Ros Scott’s Party President’s report (August ’09)

July is usually a busy month in Parliament, as there is a rush to complete things before the long Parliamentary recess. This July has been no exception, and there were some long sessions, particularly in dealing with the Parliamentary Standards Bill, a rushed piece of legislation which has needed a considerable amount of work in terms of amendments, in order to make it workable.

As an aside, I have been in discussion with the Electoral Commission on the question of another piece of legislation, the Political Parties and Elections Bill. I am concerned that the burden of bureaucracy placed upon Local Party Treasurers is disproportionate to the amounts of money involved, and am pleased that my suggestion that Local Party Officers be included in the consultation process has been adopted by them.

The work of the Select Committee on Communications, which is currently carrying out an inquiry into the British film industry, does have its upsides – this month in the form of a visit to the Harry Potter film set. It is entirely coincidental that Daniel Radcliffe, whom I met on the visit, publicly declared his support for the Liberal Democrats the following week.

The end-of-term reception for Liberal Democrat peers, hosted by our Leader there, Tom McNally, was graced by the presence of a number of our candidates in target seats, who were in London attending valuable training in support of their ongoing campaigns, as well as by members of our teams in the Commons, the European Parliament and the London Assembly.

I think that it is important that I continue to find time for non-Presidential work. In July, I have given a series of lectures to visiting American students, given a briefing to a delegation of local government colleagues from Serbia, and chaired a seminar organised by Women in Public Policy, an organisation of which I am a co-chair. For the seventh year running, I have judged and presented the National Transport Awards, organised by ‘Transport Times’.

I spent some time in Kent, visiting five local parties in a tour organised by local campaigner, Antony Hook. Later in the month, I was really pleased to support Carol Caruana’s campaign in Colville ward, in which she became our first elected councillor on Kensington & Chelsea Council, and was even more pleased by the size of her majority. However, the focus of my campaigning effort this month was the Norwich North by-election, with four campaign visits, including polling day. April Pond and her team are to be congratulated for holding our vote steady in a hotly-contested and crowded field.

As usual, internal party meetings form a major part of my workload. I have already posted a report from the Federal Executive meeting, and during July also went along to a number of Federal Policy Committee sessions and Conference planning meetings.

Jeremy Hargreaves’s initiative to get members more involved in policy making at a grass roots level, as mentioned in my April report, was launched in July, under the strapline of ‘Engage’, and I am really pleased to have been involved in a modest way. I have attended the summer meeting of English Council, spoken at the dinner organised by the Liberal Democrat History Group to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Liberal Party and attended a reception hosted by Liberal Democrats in PR.

* Ros Scott is President of the Liberal Democrats.

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