Miscellaneous Announcements

I wanted to take the opportunity on a Wednesday to make some small and varied points/announcements that I feel will be of interest. My announcement for this week is about the:

Autumn Conference

The Agenda for the autumn conference launched online today. HO staff should be thanked for the hard work they have done to get this ready. The Agenda and the Directory can be found at https://www.libdems.org.uk/autumn_conference_2018

To help promote the autumn conference there is a Local Party Conference Challenge

Challenge Criteria:– Between the dates of 1 August and 31 August FCC would like to challenge all local

Posted in Conference, News and Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments
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How to enter the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League 2018/19

LDV FANTASY FOOTBALLThe English Premier League kicks off next week, Friday 10 August, and LibDemVoice has revived its Fantasy Football League to mark the occasion.

So if you fancy pitting your soccer selection skills against fellow party members then here’s your chance. There’s almost 100 of you already joined!

To enter all you have to do is click on this link. Simply register your details, pick your team, and away you go. If you need the joining code at any point, it’s 1729103-394948.

Last season’s winner, Alan Worthington, finished in the top 25,000 …

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Lib Dem warns democracy is at risk

The digital, culture, media, and sport (DCMS) committee has spent 18 months conducting an investigation from disinformation to the influence of social networks to targeted adverts during the Brexit referendum that played on people fears and prejudices. MPs rightly point out that this abuse is a threat to democracy.

The DCMS committee report is based on 20 oral evidence sessions, during which 3,500 questions were asked of 61 witnesses, and included a trip to Washington DC. The committee received more than 150 written submissions and numerous pieces of background evidence.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has warned “democracy is at risk” if the report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee into disinformation and fake news is ignored.

Ms Jardine said:

Posted in News and Op-eds | 4 Comments

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A people’s vote is the only way out

Parliament is now in recess but our work to fight against Brexit continues. I am speechless at the sheer contempt and arrogance of those who rigged the voting system of the UK during the EU referendum and try to get away with it.

We, as Lib Dems, who uphold the rule of law and believe in fair play did not act illegally as some supporters of Vote Leave or Leave.EU did in the run up to the referendum. People such as Dominic Cummings have used Cambridge Analytica to micro target online users with their untruthful ads without their knowledge or permission. This was facilitated by Facebook who provided the values, demographics, location and even “psychographic” profiles of groups of voters based on their personalities. These techniques originate from military “psy-ops” used to confuse the enemy and to ultimately control or conquer. Regardless of how effective or prevalent these techniques are, they should not be the norm for conducting our elections. The Observer and The Guardian journalists have very astutely uncovered a black hole at the heart of our democracy where transparency is eroded making it easier to mislead the electorate by unfettered and unscrutinised advertising that goes unchallenged. It makes it easier to make misleading or untrue statements. But even more dangerous, it makes it possible for foreign interference in our elections.

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

Party reform can re-capture the liberal spirit – and change Britain

Constant dissatisfaction is an essential part of the liberal spirit.

That which, over the decades, has characterized liberalism is the constant search for progress. Progress that seeks to create open societies that welcome diverse views and allow, in Popper’s formulation, constant challenge from below. Progress that breaks down imposed power from the top and liberates the disadvantaged and those that do not have a voice.

The essential flip-side of achieving progress is a constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. The ability and determination to imagine that a better world is possible. As Robert Kennedy’s very liberal statement put it: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

In this regard, I was very encouraged by reports that Vince Cable is considering significant reforms to how the party works. A direction intended to make the party more open in different ways.

Posted in Op-eds | 52 Comments

35 years on and the fight is more important than ever

Today marks 35 years since I joined the SDP on my 16th birthday. What motivated me then was a desire to turn this world into a kinder, fairer place where all people had power over their lives. My parents thought it was a rebellious phase that wouldn’t last.

Being involved in this party has brought me an extended family, my best friends, some amazing highs – Willie Rennie winning in Dunfermline, Christine Jardine and Alex Cole-Hamilton in Edinburgh for a start. There’s been the sheer joy of working with others on a common cause. You never know how wonderful the highs are if you don’t have lows and there have been many of them – the frustration, the disappointment of defeat and sometimes self-inflicted wounds.

