Party strategy motion passes – with amendment securing local members rights on standing candidates

This morning Conference passed the party strategy motion. One of the Federal Board’s key tasks is to bring a motion on party strategy to Conference for approval.

This one had lots of good stuff in it on developing a strong narrative, improving diversity and menber experience, developing our campaigning capacity and having a “one party” approach where we co-ordinate our effort.

There were four amendments, all of which passed and, I think, substantially improved it. Lib Dems for Racial Equality called for this party to finally pull its finger out and implement the Thornhill and Alderdice reviews and get out and engage with ethnic minority communities. The Parliamentary Candidates Association called for greater support for candidates and 10 members called for our progress towards net zero as a party to be expedited.

These three passed with little opposition. The drama was all around an amendment proposed by Federal Board member Simon McGrath. It called for us to stand a candidate in every seat at the next General Election unless local members agreed not to. Anyone who bears the scars of the Unite to Remain effort in 2019 will probably have some sympathy with this. However, others, including me, felt that it would bind any attempts to stand down in some places where it would be sensible to do so. I generally think we should stand everywhere, and I think that voices calling on us to stand down are generally from parties who wouldn’t do the same in return, but I felt we should give ourselves the flexibility.

ALDC Chair Prue Bray made such a good speech in support that I asked her if we could publish it. It’s just rammed with good sense about how we should work together and I love it.

I want to get rid of this government. Not because it’s Conservative but because it’s dreadful. It’s dreadful because it isn’t liberal, in its policies, values or behaviour. I want a liberal government, or at least one that we can exert the maximum liberal influence on. And the only way to get that is to get more Lib Dems elected. Labour aren’t liberal, nor are the Greens, the SNP or Plaid.

It’s us or nothing.

We won’t get more Lib Dems elected if we don’t stand, however tempting a pre-election pact might look. Unite to Remain looked tempting. It didn’t deliver anything.

When the battle is over, when the votes are counted, that’s the time to make pacts to further the progressive cause. And that’s why I strongly support amendment 3.

There are people who don’t agree. That’s fine, I don’t mind challenge. What I mind is people who tell me I am wrong without producing any supporting facts, and then go off and do whatever they want even if it’s completely against the interests of the party.

And that takes me to the other half of what I want to say.

We won’t get anywhere with any strategy if we don’t work together. So can we all please

Compromise – build on the views we have in common, not widen the wounds of division;

Recognise that requiring 100% allegiance on everything would soon reduce the party’s membership to zero; but also that tolerance of illiberal views should only go so far;

Accept stuff: accept that everyone has a right to be who they are; accept that people make genuine mistakes. And accept that properly made decisions should be abided by, not repeatedly challenged to get your own way

Show kindness and respect – you know, treat people decently

Trust and be trustworthy – being sceptical of authority is in our DNA, and if you have been burnt once it’s hard to risk trusting again – but we should be able to rely on one another. Aren’t we all on the same side?

In other words, talking about our values is not enough. We have to live them. We don’t just need to tell people what we stand for, we need to show them. No strategy will succeed unless we do. And that’s down to each and every one of us. Including me. And all of you.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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15 Comments

  • It’s disappointing that a number of people who, either because they weren’t paying attention, or because it’s what they’d like, or they enjoy a bit of fake drama, have misrepresented the need to let the local party decide whether to stand down a candidate as ‘we refuse to stand down candidates anywhere’.

    I am in favour of carefully selected local pacts, but if they aren’t done with the goodwill of the local party, they are pointless. Granted, there may be some local parties where petty local rivalries mean they veto what could be a strategic move for national cooperation, so I’d have liked to have given the national party more flexibility to make arrangements, but I still don’t see how it wouldn’t become a problem if it were forced onto an unwilling local party.

    I do wonder if some of the hesitance comes from the attitude of the new Green leadership who said some daft things about us in May, and the local party in Chesham & Amersham. But given the Greens themselves require their local parties to agree to standing down, they couldn’t take offence by our decision today.

    Similarly, I wonder if the members would have been more comfortable with centrally agreed deals if Labour had actually committed to PR. Hopefully Labour supporters who would like a more general alliance will understand that it’s a very tough sell without a public commitment to electoral reform as the goal.

  • Brad Barrows 19th Sep '21 - 11:31pm

    I actually disagree with the thrust of that speech for the simple reason that the Liberal Democrats are more than just ‘liberal’ – the Party is also ‘progressive’. While it is true that neither the Conservatives or Labour are liberal, it is also true that Labour is progressive in a way the Conservatives are certainly not. Do most Liberal Democrats really have no preference between those two parties as implied in the speech? I would have thought that most members would want to do a deal with Labour to keep the Tories out of power rather than the other way round. By extension, most would probably to winning for an electoral arrangement if that made getting the Tories out of power more likely.

  • Christopher Moore 20th Sep '21 - 6:18am

    We’ve been through this many times: electoral arrangements do no stack up, if you mean standing down candidates.

    Unite te Remain was a disaster, and was always going to be a disaster. It even further alienated our once significant support from Euro-sceptical voters, paticularly in the West Country, but elsewhere too. We have years if work to try to recover a fraction of that support – from truly liberal-minded voters, btw. Tragic to see them voting Brexit Party and now Tory.

    We need to stop fantasizing about the magic of pacts, and be far more self-confident and independent.

