REPRISE For new members: The Lowdown: How the party works and what it has to offer

Welcome to everyone who has joined the Liberal Democrats over the past few days – over 1000 since our Conference finished and hundreds more yesterday in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election. It’s great to have you on board. We have so much to do to stand up to the most appalling Government I have ever known.

This is basically a repeat of a post that I did last year when many joined the party in the wake of the election result in the hope that it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, read it and think it sounds appealing, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Your rights as a member

The Liberal Democrats gives its members a great deal of say. You will have a vote to elect the leader and party president. You will also have the right to a say in choosing your local party office bearers. You can vote at our Conference and for party committees. Nominations will soon be opening for this year’s elections to federal committees so look out for more information on that shortly.

Conference

Any member can attend our UK-wide, Scottish, Welsh or regional conferences. We have two UK wide events a year, a weekend in March and a four or five day event in September. Next year’s are being held in York from 15-17 March and Bournemouth from 16th-20th September. We have proper debates and members decide the policy of the party. MPs and ordinary members are on the same level, each with a vote on every issue. Many of the motions come from local parties and are amended by others.

Attending Conference is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the party and meet people. There are usually about 5 things you want to do in every time slot throughout the day whether it’s debating in the hall, attending fringe meetings or training. You might find my annually updated guide to the craziness of conference useful to read.

Conference can be an expensive business but there are ways to do it on the cheap. One such way is to volunteer to be a steward as our Paul Walter has done. He says:

You don’t have to pay for registration, they refund you for a certain amount of travel and accommodation and you get paid a small subsistence amount for each half day you steward for.

Join one of the party interest groups

There are very many groups representing every topic and interest imaginable. All would be very happy to have you as a member. Some have special status in the party.

If you want to get involved in campaigning, membership of ALDC (the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners) is pretty essential. It’s a brave person who faces the electorate without their advice and support – and figures show that ALDC members are more likely to be elected.

Liberal Democrat Women aims to ensure that our policy reflects women’s views and needs and to ensure higher representation at all levels of the party and government.

The amazing Liberal Youth  have made fantastic contributions on policy and to campaigning over the years. They are a fair bit better behaved than they were in my day, however.

LGBT+ Lib Dems played a huge role in the campaign for equal marriage and are there to ensure that our policy has a liberal approach to LGBTQI people and engage with LGBTQI groups outside the party.

Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats represents the interests of and tries to increase the representation of BAME Liberal Democrats.

Outside these five there is a huge array of interest groups from the Lib Dem Disability Association to Green Lib Dems to  Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats to the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum to friends of various countries to campaign groups for electoral reform and land value taxation. There’s also not entirely serious carbohydrate-laden rivalry as Lib Dem Friends of Biscuit engage in a highly amusing turf war with Lib Dem Friends of Cake, there’s Lib Dem Friends of Gin and various sites of devotion to cute, furry animals. There truly is something for everybody.

Our little quirks

I would never wish to enslave anyone by conformity but the party certainly has more than its fair share of Doctor Who fans. There’s something about that slightly socially awkward guy who spreads a message of live and let live and peace throughout time and space that seems to appeal to us.

We tend to like beer, too, especially if it’s real ale produced by some small, independent micro brewery.

It’s fair to say that we have more constitutional and electoral systems geeks than are probably necessary, but we love them anyway.

Getting involved locally

Your first resource is the party website. As a member, you can sign up to the members’ only section which has all sorts of information about the way the party works. If you want to find details of the local party in your area, you can do so here. The local party is the first building block in the structure of the party and is usually based on a parliamentary constituency but it can be a council area or a number of constituencies. In England you then have 9 regions. They look after things like candidate selection. The state parties of England, Wales and Scotland are responsible for, among other things, membership and policy affecting each state. They are autonomous. We are not hierarchical – the Federal Party does not tell states and regions what to do.

There may not be an active local party, in which case you will find details of your regional or state party contacts. Those regions and state parties should be making efforts to get you involved in your area – but that might take time, so bear with them.

Online opportunities

As a member, you can take part in our members’ Forum which is private. Sign up here, but it can take a while for your membership to be confirmed so bear with us.

There are numerous Facebook groups you can get involved in. One of the most popular for new members is Lib Dem Newbies UK which, for the past year, has been a fantastic resource and is a very positive place for discussion about all aspects of Lib Demmery. Yesterday it passed 3000 members which is a great achievement since May 2015.

if you have a blog, why not add it to the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator which is run by our technical wizard, Ryan.

This has been a very quick whistle-stop tour round the party. It’s barely scratched the surface.  I hope it has been useful. What else would you like to know?

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

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

2 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 25th Sep '16 - 12:36pm

    ” Friends of Biscuit” This is serious politics for anyone interviewed by Mumsnet. Have your answer ready in the interests of credibility.
    Labour’s former leader Gordon Brown was asked, but was Unready.
    About 24 hours later (and perhaps after taking advice on the demographics and opinions of Mumsnet) he answered “anything with chocolate”. Comforting? fattening? or both?

  • “LGBT+ Lib Dems played a huge role in the campaign for equal marriage”

    Same Sex marriage. Still not equal for trans people, and not stopping campaigning till it is.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.