The SDP and the Liberal Democrats have so often been on the right side of the argument, from Iraq, to Vince predicting the economic crash to Hong Kong to the Gurkhas to housing to civil liberties and protecting us from 90 day detention.

In some ways the world back then was very different. We are all so much more inter-connected now. In 1983 there was no internet, no 24 hour news cycle (breakfast tv had started only a few months before), no mobile phones. The other side of the world seemed so inaccessible.

There was injustice across the world with apartheid South Africa being the focus of our fight for human rights. The subsequent release of Nelson Mandela and the leadership he showed in creating an inclusive democracy shows what can be achieved from a seemingly impossible situation.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 24 Comments

The Brexit nightmare is dead

To paraphrase a man whose name I shall never again say or write.

The UK cabinet, with collective responsibility supposedly fully restored, made the following statements within 24 hours on no deal: “make sure that there’s adequate food supplies”, “obviously an attempt to try and ramp up the pressure”, “that kind of selective snippet that makes it into the media, to the extent that the public pay attention to it, I think is unhelpful”, “well, I think that’s a rather irresponsible thing to be coming from the other side. We ought to be trying to reassure citizens on the continent …

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Reform the Reformers – Part 3, The Search for a ‘Big Idea’

Liberal Democrat activists will be familiar with two apparently contradictory refrains.

One is that Liberal Democrats should pursue what is morally right for the country, regardless of public opinion. The other is that ‘no-one ever voted Lib Dem because of our policy on (… insert obscure policy…)’.

The point of the latter refrain is that the public’s problem-solving priorities should dominate policymaking effort.

There is another, potentially reconciling, refrain; that liberal democracy in the UK needs a new popular ‘big idea’. Opposition to the Iraq war is a common reference point, a major contributor to Liberal Democrats having 60+ MPs in the Commons. …

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Why “Built in Britain” is not always Best for Britain

If you’re a remainer, if you’re for an open Britain, if you’re a liberal, there’s little to cheer in Jeremy Corbyn’s latest policy announcement; helping firms make the most of the “opportunities” of Brexit by ending a “reliance on overseas workers” and returning government contracts to the UK from overseas, seemingly without any concern as to the costs.

If there are any opportunities in the UK leaving the European Union, which appears increasingly doubtful, they are certainly not to be found in either the scapegoating of migrants or economic protectionism. The language of Jeremy Corbyn in his speech was …

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London Liberal Democrats announce timetable for GLA/Assembly selections, positive action for BAME candidates

The next known challenges for London Liberal Democrats are the Mayoral and GLA contests in May 2020. These are unique elections in British politics, with nearly nine million people electing one person to lead the City and twenty-five Greater London Assembly members (fourteen elected from constituencies, eleven from a top up list).

Being the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor is a high profile role needing a candidate of the highest calibre and we will have a rigorous process to ensure that our candidate will cope with the scrutiny that the election will bring.

The London Regional Executive places a great importance on …

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Welcome to my day: 30 July 2018 – stockpiling words for a future shortage?

It’s been a very pleasant weekend in mid-Suffolk, with a Branch garden party to attend in Needham Market, a fascinating lunch with a new friend talking about Brexit and wider geopolitics and an intriguing dinner party, but it’s now time to return to work, as the week begins anew. And what have we for you today, I hear you ask?

It hardly seems like two years since the last London Assembly elections, but it really is, and as a sign of how seriously the Regional Party are taking 2020, we today can announce the schedule for the selection of the Party’s …

Posted in News | 16 Comments

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #526

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 526th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (22-28 July, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Big ideas abound at SLF Conference

Yesterday was a fantastic day out at SLF Conference. This annual get-together is always thought-provoking food for the social liberal soul. At this point I should say a massive thank you to the organisers for a great day – and particularly to our own Mary Reid who does so much to make the event a success every year.