    Arrangements can happen AFTER the election, but depend on getting a significant number of seats, which we don’t have now.

  • The passed amendment, as reported here, could be viewed the other way around – it gives local members the ability to decide not to stand a candidate, rather than doing so and then having one dropped in on them from HQ at the last minute?

  • Isn’t this rather a silly argument of perfection given that I think the party has only contested all seats (Speaker excepted) twice in it’s history (2010/15). So 6 out of 8 elections haven’t seen a full slate.

  • As Fiona almost said…getting rid of the Tory government is not sufficient reason for pre-electoral pacts. Getting rid of First Past the Post is, but Labour are not ready for it yet.

  • The problem with the analysis offered by Prue Bray is that a significant proportion of the Labour party is essentially liberal and share many of our priorities. Paddy Ashdown and Roy Jenkins wisely recognised that in 1997 and acted accordingly.

    I have been a Labour parliamentary candidate (Rutland and Melton 2015) and a Liberal parliamentary candidate (Bosworth 2005). What struck me most was that, in the most part, many of the really important issues of concern were fundamentally the same, only the people were different. I have criticisms of the Labour party nationally, but at grass roots level the two parties have much in common – concern for public services, a demand for better schools and a concern for the disadvantaged. And, in the words of a famous song from the 1990s, “we both share the people we hate.”

    If we don’t want a permanent Conservative government and Conservative policies, we must be prepared to talk to sensible people of other parties to look for common ground.

  • Peter Martin 20th Sep '21 - 11:47am

    “If we don’t want a permanent Conservative government and Conservative policies, we must be prepared to ….”

    How about move to right Sarah Green style?

    The Tories have had it all to themselves with the right of centre vote for long enough. Sarah Green has shown that if you campaign on the safer issues such as pot holes in roads, road safety, and restricting development in the Green belt, then you can pick up Tory seats. She was smart enough to not campaign on the issues of Brexit, LBGT rights, helping the poor etc. The right of centre voters aren’t interested in those, because many of them voted for Brexit, they probably aren’t in any of the categories of LBGT, and they aren’t particularly poor themselves.

    But if there is a possibility of a high speed rail line or a new housing estate at the bottom of their garden, they become very interested!

  • Peter Martin 20th Sep ’21 – 11:47am…………….How about move to right Sarah Green style?….But if there is a possibility of a high speed rail line or a new housing estate at the bottom of their garden, they become very interested!…………..

    It works in a by-election but not in a GE..And, as for ‘move to right’ that happened in 2010; we ended up as the ‘monkey’ in that coalition and, in 2015, enough people voted for rhe ‘organ-grinder’ to make the ‘monkey’ an irrelevance..

    If you think you can ‘out-Tory the Tories’; you’ll have no better luck than did Vince Cable and Nick Clegg..

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep '21 - 4:07pm

    Martin is raising a very interesting point. i think his conclusion is incorrect. i think Peter is indeed what he says on his tin, a leftish Labour man. i think it is why he does not get it, that this party is not a rightish liberal one! It is centre to centre left.

    I think, Brad correct, too much of the small l liberal. Not enough of the democrat, whether small or big “d!”

    we need more democracy in the Uk, as much or more than any sort of liberalism. And we need social democracy especially, the pandemic has rendered it essential!

  • Jason Conner 20th Sep '21 - 4:26pm

    So is Sarah Green who is very much a social liberal and it smacks of petty jealousy attacking an MP’s successful campaigning on local issues. You might have a point if you singled out Ed Davey’s enthusiasm for privatisation. Incidentally over 55% voted remain in the Chesham and Amersham constituency so that’s another misnomer. But just how progressive is Labour these days? Their MPs spoke out against increasing taxes to spend on the NHS and social care, maybe that’s why they’ve run services down to the ground in the labour controlled authority where I live in London. I thought they believed in extra spending on public services so that’s not very progressive to me. The 1p income tax rise was a Lib Dem policy targeted on health and social care. The SNP and Plaid on the other hand are far more progressive these days.

  • Ruth Bright 20th Sep '21 - 4:45pm

    Yes Caron, Prue’s speech is most touching but only with proper candidate support to back up the sentiments (money for the FREEPOST and the deposit, kindness, a few hours off if you go into labour [with a small “l”] etc!!!).

    We may understand the concept of a paper candidate; understandably the voters do not. Paper candidates are expected to answer the same questions, do the same meetings and casework as proper ones. if anything the toughest thing is being in a “middling” seat where you have to create the illusion of a proper campaign when the reality is a few mates and your “press office” is your toddler in the corner with a colouring book!

  • I would like us to stop working with the Green Party at any level. They are a repository for people who think Labour aren’t left wing enough anymore. I was appalled that Natalie Bennett has been defending M25 blocking protestors.

    I am open to working with Labour now they have better leadership and after a long period of Tory government a Lib-Lab “understanding” is inevitable and pragmatic.

    I believe that the best place for us to be is in the liberal centre /centre left ground and that a centrist party should be neutral in the “culture wars”.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep '21 - 11:05pm

    Marco, mio amico, we might not agree ever very much on the virus, but I like every word of what you just said!

    I in general like us to link with colleagues on the cross party basis our party is a beliver in. But the Greens do take my real but dwindling patience with the foibles of politicians way to far these days!

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