Mark Pack’s monthly report: September 2022

Paying tribute to the Queen

As Ed Davey said in paying tribute,

For many people, including myself, The Queen was an ever-fixed mark in our lives. As the world changed around us and politicians came and went, The Queen was our nation’s constant. The Queen represented duty and courage, as well as warmth and compassion. She was a living reminder of our collective past, of the greatest generation and their sacrifices for our freedom. My thoughts and prayers today go especially to the Royal Family. And they also go to people in every corner of the world whose lives she touched.

You can watch the tributes from other Liberal Democrats here

Cancellation of party conference

Following the death of the Queen, the Federal Board received a recommendation from the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) to cancel our autumn conference. We agreed to this after a special meeting. There was widespread understanding of the many drawbacks of cancellation, and how disappointed and out of pocket many members (including committee members) would be. But it was the least worst of the options available.

FCC chair Cllr Nick Da Costa explained the reasons for the cancellation, including the range of options considered, in an email to those registered for conference and which is also online here.

(If you were registered for conference and did not receive the email, you can contact [email protected] to check the party has an up-to-date email address for you and that you’re not opted out from such messages. It’s also worth checking to see if the emails are ending up in your spam folder.)

FCC is now looking at ways of putting on extra events to help fill some of the gaps left by cancellation, such as online sessions to hold party committees (and people like me!) to account and extra online training. If you were hoping to ask the Board any questions at conference, either at our helpdesk or in the formal Board report session, you can instead email them to me and I’ll do my best to ensure they all get answered.

The Returning Officer has also decided to adjust the timings for this autumn’s internal elections as they overlapped with The Queen’s funeral. Details are on the party website.

Receiving emails from the party

Despite best efforts to get news about the cancellation and its consequences out to members via email, those messages do not always arrive. If you ever think you’re missing out on emails from the party, here are the four main things to check:

  1. Look in your spam/junk folder in case they are ending up there. If they are, both mark the email as not being spam and also add the email address it was sent from to your address book. Doing both of these things reduces the chance of future emails ending up in spam too.
  2. Contact [email protected] to check the party has the right email address for you in its records.
  3. Also ask the team to check whether you’re unsubscribed from any times of emails. (It’s not that uncommon for someone to have unsubscribed from all emails from the party but then later to decide they’d like to receive some types of messages.)
  4. If all else fails, give the party a different email address to use, if you can. This can fix things if the problems is email being blocked somewhere en route to you.

Possible Parliamentary by-elections

There has been a lot of speculation about possible by-elections, particularly due to either Conservative MPs being caught in scandals or possibly being sent to the House of Lords. In addition to Sarah Dyke’s selection in Somerton and Frome and Sunny Virk’s in Tamworth, we’re also running Parliamentary by-election selections in Surrey Heath, Mid-Bedfordshire, North East Somerset and Selby & Ainsty.

All of which is a good reason to plug again the opportunity to be a volunteer Returning Officer and so help the party do more selections, more quickly. Returning Officers need to be organised and methodical, to understand and interpret the rules, solve problems and work constructively with people whose perspectives on a situation may differ.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? If so, please contact / ask them to contact your Regional Candidates Chair in England or state Candidates Chair in Scotland and Wales to discuss the role and the availability of training. If you need putting in touch with the relevant person, just drop me a line.

Getting out on the doorsteps recruiting new members

It’s been great to see so many local parties getting back into hitting the doorsteps to ask people to join the party or to renew their membership. The top performing local parties in the last few months for local recruitment are a real spread from across the country. Particular praise to Chelmsford, Malden & Braintree, Mole Valley, Burnley, Tewkesbury, Woking, Winchester, Highlands and Sutton local parties for leading the way.

Recruiting and renewing members locally isn’t only important for the long-term health of our party, it’s also a great way to boost your local party’s finances as signing up people generates bonus payments for your local party. More details about the Membership Incentive Scheme here. Resources and tips to help with local membership work are also available on the party website.

Online versus offline events

The understandable reaction to the cancellation of our Brighton conference shows how much people value in-person events. The pros and cons of in-person and virtual events were illustrated by a couple of back-to-back evenings for me earlier in September.

One night was two Zoom calls – with Banbury local party and with our top canvassers from all around the country to hear their feedback – and the following night was an in-person event with Sutton Liberal Democrats.

The first night was the most efficient, two events in one evening and involving people from all around the country. But – with apologies to our lovely members in Banbury and our amazing canvassers – the second night was more fun.

Online events are great for involving more people. It’s easier to juggle attendance with non-party commitments and responsibilities, and for anyone new to the party it’s much less scary to drop into an online call from your own home than to turn up to meet a group of strangers elsewhere. But for keeping people motivated and feeling part of a bigger movement, in-person events are so important.

If you’re involved in any way in planning future party events, I hope you’ll be looking at a good mix of both formats.

September Board

Before our special meeting about conference, the Board had held our usual September meeting. This included reviewing our snap general election preparations. We also agreed the main themes for the 2023 federal budget, along with key financial arrangements with the three state parties and with ALDC.

Deciding these earlier in the year, so that the state parties and ALDC can then take the decisions into account in their own budget making, is one of the changes we’ve made to make the party’s financial decisions more joined-up and consistent. I’ll report back in more detail on the budget when it’s agreed, hopefully at our November meeting.

We also discussed how to better integrate the activities of Liberal Democrats Abroad – the umbrella group for party members who are overseas – with the party’s activities and decision making.

The Board also agreed a Parental, Adoption and Dependent Leave policy to make it easier for volunteer committee members to balance their work on committees with life outside the party. We’ll be reporting on this in more detail to our spring conference and agreed to encourage other federal committees to adopt a similar policy. It’s only one step in what we need to do to make the party more inclusive, but a useful step in the right direction.

The agenda was rounded out by making some updates to our standing orders. 

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

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One Comment

  • Get out on the doorsteps yes, but will we be doing that in abundance at West Lancashire.
    This is an opportunity to get 12-15% of the vote, if WE put our backs into it.

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