Layla Moran followed in the footsteps of the likes of Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and Vince Cable in delivering the Beveridge Memorial Lecture. She’s been in the papers a lot this week with talk of un-named people supposedly trying to support the idea of her being leader. There is no suggestion that these moves have anything to do with her and it seems very unlikely that a new MP with a majority of 800 would be preoccupied with such things. In the last session of the day, she emphatically and genuinely endorsed Vince, saying he is doing brilliantly and is “the grown-up in the room” of British politics. Actually, I think our Golden Dozen are probably the most united, together group of Lib Dem MPs I have ever known. They are all working really well together.

One of the many reasons it’s great to have her as education spokesperson is that you can tell how driven she is. She knows from practical experience what the problems are and has some great ideas about how to fix them. Her frustration at being told to concentrate on the average children and leave the bright to teach themselves and the ones who needed help most to flounder so that the school could do well in league tables led her to find another job.

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Welsh Liberal Democrats’ success at the Royal Welsh Show

Its a truth universally acknowledged that…….there are no ‘ups’ with out ‘downs’, and we Welsh Lib Dems know more than others what ‘down’ feels like. Its crap, to put it bluntly. ‘Down’ is deep and its hard to dust your self off and start climbing up again.

So, its good to report that many of us Welsh Lib Dems are on cloud nine after an exhilarating 4 days at the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells. If you’ve never visited the Royal Welsh before, it’s the largest agricultural show in Europe, with a foot fall of about a quarter of a million. It is by far the largest event on the Welsh calendar and one which makes us proud. A great day out for the family and a celebration of the diversity and excellence of the agricultural sector in Wales and beyond. Wales at its very best!

The Welsh Lib Dems have had a stand at the show for ages, but last year we missed a beat and lost out. That may well have been a good thing: time to reflect on our losses and time to try a new trajectory. This year we returned with a vengeance! We had a plan, an excellent plot and a refreshing, slightly crazy concept.

I recall Sal Brinton saying at WLD conference last autumn that we need more humour in our campaigning, that we need to make campaigning fun and accessible. I’m happy to say that we’ve risen to that challenge and the results have been remarkable. More on that in a bit.

This year we planned a stall and campaign around our fantastic Cabinet Secretary Kirsty Williams and the education portfolio which she holds in Welsh Government. We were lucky to have the skills of a very talented volunteer who designed everything on the stand from its 14m long backdrop to its banners, flags and super cute EU-flag-Libby-animal stickers. We even ran a kiddies colouring in completion each day on the stand, which was surprisingly popular. It was in more of a hill billy theatre production than a political stand. We had straw bales to sit on and bunting festooned like a barn dance.

The whole show this year was geared towards young children and, surprise surprise, everyone loved it. We created a stand that was fun, inviting and definitely not stuffy and digitally designed corporate. What a pleasure it was to see a sun burned farmer walk off with a cute Libby/pony/EU flag sticker!There was a lot of laugher. Nearly 40 Welsh Lib Dems helped on the stall, ranging from the newest Newbies to former MPs and members of the Lords. Even Jane Dodds our brilliant and dynamic leader had her slot on the roster to zip up the marquee for the night. We were a team again and we worked effortlessly together. It felt very good.

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Apartheid in Israel?

Is the Nation-State Act, approved by the Israeli parliament last week, really as bad as its critics suggest?  Jonathan Freedland, Guardian journalist and occasional writer in the Jewish Chronicle, clearly thinks so.  Neither he nor the Chronicle have been willing to criticise Israel very much in the past, but this has been changing in recent weeks.  His article of 27 July lays it out clearly:

“It… (the Act)…says that the right to self-determination in Israel is a right that applies to Jews only and that Hebrew is the state’s only official language, with Arabic now granted merely a “special status”. The combined effect of those two moves is to tell the one-fifth of the country that is not Jewish and whose mother tongue is Arabic that they are second-class citizens.”

Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which is always very critical of its government’s treatment of Palestinians, had an article the following day with the sub-heading The nation-state law is a sickening rejection of equality for all of Israel’s citizens. 

Many are now saying that Israel itself, and not just the Occupied Territories, now meets the UN Definition of an Apartheid State.  Article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines Apartheid as follows:

“The crime of apartheid” means inhumane acts….committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

Reaction to the new law has of course been greeted with anger by Arabs, dismay by European governments (whose concerns are as usual ignored by Israel) and, significantly, there has been strong criticism in Israel itself.

