Sal Brinton to stand for party President

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThe Liberal Democrats have had a really tough four years since the formation of the coalition. Even though we suspected it would be tough, being in Government has taken its toll. Too many councillors who have worked hard, campaigned hard, and faithfully served their communities well, have lost their seats. They embody Liberal Democrat principles in action all over the country, so we must rebuild our local government base as a priority.

There are many things we have achieved in the last four years of which we can be proud, but the cost to the Party has been hard to take.  I believe that the next Party President will not just have to take us through the General Election, but support Liberal Democrats as we find ourselves, our passion for our liberal principles, and our love of helping our communities once more.

At the heart of this is how we talk to each other. I want to see wholesale changes in the internal communications of the party. The voices of our members need to be heard, and that has to start with the President too. The way the presidency works needs to be improved – it is so much more than just sending out emails from HQ. The President has to have real conversations with members, something like an ombudsman who can spend time on getting to the root of members’ concerns. To make this happen I want to have regular surgeries: one to one sessions, whether face to face, Facetime, Skype or on the phone, with booked slots advertised well in advance, and this will build on the more traditional formal meetings, conferences, webinars and tweeting.  You reach me now,  on email: [email protected]; website:  Facebook: Sal for Lib Dem President; Twitter: @salbrinton .

The President will also have to speak for the party externally. I’ve been in the Lords for three years now, and I have had a number of different roles within the party over the last forty years. As an agent in a London GLA development seat in the 1970s; a young mum delivering leaflets in Cambridge in the 1980s; a council group leader on Cambridgeshire; and a vice chair of FPC and more recently FCC.  I am proud that we are a party that still involves its members in making policy, and voting for it at conference, despite the others handing more and more over to their leaders. I would be honoured to speak for all our members.

As a senior councillor advisor for the Improvement and Development Agency I have helped our council groups up and down the country turn round some tough problems, and tough problems need plain talking. As important as my experience within the party, I’ve been a businesswoman and Bursar of two Cambridge colleges. As a non-Executive I am a trustee of UNICEF UK, and was a founding Chair of a Learning and Skills Council, so I’ve have considerable experience of holding leaders and organisations to account.

Those of us who have been in the predecessor parties to the Liberal Democrats remember how our local government grassroots community working underpinned the party’s rise from previous electoral deserts.  We must repeat this now.

As your President, I will do all I can to give our party the chance to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

·         We need to make sure that members’ voices are heard: a real two way traffic between the grass roots and LDHQ with our parliamentarians;

·         We must rebuild our local government base;

·         We must ensure that there is no erosion of our democratic principles within the party.

I’ve set out my vision to be president, and what I will do if elected. Join me, so that together we can fight for a distinctive and liberal vision.


* Baroness Sal Brinton is President of the Liberal Democrats. She is a working Lib Dem peer, and was the candidate for Watford at the 2010 and 2005 General Elections.

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  • Bart from Kingston 9th Jul '14 - 4:29pm

    Sal looks OK, however it might be better to consider someone not so closely connected to the leadership. Linda Jack could be an option.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Jul '14 - 4:51pm

    Rebuilding our local government base is obviously essential – the problem is that most of the party has forgotten how to do it.

    Tony Greaves

  • Paul Reynolds 9th Jul '14 - 5:08pm

    The choices for President this time round are difficult – three good candidates have declared. I have tried to glean from the comments of Sal, Liz Lynne and Linda Jack what their underlying analyses are of where the party organisation has taken a wrong turn, and what reforms are needed – including changes in the role of the Presidency. Perhaps surprisingly for some, Linda seems to be more than just a step ahead. Linda has a reasoned position of where the party organisation, structure and systems have gone awry, and the types of reforms she would like to build consensus around. Sal is known for her all round competence, but one can’t help feeling that tweaks to internal communication methods are sufficient (although I appreciate that Sal has other ideas too). Both Sal and Liz might be a bit too broad brush on reforms and I hope we will see some more ‘how’ and move away from good intentions over fairly obvious problems.

    Above all, it seems to me that Linda has that crucial understanding of the seriousness of the reforms needed to the ‘party machine’., especially the engagement of members and Councillors in providing the feedback on problems as perceived by the general public, and real outcomes from policies implemented by government. One of the lessons from UKIP’s relative success perhaps has been a shorter distance between popular experience of government policy and the priorities of the leadership – even though we don’t agree with how they formulate matters. Linda I think does seem to appreciate that the central party operation does need a shake up.

