Opinion: ALDE Party Council: Bouncing Czechs, “which Slovenes are the liberals?”*, and a prospective rise in the price of cod…

Whilst you might not have guessed it from those manifestos you read from candidates for places on the Party’s ALDE Council delegation, the policy debates were still in our future when Council made an early start on Friday morning.Our task was a straightforward one, debate changes to the constitution, including a revision of the membership structure, authorise the creation of a business club, consider six membership applications, receive and approve the 2015 budget and debate the report of the Bureau… in two hours (English Council, please note).

The constitutional changes were adopted, although there were concerns over the apparent absence of a code of conduct for fundraising. Luckily, a helpful British member of the Financial Advisory Committee was on hand to both reassure and clarify the position – there is one, it was available for circulation, and it could be applied to the proposed business club, a means for corporate sponsors to fund events without directly funding a political party’s campaigning activities.

The newest kid on the Czech political block is ANO 2011, who sprang from nowhere last year to win a quarter of the seats in the national Parliament and four seats in the European Parliament in May. Now polling about 34%, according to their leader in Brussels, they provide us with a replacement for the short-lived LIDEM Party which ceased to exist following electoral failure. After a brief but helpful introduction, they were accepted without opposition.

Our hosts, the Partido da Terra, or Earth Party, started off as a party committed to the environment, but have matured into a more familiarly liberal group. They had traditionally struggled for exposure, but in the new environment of cynicism in the existing parties, made a breakthrough this year, winning two of Portugal’s twenty-one seats in the European Parliament. Having made a good impression, their membership was assured.

There followed a slightly uncomfortable ride for the Stranka Miro Cerarja, the new force in Slovene politics after the collapse of the Positive Slovenia group amidst infighting and a successful hostile takeover. The issue of same sex marriage exercised a number of delegations, as the Party had been less than clear on its stance on the issue, leading to an increasingly messy exchange of views and explanations. In the end, a number of delegations, including the Liberal Democrats, abstained, but the application was successful.

The Alliance for Alenka Bratusek, the remnant of Positive Slovenia which survived the recent Parliamentary elections and led by the former Prime Minister, had a rather more straightforward ride, possibly linked to the fact that its application was presented by the universally loved ALDE Treasurer, Roman Jakič.

The Liberal Party of Montenegro were accepted as affiliate members, and the application of Unión, Progreso y Democracia from Spain was deferred – the decision of their leadership to seek the prosecution of the President of our Catalan sister party was deemed too controversial for the time being.

It was also time to say goodbye to Sloboda a Solidarita (Slovakia), who have joined the European Conservatives and Reformists, and the Partidul National Liberal of Romania, who have joined the European People’s Party. In addition, Slovenia’s Civic List had advised that they would be dissolving themselves shortly. Perhaps having five member parties in a country of just over two million people is a bit excessive…

The budget was passed without major concerns, although the loss of affiliated members of the European Parliament has been a significant setback in terms of the scale of funding available from the European Parliament. More MEPs means more money, so the reverse is self-evidently true.

With the report of the Bureau entirely uncontroversial, all that was left was to accept the solitary bid to host next Spring’s Council meeting, from Venstre of Norway. So, a delegation of slightly bleary-eyed and possibly shell-shocked Liberal Democrats, your author included, will be heading for Oslo on the day after the General Election. The salt cod in Portugal is relatively cheap – I might need to start saving up now to be able to afford cod in Oslo…

* Which Slovenes are the liberals? Almost all of them, it seems..

* Mark Valladares is a helpful British member of the ALDE Financial Advisory Committee (see above) and is grateful to have been re-elected by Federal Conference delegates as a member of the Party’s delegation to the ALDE Party Council. His report of ALDE Congress can be found here.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Richard Dean 25th Nov '14 - 11:04am

    Yes, all eminently interesting, but …meanwhile, UK politics continued without any helpful input from LibDems, and …

  • Many thanks to Mark Valladeres for his two informative reports from ALDE.

    I note in particular his mention of political changes in the Czech Republic. —
    “………The newest kid on the Czech political block is ANO 2011, who sprang from nowhere last year to win a quarter of the seats in the national Parliament and four seats in the European Parliament in May. Now polling about 34%, according to their leader in Brussels, they provide us with a replacement for the short-lived LIDEM Party which ceased to exist following electoral failure. ”

    Perhaps in preparation for 8th May 2015 we could have a training session arranged with someone from ANO 2011 brought over to this country to show people in our party on how to cope after a Liberal Democrat party ceases to exist following electoral failure.