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Reporting Trump’s first year – fascinating insight into journalists on the ropes

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I have a guilty secret.

Every so often, I retreat to Greggs for a Steak Slice, sausage roll, cup of tea and a read of last Saturday’s New York Times.

I get quite excited by the Anglo-American mixture of it all.

Why last Saturday’s New York Times? – I don’t hear you cry.

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Can we please just concentrate on fighting Brexit, not internal party processes

There are not enough swear words in the world to describe my reaction when I read this Mirror story today about Vince’s alleged plan to open up the party leadership to non MPs.

He wants to scrap or amend an obscure part of the party’s constitution which states only an MP can take the helm.

The move, which is likely to be put to the party after summer recess and could be debated at the annual conference in Brighton in September, would mean a non-politician could become leader, scuppering ambitions of Sir Vince’s rivals on the Commons’ benches.

It may or may …

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Could you be a future leader?

Last year I attended ALDC (the Association of Liberal Democrat Campaigners and Councillors) Kickstart weekend as part of their Future Leaders scheme.

15 or so young people in the party are offered individual mentorship to help them get to where they want to be in the party – whether that is an MP, a Councillor, or something else.

And then they attend their choice of wider training sessions on campaigning alongside the other attendees of Kickstart. There are a huge range of courses – such as on how to find volunteers, how to use data for your campaigning, and social media masterclass. The courses are also divided up into beginners, intermediate and advanced so you can go to the course that’s best pitched to you.

Our Future Leaders cohort was divided up into groups depending on how they wanted to be a future leader. I said I wanted to work for the party.

Having said this, I sat one-to-one with one of the trainers and discussed my current job, my previous experiences working for the Liberal Democrats, the different jobs the party offers, and what else I should be looking at doing to build up my CV.

Over the rest of the weekend – I was introduced to many brilliant people, especially brilliant women, and learned about their party roles.

I sat down with party staff in the bar one evening and talked through where I wanted to be – and got yet more advice.

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Vince Cable and Lib Dems should lead centrist movement

Last weekend, the Sunday Times revealed that 38% of people would vote for a new right wing party that is committed to Brexit, and a quarter would support a party which was explicitly far right, anti-immigration and anti-Islam. This should be a wake up call for progressives.

The electorate is faced with the choice between a deeply divided Conservative Party whose Eurosceptic tail is wagging its political dog or a Labour Party that thinks it knows better than the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on how anti-semitism should be defined. The party I belong to, and campaign for is still polling at under 10%, even with all of the chaos which surrounds us.

There are Tory MPs who have received death threats as a consequence of some outrageous headlines in the right wing tabloids and even the broadsheets, describing them as traitors, saboteurs and mutineers. The Prime Minister’s response to this has been dismally weak. She has formed an alliance with far right governments in Hungary to support the UK’s Brexit position. A government which has eroded press freedoms and is clearly homophobic.

On the left, we have seen a Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, told she was being investigated by the Labour Party within hours of a tirade against Jeremy Corbyn, while real anti-semitism cases have taken months to be investigated. We have seen Corbyn refuse to condemn Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, despite the fact that his government last year rounded up political opponents in the middle of the night and arrested them. Looking as an outsider at these two parties is like looking at the scene of a Greek restaurant once the waiters have done their plate smashing routine.

For this reason, I believe it is the duty of the centre to re-align. We can be a spectator as the slow motion car crash which is Brexit plays out or we can do something.

Centrists already work together. Vince Cable has written before with Chuka Umunna in the Evening Standard. The Greens and the Lib Dems worked successfully together to defeat the Conservatives heavily in recent local elections where I live in Richmond. South West London MPs have worked together to campaign vigorously against Heathrow. But why can this not lead to a permanent change in British politics?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 63 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Life as art

One of the world’s best museums of modern art is the Tate Modern in the monolithic old Bankside power station on the south bank of London’s River Thames.

Personally I prefer hanging my walls with figurative paintings of recognisable  people, places and flowers, but I  enjoy going to the Tate Modern for a fresh perspective, good laugh and the occasional thought-provoking head scratch.

