Our President and co-leader writes: How you can get involved in helping to run the party

The Liberal Democrats are about to fill nearly 50 important posts, responsible for everything from oversight of our campaigns through to improving our record on diversity and making sure our finances are in good shape.

Please do both think about going for one of these posts yourself, and also who else you might want to encourage to put their name forward.

We need the best team possible – which means people with brilliant skills, time to do the job properly and a much greater diversity than we often manage with such exercises.

If anyone would like to know more about what a particular post involves, I’m very happy for you to put them in touch with me and I can either directly help or put them in touch with someone with experience of the post.

More details of the posts are over on the party website.

This post was originally published on Mark’s blog

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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This entry was posted in Party policy and internal matters.
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34 Comments

  • David Warren 20th Jan '20 - 3:23pm

    This is all very well but to do one of these posts you need the time and the money.

    I have the former in abundance, however sadly not the latter.

  • It is remarkable quite how many of these posts are inward looking ones concerned with progressing identity politics within the party, and how few are focused on projecting the image and policies of the party outward to the electorate. The party really does appear to have lost its way.

  • John Barrett 20th Jan '20 - 6:38pm

    Like Ian, I agree that too many of the posts are looking at issues that are driven by identity politics, when more thought ought to be going into using the talents of members for a variety of other important tasks.

    It will be interesting hear what the new chair and 2 vice chairs of the campaign for gender balance plan to do about the gender imbalance in our group of MPs.

    As someone who opposed all women short lists, as far back as when Jo Swinson opposed them too, (although I still do) and as someone who has always believed that having good people in position is much more important rather than bothering about their gender, race, religion or sexuality. I hope that the gender balance team will now start to question some of the assumptions about the need for gender balance in a number of groups, such as our MPs.

    I was in part of a Council group that was 50% male and 50% female. Part of a Westminster Parliamentary group that was majority male and would have had no problem or issues if the same majority had been female.

    I am sure that of all the problems our MPs have to deal with, balancing out their gender balance is not one of them.

  • Looked at the list of posts on the LD website. Six are for Federal Board members only and of the rest alll bar one require nomination by two members of the FB. So these posts will go to people who are already well in with the upper echelons of the party. Several of the posts are with the Review Group, a party body whose job it is to look at the workings of party bodies. This is a spoof, right ? Written by someone who has just been rereading Gormenghast ?
    Oh, and I agree with points made by Ian and John above.

  • John Barrett 20th Jan '20 - 8:54pm

    Ruth – I appreciate that there are many barriers to being a candidate, or participating in the party organisation at all levels, Council, Parliaments, Assembly and more, but many of them apply to wide range of groups (I accept this is not the case with maternity leave).

    Looking at the range of party posts advertised and having sat on numerous party committees, council meetings and committees and much more, for many years, as well as being an organiser, secretary, candidate, fundraiser, agent, councillor and MP in the past, I feel that too much time and effort is wasted in pointless meetings, from the local party up to the Westminster Parliamentary Party.

    What I am suggesting is a radical rethink about what we spend the time of our most valuable resource (our members) on.

    I have to confess that I am able to say this now that I have given up all participation in all such committees and meetings and find that my time is now spent in much more productive ways.

  • I’m totally with John and Ian on this. I too have served my time on party committees over the years, often discussing these kind of internal matters, and looking back on it now I have to agree that around 50% of the time was frankly wasted.
    Here’s an idea: every committee meeting at party HQ should end with a leaflet delivery session in a nearby target ward. I’m being serious. As a standard part of the admin for all meetings, a local party near the meeting venue should be contacted a week ahead of the meeting and asked to supply the appropriate number of leaflets, all bundled and ready with maps etc. Then on the day of that meeting, as soon as it ends everyone heads off and does the job. No excuses, no exceptions.
    The desire to help make our party work is a good thing and should be encouraged. But we also need to encourage the idea that external communication and campaigning must be at the heart of everything we do.

  • David Becket 20th Jan '20 - 10:22pm

    3 posts looking at Gender Balance, 3 Posts looking at Racial Diversity.
    As others have said nothing outward looking, nothing on major issues like climate change.