    The pursuit of difficult reforms, some pre-2015 general election and some longer term, does seem to me to require someone independent minded who is not shy about challenging the status quo.

    However, there is time for all three declared candidates to set out their analyses and reform proposals clearly. I just hope members are presented with a bit more ‘I want to do’ and a bit less ‘I want to be’.

  • Simon McGrath 9th Jul '14 - 7:16pm

    Paul – isn’t there a pretty fundamental problem with Linda though? She is Chair of Liberal Left who believe that we should only be in Coalition with Labour. Would that not be a problem if we were negotiating with both parties after the election?

  • Jonathan Pile 9th Jul '14 - 7:55pm

    Linda Jack would be a candidate of the social liberal wing to help rebalance the party and this would be welcomed . We also need a female deputy got parliament

  • Paul Reynolds 10th Jul '14 - 9:35am

    Good point, Simon…. and indeed all declared candidates have their downsides. However the Party President will not lead coalition negotiations… which depend to a great extent on parliamentary mathematics. In the event that the party in parliament has an unlikely equal choice mathematically between Labour and Tories then the outcome should depend on the progress of negotiations and what emerges as being on offer. Sure if Linda takes the position you describe prior to negotiations it may reduce the LibDems’ negotiating strength. But it will depend on her position at the relevant time.

    We may hear more from Linda on this.

    However the vote for party president should with the role of president in mind. Given the role of president and the clear need for reform of the party, Linda seems the better choice to me, since the other two declared candidates as yet have very little to say about the nature of the problems we have to address and the specific steps in addressing them. There’s a bit too much ‘I want to be’ and not enough ‘I want to do’.

  • peter tyzack 10th Jul '14 - 9:56am

    I assume LDV will be seen to be balanced by offering this platform to all candidates..

  • Richard Boyd 10th Jul '14 - 11:14am

    Tony Greaves is right. She stared at grass roots, and has not forgotten them.
    Sal will be a good President, and I woudl support her candidacy.

    Richard Boyd, OBE DL

  • Copied from Liberal Left “About Us” founding position statement:

    “A future coalition with Labour and others on the liberal left is more likely to secure Liberal Democrat goals than a further coalition with the Conservatives and we should actively work to make that possible.”

    Equidistant, no. Open-minded, yes. To spin the words as “Liberal Left (who) believe that we should only be in Coalition with Labour”, as Simon McGrath has done, is a distortion.

    The real problem we have is Nick Clegg, whose fanatical contempt for all things Labour will make even-handed negotiation quite impossible – if he insists on sticking around to cause trouble.

  • There are all sorts of opportunities for different factions within the broad church of our party to express their views and to persuade others. That is not what the presidency is for. The President should not act as a mouthpiece for the leadership but must act to represent the membership. As I see it he or she must be a uniting and not a divisive figure. I do not know Sal Brinton personally but she seems to me to measure up to what I would look for in a President. She will get my vote.

  • Sal will probably get my vote, as much due to a personal act of kindness when our paths crossed a decade ago, long before I joined the Lib Dems. But I’ll have a good look through what the candidates are saying first – we need to choose wisely as a party and this is no time for divisive candidates

  • Rabi Martins 13th Jul '14 - 2:07pm

    All three candidates clearly have grassroots experience so there is not much to choose between them on that score
    But only one of the three Sal – is currently an establishment figure
    By virtue of her position in the House of Lords Sal has had to support the leadership and has done so with unfailing loyalty It is this apect of Sal’s CV that for me makes her the wrong choice as our President at this point in time
    I worry that having served the leadership without questioning it any way for the past 4 years Sal will not find it easy to stand up to the leadership in the future
    @ Denis Your view that > The President should not act as a mouthpiece for the leadership but must act to represent the membership Sal is promising some clear ideas about listening Linda has that crucial understanding of the seriousness of the reforms needed to the ‘party machine’., especially the engagement of members and Councillors in providing the feedback on problems as perceived by the general public, and real outcomes from policies implemented by government <

    That is why I believe Linda is the right person to be our next Party President

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