Is your local party taking part in the Mid-Term Review?

It is hard to believe but we are shortly to approach the half-way point in this Parliament. It seems a very long time ago that the Coalition Agreement was negotiated and voted on at the Special Conference at the NEC in Birmingham. That document articulated several goals including deficit reduction and being the greenest government ever.

Having been in government for a little under two years, the time has come to take stock and consider what has been achieved thus far and what more there is to be done.

At Federal Conference in Birmingham, Norman Lamb MP ran a consultation session on what has become known as the Mid-Term Review. The aim of that process is to focus on which of these goals in the Coalition Agreement have been met by plans already announced and where there are gaps. It will consider how to fill in those gaps with distinctive Liberal Democrat policies. The result of the process will be published in September 2012 with a debate and a vote at conference in Brighton.

There are a couple of things that the Mid-Tern Review is not. It is not a re-drafting of the Coalition Agreement from scratch; rather, it is an opportunity to review and to look forward. It presents a chance for the Liberal Democrat Party to set out its distinctive position publicly and to demonstrate what it can achieve in Government. Secondly, the Mid-Term Review is entirely independent of the development of the General Election manifesto for 2015.

The consultation session at conference was lively, as one would expect! Nevertheless, it was attended only by those who were able to come to Federal Conference. It is important that a range of views from across the Party is fed in. For that reason, the English Party asked me as the English Representative on the Federal Policy Committee to encourage Local Parties to get involved, hold discussion sessions and submit their ideas.

The best ideas are popular, distinctive and fit in with our key themes. Those key themes are to promote fairness; especially in the area of tax; to promote opportunity and social mobility; to be the greenest government ever; to protect civil liberties; push for political reform, create a rehabilitation revolution in crime and justice; become the most family friendly government ever; and to decentralise power to people and communities.  Contributions on those themes are welcome, but so are other ideas.

Last Autumn, I sent out to all Local Party Chairs a set of documents including some information about the Mid-Term Review, a copy of the Coalition Agreement and a list of our achievements in government thus far. Importantly, there was also an invitation to hold a discussion event with local members.

Across the country, I know that such events are taking place. I have received a large number of replies containing ideas and opinions, all of which I have submitted to those involved in the Mid-Term Review. They are being considered carefully.

I would urge all Local Parties to consider organising a meeting to discuss the Mid-Term Review. Most of our members joined the Liberal Democrats because of our policies and yet there is often precious little opportunity to talk about them!

A useful starting point at any meeting would be the promises that the Government has made. They are to fix the economy (deficit reduction, growth, ensuring that work always pays and promoting stability and supply in the housing market), put power in people’s hands, and to stay focussed on the long term when it comes to issues of social mobility, being a family-friendly Government, protecting the NHS, ensuring immigration is sustainable, securing our energy supply, putting university funding on a sustainable level, tackling educational underachievement, and causing a rehabilitation revolution.

With those in mind,

  • Which are most important from a Liberal Democrat point of view?
  • Are there any policy suggestions that contribute to these areas?
  • Are there areas where government policy implementation needs to be improved. If so, how?
  • How can we deliver jobs and growth whilst holding firm to our green commitments?
  • How can we deliver success and opportunities to small business as well as large ones?
  • How do we resolve the tension between our commitment to localism and the need for overarching policy goals?

Although the Mid-Term Review reports in September, the deadline for contributions is the beginning of March. If you are planning on organising a meeting, the time has come to get cracking! You can submit your responses to [email protected].

* Geoff Payne represents the English Party on the Federal Policy Committee. He is also one of the Vice-Chairs of Federal Conference Committee. He chaired the Criminal Justice Working Group.

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  • Geoff, it seems to me that what many people would want from such a Review is an assessment of whether or not the goals being pursued are the right ones from a Lib Dem point of view, and something about the rhetoric being employed. You don’t have to be an “anti-coalitionist” to believe, for instance, that the “deficit reduction” (or the “welfare reform”) goal is based on economics and politics which are pretty alien to many Lib Dems. I am left not quite knowing whether the Mid Term Review can encompass that kind of thinking? Otherwise, if analysis is purely in terms of the goals set by the Parl Party at the time of the Agreement, it is really a management performance review, not a political exercise.

  • There is a session on the Mid Term Review at South Central Regional Conference in High Wycombe on 25th Feb. All members welcome including neighbouring regions.

  • Tony Dawson 6th Feb '12 - 12:13am

    It is useful for those who have been unhappy with the way that the Coalition has gone (rather than actually being in the Coalition) to be required to think hard about where they should want the party to go.

    Having said that, there was a lively, well-informed and almost unanimously critical consultation session at the Lib Dem Liverpool Conference 18 months ago concerning the proposed NHS ‘Reforms’ which were not part of the Coalition Agreement. The outcome of that ‘input’ makes one wonder whether the process of ‘consultation’ (sic) is actually a ploy to attempt to divert pressure. One seriously hopes not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Feb '12 - 10:09pm

    You are writing and asking questions as if the current government is a Liberal Democrat government. It is not. It is a Conservative Party government in which there is a little Liberal Democrat influence.

    The most central task for our party is surely that we get this point established in the electorate’s mind. By voting against electoral reform in the 2011 referendum, the electorate established that they are content with our current system in which distortion of representation in favour of the largest party and against third parties is considered a virtue. The government we have now is a natural consequence of that distortion, but we ourselves are still not in favour of that distortion, and we should make that clear and so make clear also that if things went as we would want, no such unrepresentative government of the sort we have now would happen again. We participate in it because we are democrats – the people voted for it in 2010 and in 2011, we are giving them what they voted for, it does not mean it is what would be our ideal.

    We need a mature attitude in which policies are discussed not in terms of how they would be implemented if we had a government just of of our own party, but in terms of how they can be pushed in an arena where other forces are pushing in other directions and we may have to work with those other forces. It would be very good if we could shift away from electoral politics as being about presenting competing five-year plans in manifestos.

    I would like instead more of an emphasis on representation. The job of our representatives is to forward ideas and formulate policies, to be sure, but it is also to represent. Representing may involve listening and reacting to how what is being done is being received by the electorate rather than ploughing on come-what-may with the five year plan. If, for example, there is widespread opposition to a particular policy, those who must work the policy and have the most expertise in it being particularly vociferous in their opposition to it, and that policy not really being central to the main thrust of the government, we should not be afraid to say “We have listened, we will not go ahead with it”. This should be seen as a sign of strength not a “U-turn” weakness.

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