    This party has lost its way, and does not look like finding it.

    Come on Mark, you are new blood, you have energy and ideas, what are you going to do about it?

  • Graham Jeffs 21st Jan '20 - 8:36am

    Yes! Let’s have a radical revision of these committee posts. We have limited resources, let’s get them focused where they can make a (positive) difference.

    This sort of stupefying structure is hugely demoralising. If the party is unwilling to get it corrected promptly there shall be a clear message to the rest of us.

  • @ David Beckett Completely agree, David.

    Introspective, obsessed with identity politics. Nothing on climate change – nothing on rising poverty and inequality….. almost always focused on the chattering classes of the
    London Suburbs and the Home Counties. Whatever happened to the Liberal heartlands of the South West, the northern textile areas, Scotland and Wales ?

  • Graham Jeffs 21st Jan '20 - 9:25am

    David Raw – you do your case an injustice. What on earth makes you so confident that this is all about ‘the chattering classes of…….the Home Counties’? Please don’t underestimate the utter frustration of most of us in the south towards the impervious central fiefdoms of the party, detached from the realities of the very issues to which you refer.

    And – for the umpteenth time – let me refer to that ghastly email to members for which nobody is accepting responsibility which dismissed Johnson and Corbyn for being “old white men”. You can imagine the reaction from the very people to whom you are referring if it had read “young black women”.

  • It’s very welcome that we’ve got a much more diverse Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons that ever before. It’s worth adding, however, that there are plenty of parts of the party where we’re a long way short of that – including for example amongst our very valuable local government community where the diversity of Lib Dem council leaders over the years is still a long way short of really reflecting the diversity of the country.

    Any idea that because we’ve managed to achieve success in one election for one body we can shut up shop and think ‘job done’ would be both myopic and short-termist.

    (On the point about the posts being inward looking generally – bear in mind this isn’t, for exmaple, a round of advertisements for posts for policy working groups, something which also happens. It would be a bit odd to, for example, criticise a round of policy working group adverts for ‘not having anyting to do with sorting out the party finances’.)

  • Graham Jeffs 21st Jan '20 - 9:49am

    Mark Pack – ‘Lib Dem council leaders………reflecting the diversity of the country’. I would have thought ‘their communities’ would be more appropriate and please let’s aim to select the best people regardless of their ethnicity etc rather than the other way around. The electorate want competence and hopefully fairness – they probably don’t care who delivers it.

  • @ Graham Jeffs . Fair enough. I wish you well in your attempts to change things, Graham. But now the EU issue appears to be a dead duck there’s a policy vacuum to fill. How about more social justice for a change ?

    There’s also a mental vacuum…… still shuddering at the no ifs no buts ‘Yes’ to pressing the nuclear button…….. and as to an earlier contribution about the ‘great and good’ delivering a leaflet after their meetings…… It’ll do their waistlines some good, but it depends what, or if, there’s any relevance on the leaflet . A penny on income tax to tackle diversity, perhaps ?

  • John Barrett 21st Jan '20 - 10:21am

    Mark Pack – “Any idea that because we’ve managed to achieve success in one election for one body we can shut up shop and think ‘job done’ would be both myopic and short-termist.”

    An alternative view would be –

    Any idea that the General Election result was in any way a success could be described as myopic and short-termist.

    The fact that there are more women than men in the Parliamentary Party can only be described as a success if the gender balance of the Parliamentary group is seen a being more important than having a large number of MPs, where the gender balance was not so good. As someone who was part of a group of 62 MPs in 2005 I fear that compared to then, many in the party now take the view that the 2019 was a success, rather than a failure.

    If this is the case, there is much more work to be done before we ever get back to electing a significant number of MPs.

    Graham Jeffs also makes a good point about reflecting communities rather than the country at local elections.

  • Where’s Laurence Fox when he is needed?

  • Paul Holmes 21st Jan '20 - 1:50pm

    Mark, my major concern about the last 9 years worth of election results is about how weak and impotent as a political force our Party has now become.