    I assume that the secret of the success of ANO 2011 is that they do not have the same person as leader that took LIDEM to their electoral disaster?

    Of course it is beyond our wildest dreams in the UK that Liberal Democrats could ever achieve “a quarter of the seats in the national Parliament, four seats in the European Parliament in May and polling of about 34%” at least not with our present leader.

  • On closer examination ANO 2011 may not be the best example for us in the UK.
    This is how they are described in Wiki —
    ANO 2011 is a centre-right political party in the Czech Republic. It is based on the former movement Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (Czech: Akce nespokojených občanů, ANO). “Ano” means “yes” in Czech and the party is marketed with the slogan “ano, bude líp” (yes, it will get better). In 2013 Czech legislative election, ANO 2011 gained a surprisingly large amount of votes, 18.7%, and attained second place behind the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD).

    Founded in 2011 and led by multi-millionaire entrepreneur Andrej Babiš, the party aims at cleaning the country from corruption, abolishing immunity and equity returns for politicians, fighting unemployment, and improving the transport infrastructure. Ideologically, the party is placed on the centre-right and shares political similarities with the Christian and Democratic Union (KDU–ČSL), but does not rule out any collaboration with other parties.

    Andrej Babiš stated in a post-election interview that he opposes the Czech Republic’s adoption of the euro, and ANO does not want any deeper European integration or any more bureaucracy from Brussels.

  • JohnTilley, ANO2011’s achievements mirror our own 2010 peak, mirrored in a modern democracy as opposed to the creaking 19th century construction we operate under here. Their politics however emerge from a very different context, one in which millionaire entrepreneurs can be credible anti-corruption figures thanks to the excesses of the previous regime. We have much we could learn from these parties, but their success can’t be copy-pasted onto the British political scene, riven by nationalist fervour, with an unhealthily cosy relationship between big business and government and struggling with a discredited orthodoxy as it is.

    What might be more interesting is the shift eastwards of ALDE’s centre of gravity, if you’ll allow the metaphor. A lot of our alliance’s more successful members are based in Eastern Europe. This might just be an artefact of the coincident collapse of both British and German liberalism, but it does make me wonder what is different over there. Is it the parties, the policies, the proximity to a Russia in full reactionary bloom, or something else entirely?

  • It’s worth noting that, although the Partidul National Liberal of Romania is formally associated with the EPP, this followed the defection of five of its six MEPs. One has recently returned to ALDE. So, currently four are EPP members, but two are ALDE members.

    What does all of this do to ALDE’s total membership, though? Does it mean that we’re back to being the third party?

  • T-J 25th Nov ’14 – 12:25pm

    Yes, I agree. What a shame that Clegg and the Orange Gang did not learn the lesson of what you describe as “our own 2010 peak”
    Instead they climbed into their ministerial cars and embraced the creaking 19th century excuse for a democratic parliament. They could not wait to wrap themselves in the nonsense of “collective cabinet responsibility” and the parliamentary flummery which requires decent Liberal Democrats to refer to extreme right-wing Conservatives as “my honourable friend”.

    I also agree with you that success can’t be pasted onto the British political scene especially with a party leader who is more at home at Chevening House than he is on the streets of a town with a parliamentary by-election.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 25th Nov '14 - 8:11pm

    @ Ian,

    The two Romanian returnees get us closer to the ECR, but not quite back into fourth place. On the positive side though, ALDE now has five Commissioners, as the Slovene Commissioner is from the Stranka Miro Cerarja.


    The trend is not so much East as North. There are five ALDE Prime Ministers – Belgium, Estonia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia, and liberals are doing well in Denmark too. However, in terms of ALDE’s internal politics, the Germans and the British have traditionally been key players. The Germans have lost a lot of their strength, and we are likely to in 2016, but we both have the advantage of being from large countries in a system where votes received in national elections matter. I do think that, in order to retain influence, we may need to be smarter if we aren’t bigger.

    @ John Tilley,

    Thank you for your encouragement – it does sometimes feel as though these reports are being broadcast into a vacuum sometimes, but people have been most kind this week, and I do feel that it is important to report back on what is happening in ALDE.

  • I enjoy your briefings Mark, and learn from them. A shame that UPyD was deferred, since Spanish politics has everything except a strong liberal voice at federal level (one of the Canarian nationalist blocs are broadly liberal too, by the way) but that seems more down to – err – Politics than politics ?

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