One exhibit that achieved all three of those reactions was “The Oak Tree.” I am afraid I can’t remember the artist’s name but the structure of the exhibit remains crystal clear in my memory.

Halfway up the wall, just out of reach of all but the tallest member of the visiting public, was a half-filled glass of water on a small wooden shelf  bracketed to the wall. Underneath the shelf was a short interview between the artist and, presumably, an arts journalist. It went something like this:

Journalist: “This is a most interesting exhibit. What do you call it.”

Artist: “I call it The Oak Tree.”

Journalist: “But it looks like a half-filled glass of water on a wooden shelf to me.”

Artist: “Well, you are wrong. It is an oak tree.”

Journalist: “But everyone who sees it says it is not an oak tree, but a half-filled glass of water on a wooden shelf.”

Artist: “They are wrong and I am right.”

Journalist: “But what gives you the right to say that they are wrong and you are right when all the senses tell us that what we are looking at is a half-filled glass of water on a wooden shelf.”

Artist: “Because I am the artist.”

The water, the glass, the shelf and the printed interview was a perfect example of static performance art. I laughed out loud and spent the next 20 minutes dragging strangers over to point out the exhibit. “What do you think?” I asked them.

The vast majority of the strait-lacked Englishmen uttered a dismissive snort: “Ridiculous.”

But not everyone. Some laughed along with me. Some described it as  genius. Some said: “He did create it. If he created it he should be able to call if what he wants.”

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 6 Comments

Changes to the Membership Incentive Scheme

Since its launch in 2013, the Membership Incentive Scheme has helped our party not just grow, but thrive. 

The money from it has helped local parties grow their membership, fight campaigns and demand better for their communities.

In recent years, we’ve seen a worrying trend developing though. More and more local parties stopped actively recruiting new members.

This is concerning – because part of the original intent of the scheme was to help build strong, local teams that would win elections.

At the request of the relevant State Party Committees, we have therefore been exploring options to revise the current incentive scheme.

Under the …

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No Deal would be horrendous – but let’s not forget that any other type of Brexit is bad news and we must resist it

So, let me get this right. Our own Prime Minister has admitted that we are now stockpiling food and medicines just in case Brexit goes disastrously wrong. Our ability to supply ourselves with the basics of life is now under threat because of her Government’s reckless appeasement of the extreme right of her party. And this really matters. It’s actually about whether people live or die. As my friend Jenny points out:

Tory extreme Brexiteers think that no deal would be just fine, we’d breeze through it. They also said that negotiating Brexit would be simple. No, it’s bloody complicated. And it would be even with a Government that didn’t turn up to the negotiations like a disorganised student turning in a badly crafted essay written in an all night Red Bull fuelled panic in the hours before the deadline. I’m slightly worried by all this ramping up of No Deal, though. I don’t want people to think that when the Brexit outcome is finally unveiled, that anything that doesn’t involve having to survive on barbecued rats, Baldrick’s coffee from Blackadder goes Forth and having our loved ones dying unnecessarily because they can’t get the medicine they need is in any way desirable. Just because we’re not cooking cockroach lasagne with boiled tulip bulbs from Theresa’s Brexit Cookbook and have our holidays cancelled because there are no flights anymore, it’s still a bad option that no responsible government would put before us.

Any sort of Brexit is really bad for this country. Don’t let the Government and the Brexiteers ramp up the possibility of No Deal to make the shambles they come back with look good in comparison. It really won’t be of any benefit at all to this country. How do we know? The Government’s own analysis tells us so. In January a leaked government document told us that we’d be worse off under every Brexit scenario. We can and should insist on a more ambitious approach – and the only thing that works is staying in.

The softest Brexit option of continued single-market access through membership of the European Economic Area would, in the longer term, still lower growth by 2%.

And some more misery:

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18 Bold Ideas from the Ashdown Prize

More than 1,140 people entered the Ashdown Prize, organised earlier this year by Your Liberal Britain. Only ten of these ideas could make it onto the shortlist – but there were so many brilliant entries that we decided we had to celebrate and promote more of them.
 