    I am not especially bothered that men are now becoming an endangered species in the Parliamentary Party. I am though bothered that over the last 3 General Elections we have such an abysmal success rate of electing just 8, 12 and 11 MP’s respectively. I am not really bothered about the ethnicity, gender or sexuality of our Council Group Leaders but I am bothered that there are so appallingly few of them.

    We currently have an all male acting Leadership (President and MP) which bothers me no more than the gender of the previous female Leader and President. What I want to know is what effect their policies and strategies have on our electoral success.

    Like John Barrett I was an MP when we had the largest number of MP’s in a century. Like John, I was a Cllr when we ran a lot more Councils, including poorer urban Councils in the North such as Chesterfield, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool or Hull. I want to know how we are going to address the recent years of chronic electoral failure not how we can reserve the best deck chairs on the Titanic for selected groups.

  • Graham Jeffs: we’ve never had a BAME council leader in the Lib Dems (as far as I’ve been able to find, despite a lot of asking around), even though we’ve run councils that have had very diverse populations. Likewise, the proportion of female councillors – for example – has been stalled at around one third for several decades, even though nearly every ward we’ve ever represented is majority female.

    Your point about referring to the communities we represent rather than the country overall doesn’t shift the underlying point – which is that the make-up of our elected representatives doesn’t reflect either population.

  • As John B has pointed out, the diversity of our parliamentary group has improved while the numbers have dwindled. One possible reason may be that while we have had our own preoccupations, the electorate’s collective mind has been elsewhere.
    Above all else, I hope that the new leadership of the party will focus relentlessly on the issues which concern the ordinary citizen.
    @John Roffey. I read that L.F. has picked up 100,000 Twitter followers in a day or so.

  • To return to the main point of the original post, Mark, can you confirm (or deny) my original observation that applicants for virtually all these positions need nomination by 2 Federal board members ? Could you comment on whether or not this might be a serious impediment for most party members and why nomination by FB members is deemed necessary ? Is it like joining the local golf club, have to get the right sort of chap ?

  • Scott Berry 21st Jan '20 - 7:03pm

    There seems to be an underlying assumption in many comments that there is a conflict between diversity and quality/quantity (e.g. more women in parliament vs more MPs, or a more diverse council group rather vs better councillors). If this were true it would present a real conflict for our party but is there a reason we assume promoting diversity makes us less effective rather than more effective?

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 7:33am

    In at least one of the Chinese Classics it is stated that the natural tendency of women is to keep things as they are – whereas men are prone to seeking improvements through change. From what we know of the long reign of Elizabeth II, for example, this seems to have been the case.

    Men are also encouraged to be gentle with women when making changes as they will find it difficult to adjust. Our most recent example of a significant change was/is Brexit [irrespective of whether you view this as good or bad]. It was a change that was led almost exclusively by men and one that created, for many women MPs who became embroiled, extremely frightening times.

    Changes that are for the better are almost always led by men and often at great expense to themselves [Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Kennedy Brothers etc] because the changes desired almost always threaten an existing power structure and those holding power are likely to react violently against the changes.

    The work views men as the Creative and women as the Receptive – and holds that it is only men that are capable of making improvements to existing conditions through their creativity.

    If this view holds good – the issue of gender balance within the Party would be determined by whether changes are required nationally and also, of course, within the Party itself. However, your view on this might be determined by whether you are a man or a woman!

  • James Belchamber 22nd Jan '20 - 8:12am

    John Roffey, your intervention should persuade any Liberal of the need for diversity generally and all-women shortlists specifically.

  • Graham Jeffs 22nd Jan '20 - 9:13am

    Mark Pack – I’m afraid that your piece about the lack of BAME council leaders and the gender of councillors merely underscores an apparent detachment from the realities the rest of us face in simply getting organised, finding (any) candidates and campaigning.

    The priorities for our electorates are neither of these things. The party’s epitaph seems likely to read “Diverse but Dead”.

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 9:36am

    James Belchamber 22nd Jan ’20 – 8:12am

    Because no changes are needed?

