party’s constitution:

We believe that sovereignty rests with the people and that authority in a democracy derives from the people. We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and commit ourselves to the promotion of a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. We similarly commit ourselves to the promotion of a flourishing system of democratic local government in which decisions are taken and services delivered at the most local level which is viable.

To continue and expand the discussion, debate, avocation and championship of federalism and to develop the concept of a democratic federal framework a group of likeminded members joined together in May to form the Liberal Democrat Federalist Group – a group dedicated to promotion of the United Kingdom to become a Federal nation.

The group have developed five basic aims:

  • To promote and champion the United Kingdom becoming a federal state.
  • To discuss how federalism can best be applied in the United Kingdom.
  • To educate others on the merits of federalism and how it can benefit local communities in the United Kingdom.
  • To coordinate work already being done and work with relevant organisations within and outside the Liberal Democrats.
  • To share our knowledge, ideas and experience regarding federalism with others and to be a point of reference for educators and decision-makers.

Through these aims we are promoting federalism as the most viable and credible solution to a constitutional system that is no longer fit for purpose for the 21st century and beyond.

If you would like to know more please find us on Facebook:, on Twitter @LibDemFeds or email us at [email protected]

* Ian Thomas is the pseudonym for a party member. His identity is known to the Lib Dem Voice editorial team.

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  • Alex, are you equating English regions with the nations of Scotland , Wales or Northern Ireland , in which case I would not be as keen . Or do you want autonomy for the English nation as well as greater powers for localities .I believe the English Party , far from disappearing , should be more autonomous , as should England . I am neither a John of Gaunt figure , nor , even a Billy Brag on this , but party localist philosophy that does not understand the outrageously lopsided constitutional arrangements now in place , are doomed to see UKIP , win. Are you keen to see the Union last ?

  • Thank you for your clarification , am very interested , appreciate your comments, I feel very strongly its not , as you say , now fit for purpose , its a shambles. Only problem is so many inconsistencies , some favour mayors, some don’t , same re assemblies, I love diversity but with a governmental system some structure is needed. I , on this , like America s , solutions , with many aspects of democracy , not , needless to say on party funding or electioneering, but on federalism , they make sense .

  • Well feel free to join us on Facebook and on Twitter as it would be great if you were involved in the debate

  • I have to say I disagree slightly with Lorenzo. I can’t see any situation where having a four nation federal system can work. England is simply too large to be one state within a four state federation and will to be divided into separate states. Maybe these won’t have quite the same level of power/autonomy as Scotland, NI and Wales but England does need to be split. A good first step would be London – a city state on the same lines as the German city states, and Cornwall with it’s distinct regional identity. Both the LD parties in these areas could easily be separated from the ‘English’ LD party and become their own state parties.

    If people do go have down the route of a ‘four state solution’ there has to be an elected English leader, sitting under Tim Farron. The LDs keep talking about Federalism but it’s meaningless to the public if it doesn’t look any different from the Status Quo. Currently the LDs reflects the lopsided system of devolution and don’t look any different from Labour or the Tories.

  • The aims are a bit narrow. what about a Federal Union of Europe?

  • Anmaw , I think you actually make sense .But I do believe identity is important. I feel that IDENTITY POLITICS is lousy , agreed on that , with many in debates expressing it . However a sense of community is good , a shared place in a fragmented world. You pick areas that have it .Counties and cities do . I am a Londoner , born and bred , who has lived nearly fifteen years , mainly , in Nottingham . I have a sense of that . I have no sense of EAST MIDLANDS . A regional assembly , as a tier , extras like that , for me , as a Liberal , are cumbersome top heavy nonsense , as a democrat , are no more democratic . Your very valid point re size of England is one we need a solution to . Perhaps each county should upgrade to Assembly , and each of the , say , ten or fifteen major , in , size , cities. Then a parliament for Wales and Northern Ireland , and a binding securing of the Union , not as a referendum , through a uk parliament with proportional representation already agreed in a referendum or cross party manifesto . Then we can eat green cheese on the moon. And dr seuss can be our international poet , oh the things we shall make come true ……

  • A Social Liberal 15th Dec '15 - 11:05pm

    City regions should not be on the table. In order to be viable they absorb areas which are not within the cities boundaries and have no cultural ties to it. For instance, Sheffield City Region would absorb parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire as well as having the anomaly of taking in Barnsley – sixteen miles away.

