Mark Pack’s monthly report: January 2023

The year ahead

It’s possible, just possible, that British politics may return to a relative normality in 2023. We might have a year without any change of Prime Minister, without a general election and without a pandemic. We will certainly have a year with a failing Conservative government, vital public services under strain and an important opportunity to continue our recovery with the May local elections.

Rishi Sunak has already demonstrated he brings neither competency nor moderation to replace the incompetent extremism of his predecessors. He didn’t use his political honeymoon to make difficult decisions for the long-term. He’s treating promises to take an issue personally as a substitute for action, and kicked so many decisions into the long grass. Whether it’s reforming social care or building onshore wind farms, time and again his response is to dither rather than to act.

Looming over all those issues is the continued failure of Brexit. As Daisy Cooper put it to Times Radio, “This Conservative Brexit deal isn’t working for Britain”. Instead, she set out the Liberal Democrat alternative four-step plan to improve our trade relations with Europe.  (Take a listen here.) That’s the way both to make an immediate difference to people’s lives and to help prepare the way for the longer-term battle over Britain’s future with the EU.

To succeed, we need to continue to rebuild our grassroots campaigning strength, to build our membership and supporter base, to raise our game on diversity and inclusion, and to invest in the best data and technology.

Watch out for more news on all of those through the year – and I’d really encourage everyone planning campaign work through to May to include talking to supporters, getting them to help and join, as part of that. Local parties can secure cash bonuses for members recruited or renewed; details here.

York conference – in person!

I’m looking forward to meeting members in person again at a federal conference, with our first in-person one for so long coming up in York on 15-17 March. It will include keynote speeches, policy debates, training, fringe meetings and more.  You can find out more and register here.

How Lib Dems are tackling homelessness

The BBC reported over Christmas a great example of the difference we can make to people’s lives:

As charities warn of a rising number of rough sleepers in England, one town has come up with a scheme that it believes can give all of those sleeping on its streets a place to live…

Called Dynamic Pathway to Independence (DPI), the five-step scheme is designed to support all homeless people in the Hertfordshire town, not just rough sleepers.

The initiative was set up in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when the government ordered all councils to provide accommodation for every rough sleeper in their area…

The scheme sees people supported to move through different stages, working with a range of experts from addiction and mental health specialists through to employment and housing. The stage at which each person enters the process varies depending on what their needs are, as does the speed which they move on.

As Lib Dem elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, has put it:

I am incredibly proud of the work that has been done in Watford to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness. This is such a complex issue and we know that accommodation alone isn’t enough, that’s why we have invested in a programme that provides comprehensive support to those that find themselves sleeping rough.

It is a powerful reminder of the point of getting Liberal Democrats into power – and a reminder too therefore of how important this May’s huge set of local elections in England are. If you’re not already involved in local campaigning, please do get in touch with your local party.

New Parliamentary updates for members

Last month, party members started receiving a new series of monthly email updates. As the introduction said, “Members have recently asked for more insight into what we are doing in Westminster. We’ve listened to your feedback and so are pleased to share our first monthly ‘Lib Dems in Parliament’ update, giving you a look at just some of the fantastic work our MPs and peers are doing in Parliament.”

If you’re a member and didn’t get the update, pop a message to [email protected] and the team can check the email address and opt in/out information on your record.

This is one of a series of improvements to our emails and internal communications made last year, and more are to come this year too.

Important party posts filled

Congratulations and thanks to the trio of people that the Federal Board has just picked to fill important posts: Cllr Mike Cox is continuing in post as chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC), Tilly McAuliffe is continuing as Party Treasurer (chief fundraising role) and Cllr Baroness Kath Pinnock is succeeding Lisa Smart as chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC).

Congratulations also to the new chair of the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC), David Chalmers. He was elected to this post by his fellow committee members, taking over from Phil Bennion. He’s joined by Hannah Bettsworth as vice chair.

I look forward to working with all of them over the next three years. Watch out on the party website for news about the next batch of party posts the Board will be filling.

Farewell, Party Body Review Group

At our December meeting, the Federal Board agreed with the Party Body Review Group’s suggestion that we wind up their operations. In its current and previous guises (as the AO/SAO Review Group), it’s been around for a long time. But with the new, simplified structures for party bodies now in place, their review work is over. Continuing responsibilities now rest with the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC).

People often comment on how complicated our internal structures can be, with so many different bodies. So it is a tribute to the review group’s work that the reforms they steered through included ending the need for their own existence, reducing the number of party committees by one. Thank you to everyone who has served on it over the years.

As ever, if you have questions on any of this, or other party matters, do get in touch on [email protected]. Do also get in touch if you’d like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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4 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 18th Jan '23 - 4:45pm

    Might we also have some much needed radical policies such as reducing/eliminating our 30% permanent child hunger and addressing the Brexit problems of Northern Ireland which, besides being of importance in themselves, also get us into closer alignment with Europe?

  • We must have a handful of well thought out and easy to understand policies this year before this year’s local elections. This will also require SirEd and the leadership a greater media focus. All candidates and trained agents in place.Membership on the rise again.

  • I listened to Daisy Cooper’s podcast on Brexit. She starts by saying “we don’t want to revisit the divisions of the past” which is exactly the same as Labour’s sitting on the fence policy and overlooks the Lib Dems role in those divisions.

    She then says “we want to improve on the deal” (ie tinker with it) but the reality is you cannot substantially improve on the government’s Brexit deal unless you rejoin the single market and maybe customs union as well.

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