The following are a list of Commended Entries. They are the personal picks of our shortlisters: ideas that didn’t make it to the final ten, but that are worthy of special praise.
Here they are, arranged alphabetically by author:

·    Mental health assessment before military demobilisation – Adrian Grant

·    National post-secondary learning entitlement – Alastair Thomson

·    Link corporation tax to fair pay – Alex Wasyliw

·    Compensate individuals for use of their data – Bansri Buddhdev

·    Set up an NHS national lottery – Brian Morrison

·    Prisoner voting and prison parish councils – Callum Robertson

·    Establish a UK-wide Care Service – Charlie McCarthy

·    Freedom of Information over public contracts – Dave Page

·    Phase out non-recyclable plastics – Dave Parton-Ginno

·    A new capital city for Britain – Drew Durning

·    £1,000 trust for every child – James Thellusson

·    Low-risk prisoners can keep their jobs – Jonathan Hunt

·    Legal aid for suing the state – Jonathan Wilson

·    Legalise a non-binary third gender – Natalie Bird

·    Universal suffrage for all taxpayers – Richard Gregson

·    Introduce credit cards that fund the NHS – Steve Grosvenor

·    Calculate retirement age by life expectancy – Stuart Thompstone

·    Tax relief on investments in the Developing World – Tom Arms

Congratulations to all!

If you’d like to help take any of these ideas forward, come to our Policy Lab at Autumn Conference. We’ll invite you to help putt ideas such as these (and any ideas you come prepared with) through their paces, so that we can all work together with other Lib Dems to polish radical ideas into practical policies.

 
We’re also going to launch later this year a forum to help Lib Dems develop policies together online. If you’d like to stay posted about that, sign up for our mailing list right here.
 

We’re now re-designing the Ashdown Prize for next year. You can read our review of what worked and what didn’t here, and you can send us your ideas for how to run next year’s competition here.

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From the new chair of Federal Finance and Resources Committee

In common with other political parties, the Liberal Democrats have more than one ‘Treasurer’. Many of you will know Mike German as the ‘Party Treasurer’ responsible for fundraising and Dinesh Dhamija who is Mike’s deputy. Both Mike and Dinesh are responsible for getting ‘money in’ to the Party and you will have seen them at Federal Conference and at other fundraising events. Behind the scenes sits the Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) who is responsible for ‘money out’ and, as far as the law and the Electoral Commission is concerned, is the ‘Registered’ Treasurer (RT) of the party. The RT is a non-executive (unremunerated) position which has oversight of the Federal Budget, the Federal Audit, and Compliance (including PPERA and GDPR). An active role, the RT has the final sign-off to mark donations as permissible or impermissible for Electoral Commission purposes.

Peter Dunphy has been fulfilling the RT role most ably for a number of years but is moving away from London and felt that the time had come to hand over the reins to somebody else who could be more available to London HQ on a regular basis. The RT is a position elected by the Federal Board and, after a hustings and a vote in May, I was elected to the position to succeed Peter formally on 1st July of this year.

I have spoken at Federal Conference many times, am treasurer for Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats (since 2015), sit on the local party executive, am vice-chair of my local Parish Council, and am an approved candidate for West Berkshire District Council in the 2019 elections. Until recently I was also co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Entrepreneur’s Network and with Andrew Dixon (President), and Tilly McAuliffe helped to grow the membership of that organisation to such a point that it became one of the largest donors to the Party in the 2017 election.

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Catastrophic supply chain risks of a “no deal” Brexit

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It’s not fashionable but I’m willing to put in a good word for Theresa May. Albeit unnecessarily and misguidedly, she has worked very patiently to stitch together some sort of tenuous British cabinet negotiating position for Brexit. You have to admire her patience. I was also impressed but some of her words when she announced the Chequers deal to parliament on July 9th:

The friction-free movement of goods is the only way to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and it is the only way to protect the uniquely integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes on which millions of jobs and livelihoods depend. So at the heart of our proposal is a UK-EU free trade area that will avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at the border and protect those supply chains.