    Why it could take a century for Australia’s animals to recover from the bushfires
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/video/2020/jan/22/why-it-could-take-a-century-for-australias-animals-to-recover-from-the-bushfires-video-explainer

  • Ruth – I have five children, four grandchildren and another grandchild due in May – so I do have some experience of maternity wards. Giving birth is a natural process and is not the same as making changes [for the better].

    It is because I have grandchildren that I would prefer the party to focus on climate change rather than diversity. Presently there seems little likelihood of global temperatures not rising to dangerous levels by the end of the century.

  • Ruth – I suppose it is obvious – but I missed off the ‘Roffey’ in my last post. However, I do not wish to disappoint you with regard to ‘winding you up’.

    ‘Submitting to my husband like it’s 1959′: Why I became a #TradWife
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-51113371/submitting-to-my-husband-like-it-s-1959-why-i-became-a-tradwife

  • Mary Regnier-wilson 22nd Jan '20 - 12:04pm

    Graham Jeffs.
    That’s rubbish. And as someone who has been an integral part of the 2 best council results in last 2 years I think I know something about the realities of organising local elections.

    Diversity was a huge part of our success in both South Cambs and Chelmsford. Both existing (small) council groups were lucky enough to be led by people who realised this and specifically went out to find diverse candidates. By looking outside of the normal pool of people to find the women, younger people and poc who were doing stuff outside of politics we were able to create candidate teams who neither looked or thought like each other, and that variety of skills and viewpoints contributed greatly to the success of both teams.

    And diversity gets easier. Far too many women/poc are put off from getting involved because they don’t recognise themselves in the existing group. But as soon as you make the existing group slightly more diverse it means that new entrants have points of commanality with existing members that make it feel like they will fit in. Simple things like having a woman with young children talk to an existing cllr with young children about how to juggle childcare and evening meetings help knock down the barriers to entry that many people other than older white men see at every turn.

    And a diverse candidate group is far more electable than older white men. They always vote. Many younger people don’t because they don’t see politics as something that affects them. Too many of our council chambers are inhabited by people comfortable enough in life to not be affected by the decisions they make.
    Having cllrs whose kids use the play parks they build, who have to commute to jobs in rush hour traffic, who rent from dodgy landlords because they can’t afford to buy makes them both more informed on the issues they legislate on and appear more authentic to the people they need to vote for them.

    TLDR: diversity causes not detracts from success in local elections

  • Graham – it’d be an odd conclusion to draw to go from ‘we’re not that good at attracting women to be councillors’ to ‘and that’s irrelevant to the problem we face about not being able to attract enough people to being councillors’.

    The very fact that we’re undiverse means that improving our record on that score is exactly a route also to having more people do things and to be a bigger and more successful organisation.

    You and I both want more people to do be available in the party to do things. When there’s a group we’re disproportionately bad at attracting help from, that seems to me a good group to prioritise trying to get more involved. I’m not sure why in your comments you seem to be against that route?

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan ’20 – 9:36am:
    Why it could take a century for Australia’s animals to recover from the bushfires

    If these animal species weren’t able to recover from bushfires they wouldn’t be there. Bushfires are a normal feature of Australia and part of the continent’s natural ecology. Once new growth starts to appear it will be party-time for the surviving animals. While the intensity of some fires has been high due to decades of poor forest management (lack of controlled burning) they are not “unprecedented” (video clip).

    So far, this bushfire season an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres) has been burnt as at 14th. January 2020 (Source: Wikipedia). In the 1974-75 season the burnt area was six times larger…

    Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience: Knowledge Hub: ’Bushfire – New South Wales’:
    https://knowledge.aidr.org.au/resources/bushfire-new-south-wales-1974/

    During the summer between 1974 and 1975, Australia experienced its worst bushfire season in 30 years. Approximately 15 per cent of Australia’s physical land mass sustained extensive fire damage. This equates to roughly around 117 million hectares [290 million acres].

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 5:08pm

    Jeff – I know no more than is offered in the piece. I assume University of Sydney ecology professor Christopher Dickman is an expert on the subject. However, I suspect it is the changes caused by climate change since 1974/5 that makes recovery much slower now.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Jan '20 - 8:21am

    Meetings —— meetings

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