    I would much rather see the policy voted for in the Yorkshire and Humberside conference enacted, that of a Greater Yorkshire assembly. This takes in the good and the bad of our area, so that the poorer rural areas and less affluent urban areas will be assisted by being in the same region as the more prosperous and so do not become second class. Personally, I would include those areas which were removed from Yorkshire but still self identify as being Yorkshire people – places like Barnoldswick, Darlington, Middlesboro etc.

  • This is all a bit anoracky.

    Are we ever going to get round to talking about real issues that affect ordinary people’s lives e.g. the Sports Direct scandal (see the reports in the Guardian), the huge growth in foodbanks and increasing inequality in this country ?

  • Hi David, thanks for your comment.

    Issues such as federalism, while not as dire and as urgent as topics such as the refugee crisis, food banks etc, are still important to campaign for in order to help bring about constitutional change. Such changes will not happen over night and just as with other other campaigns that fundamentally changed the political, social and cultural landscape I’m sure there were many others at the time who felt there were bigger fish to fry.

    I completely agree, the Liberal Democrats need to make sure we focus on issues that affect ordinary people’s lives but it needs to be remembered that issues of constitutional and electoral reform have a massive impact on how decisions hat affect ordinary lives are made.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Dec '15 - 9:39am

    Federalism is a bit anoracky, and I do think we need to be pragmatic and not purist about the forms it might take (although I can get as purist as the rest of ’em for my particularly preferences, if I but let it rip).

    But this is not ‘irrelevant’ to the ‘real issues’ raised above that might include of working conditions, pay levels, health and safety at work, measures to alleviate poverty, the role of charities (rightly or wrongly) in addressing social inequality, lacking planning and short-termism by local and central government. That is because all this is about how government services are effectively delivered, monitored and regulated and held to account. Structures, processes and boundaries all play a part in that, in some cases a critical part.

    So federalism is not irrelevant; otherwise we are just like doctors arguing about surface blemishes on a deformed arm, without being prepared to consider surgery to correct the underlying deformities.

  • Well said Matt. While there are so many pressing issues that the party needs to tackle in order to help those who need it, issues such as constitutional and electoral reform would not detract from that. In fact, it can help provide new solutions to many pre-existing problems through new ways of delivering services and making more people accountable to issues which previously people had help powerless to change.

  • @ Social Liberal “HANDS OFF DARLO” :

    Darlington has never ever belonged anywhere else but the “Land of the Prince Bishops” – County Durham. I hear rumbles from the grave of my Great Granddad and Granddad – so watch it !! We (or rather the SDP) failed to win the Darlington by-election in 1983 after being tipped to win it ………… if you pursue that particular hare I can guarantee that will remain the status quo indefinitely.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Dec '15 - 4:37pm

    David Raw and A Social Liberal – you have both just illustrated why it is barking for anyone to continue proposing any border changes / governmental changes in England (and possibly in the UK as a whole, but some of the ‘national borders’ are more defined than the ‘regional’ ones, but I have my doubts about the Welsh border) without some form of direct democratic choice as regards those borders for the potential citizens of any putative region / authority.

  • Kay Kirkham 16th Dec '15 - 5:37pm

    David Raw – we lost the Darlington By-election, having started as favourites, because the candidate, a local TV celebrity was, shall we say, not up to the job appearing to nothing about anything. Darlington seems to be increasingly looking towards Teesside rather than Co. Durham.

  • Lorenzo – I agree that some areas are more difficult than others, especially in the Midlands (although historically Mercia did have a strong regional identity). However London, Cornwall, Yorkshire all have great regional and cultural identities and proper devolved state LD parties arguing for greater autonomy and proper assemblies in these areas would be a good start.

    A social Liberal – I absolutely agree that city states/regions should be off the table. The only exception should be London, as a proper city state based on the German (or maybe Brussels) model, using an expanded GLA.

    David Raw/Matt Bristol- Yes it’s anoracky but if you don’t do it properly the public just aren’t going to see any difference between a Federal system, and the current horrendously lopsided devolution system we currently have in the UK.

  • @ Kay Kirkham

    I remember it very well, Kay. At the time I was the Liberal candidate in Richmond and we all hoped for a boost from the result. . I can still hear ‘Chariots of Fire’ now when I even think about it.

    The silly thing was that Darlington had a Liberal tradition through the Pease family – but Rodgers and Wrigglesworth of the SDP had to have it.. I remember he was savaged by the youngsters at Polam Hall School – and Vincent Hanna. You’ll know what I mean when I say ‘too many Cooks spoilt the broth’.

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