Those words suggested to me that Theresa May and her chief negotiator, Olly Robbins, have “got” just-in-time and how vital it is to our modern economy.

For a long time, whenever I tried to explain my career, I could see people’s eyes glazing over. Trying to explain in the pub that I worked in “logistics” was a concept only people who served in the army understood. I used to say I worked “in computers” instead. It was much easier. So, it is quite nice to finally see my career having some relevance to current affairs.

I spent 35 years working in IT supply chains. This involved relying on daily trucks from the Netherlands. Day after day. The crux of the job was to reduce inventory to a bare minimum, to maintain high service levels for the customer and to minimise cost. I spent those 35 years focussing laser-like on that subject – cost, service, inventory.

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Breaking the stranglehold of the monoliths

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One of the most distinctive statements we have made in recent years has been that we are not afraid of coalition government; indeed we entered into one in 2010. Now the media see serious divisions in the two apparent monoliths who swap power between them, and ask whether the time is ripe for a new ‘party of the centre’. Vince speaks often of a realignment of politics and implies that the Party could benefit significantly from such a seismic shift. Which begs the questions, in what way and with what objective?

It has become clear that neither Labour nor the Tories are actually monolithic; each contains factions hardly on speaking terms with each other. Applying a simple left/right measure there seems to be a hope that both moderate Tories and moderate Labour voters can be persuaded to fall in behind a moderate, centrist banner, carry the day and emerge as the new monolith displacing one or both of the two current ones. But why on earth would we want a new monolith?

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Good weather to bury bad news?

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Whilst enjoying listening to the county cricket commentaries I watched the news yesterday with half an eye.

Hello – did they really just do that?….

…I thought.

Yes, the government dumped out a plethora of inconvenient announcements just as MPs packed their sandals and beach balls for the summer recess. (What West Wing viewers will know as “Take out the trash day”)

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What would you change about the Ashdown Prize?

Last year, Paddy Ashdown and Your Liberal Britain decided to set up a policy innovation prize. Paddy and I both knew that there thousands of Lib Dems out there who were bursting with good ideas but didn’t know where to send them or what to do with them. We wanted to see if we could help.

Why? Well, Your Liberal Britain aims to convince the Liberal Democrats to become a powerful and inspirational political movement, above all by empowering its members and supporters. We want the party to say to its members: “you share our passion for building a Liberal Britain: we’re here to help you do it”.

The Party’s definitely moving in the right direction: from the new strategy agreed at Spring Conference, to the extremely impressive people-powered Exit from Brexit campaign, to the many ways in which the Federal Policy Committee (FPC) is working to involve members in policymaking, to the greater use of competitions, interactive content and digital campaigning. 

But there is still much to do, and we want to help the party out where we can. We don’t think it’s all that useful – or particularly fair – for us to just stand on the sidelines and criticise the party. The challenge we’ve laid down is difficult, after all, and no-one has all the answers (including us). So instead, we’ve decided to run some experimental projects aimed at helping the party make the most use of its members, and at helping members get the most out of the party. Many of these projects have worked; some of them haven’t; all of them provide useful lessons.

Policymaking in particular is one area where the gap between members’ desire to do something and the party’s ability to use them is particularly wide, despite the great work going on in the FPC. To help out, Your Liberal Britain runs a number of projects designed to help members get more involved in policymaking. We distribute free motion summaries at Conference, to help cut through the jargon; we run high-energy policy brainstorm events, getting Lib Dems to work together in groups to hash out big ideas; and we have an online forum in the works that will help people polish these ideas into robust policy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 18 Comments

Reform the Reformers – Part 2, Challenges in Updating Liberal Democracy

There are two types of people in this world. Those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t.

The rise of left and right wing populism points reformers towards updating liberal democracy.

The remedies that left and right populists peddle are remarkably similar; one-party regimes, state control of the economy, dismantling the ‘separation of powers’, nationalism, and a rapid increase in state spending.

Less attention, however, is paid to the parallel rise of liberal, pro-democracy parties in government; Canada, Netherlands, South Korea, Malaysia, Ireland and elsewhere.

There are many lessons to be learned from liberal-democratic parties in these countries, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 12 Comments
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