Sal Brinton writes…The phoenix is rising, and that is down to you

It’s just under one week since the polls closed, and we have now recruited over 11,000 new members and it’s growing all the time.  There is an extraordinary public endorsement of a liberal voice – a Liberal Democrat voice – in the UK today, and this is so exciting.

I want to thank everyone who has contacted me by email, text, Facebook, Twitter and phone. Please forgive me for being slow in replying personally, but I am receiving hundreds every day. I am extremely busy with everything that the President has to do, the Leadership election, and as you can imagine there are other responsibilities emerging and I have very limited resources. The best email to reach me is [email protected].

The Federal Executive (FE) met on Saturday, and I wanted to let you know more detail of what was decided.

Firstly, we agreed that we wanted the Leadership contest to conclude before the summer recess, so that the new Leader would have time to set up his office and be ready for his first conference as Leader. We also agreed to extend the period between nominations opening (which they do today) and close of nominations, to encourage everyone including candidates and their teams to get lapsed members to re-join. The Returning Officer has now agreed this can happen. We also asked the Returning Officer to set out the list of official hustings as soon as possible, so that members would have access to hustings. The agreed list means that virtually all members will have a hustings within 75 miles, or in the very rural areas (e.g. some parts of Scotland and Wales) within 100 miles. There may also be other hustings including online and virtual meetings.

FE set up its post-election review.  As before, FE asked the Campaigns and Communications Committee (CCC) to conduct the review. No-one on the CCC was on the Wheelhouse Executive, so they were not involved in the General Election campaign detail and decisions. I want to assure members that CCC will be not only assessing what worked and didn’t work for us, but also looking at how the party needs to campaign in the future – with a parliamentary party of 8 MPs, everything we do will be very different to the last few years. Our focus for the next twelve months will obviously be the Scottish, Welsh and London elections, and the important English local elections.

Some of you have written to me asking for some immediate changes. I am clear that we must conduct the review first, so that we understand what, why and how things went wrong and what worked. I am equally clear that that it will be robust and (as I promised during the Presidential campaign) will make sure that recommendations are implemented.

The first step of this is an all member survey going out by the end of the week, and CCC will also conduct discussions with the wider party organisations and stakeholders in more detail. The findings will be circulated and there will be a consultation session at Autumn Conference so that you can ask questions. FE will set up a timetable for the implementation of the recommendations and monitor their implementation, reporting back to members and conference.

The Federal Finance and Administration Committee (FFAC) will also be conducting a review of the financial position of the party and looking at the administrating and staffing implications. Obviously it will have to work closely with the CCC review, and both will be reporting back to FE.

The FE also wanted to have support for local parties as they get in touch with the new members who are flooding in. I had a telephone conference with state and regional chairs & key staff earlier in the week, to make sure that happens. There is now a section on the party website with help for local parties on how to organise events to welcome them (not immediately sending them out with a large pile of leaflets!), and an updated membership recruitment form.

In the midst of all this it is also essential we give as much support as we can, whether locally, regionally or nationally, to the many incredibly hard-working colleagues who have lost their jobs following the result. The Parliamentary system is, unfortunately, brutally efficient. I am mindful of the large number of our former MPs and their parliamentary staff who as I write are clearing out offices and trying to find new jobs. There will also be a number of colleagues employed by the party whose contracts will soon be coming to an end. Can I say on behalf of the whole party just how grateful we all are for the incredible hard work and sacrifice so many of you have given to the campaign. We owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.

I think that I am most proud of your ability to bounce back after Friday. I am not surprised: the resilience of the Lib Dems is well known, but the messages that have flooded in show that the fight back is now well underway. The phoenix is rising – and that is down to you!

* 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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  • “In the midst of all this it is also essential we give as much support as we can, whether locally, regionally or nationally, to the many incredibly hard-working colleagues who have lost their jobs following the result.”

    Thanks for that. It helps. And I wasn’t even parliamentary staff…
    My redundancy notice came on Saturday the 9th. I don’t regret working for the party one jot. I know that I did some good. I just hope I can find another job soon; being unemployed under a tory government is not a prospect I relish.

  • Simon McGrath 14th May '15 - 4:09pm

    The review should be Chaired by someone independent.
    Can you give us the names of the members of the Campaigns and Communications Committee please?

  • It is very good that our party president is reporting back on some of the decisions of top committees as these are crucial to all of us and to the rebuilding of the party after last week’s disaster.

    I hope that this will be a regular feature in LDV and that the president gives us a comprehensive breakdown of the decisions and maybe also some of the reasons behind the decisions and if there has been a debate what alternatives were considered. New members will I am sure expect nothing less in a democratic party known for its commitment to open government and accountability. No black spider letters for us!

    Lots of people have voiced concern about the party’s and MPs’ former employees. Our president is right to highlight this. I rather hope that it is those at the bottom of the pay scale that are given due consideration. Those who have been on six figure salaries for the last few years can clearly look after themselves.

  • Ray Cobbett 14th May '15 - 4:39pm

    Yep and Labour say they’ve had 21000 new ones too.

  • There is a long road ahead. Lembit Opik on Daily Politics today opined that we could be back to MP’s in the teens after the 2020 election, and in the twenties after the 2025 election. Most of us old-timers will be gone by then. Perhaps you could send my a postcard to my care-home.

  • George Flaxman — in the light of the planned Conservative cuts in local government expenditure you will be lucky to get a place in a care home in 2020 let alone 2025.
    Perhaps whoever sends you that post card should address it to the food bank instead?

    I am not religious so I do not beieve in an after life — but if I am proved wrong I’ll send you an angel with the results.

  • @Jennie sorry to hear about your impending redundancy. Thankfully the news on unemployment is good, in his small part due to our contribution to economic management over the last 5 years. I hope you find a new job swiftly

  • Alex Macfie 14th May '15 - 9:23pm

    Quite why anyone would take seriously anything Lembit says is beyond me.

  • Alderman Jonathan br 14th May '15 - 9:55pm

    With several good exMPS I think maybe the next leader need NOT be a Westminster MP.
    It restricts us to a group of only eight. Maybe to not be an MP gives an advantage, certainly in time?
    It,s unfortunate perhaps that we are rushing into this decision, especially with the recent growth in membership.
    Alderman Jonathan Brown. Leeds.

  • Sal, just to be annoying, perhaps, what’s the difference in standing between ‘the important English local elections’ and the ‘Scottish, Welsh and London elections’?
    That aside, thank you for this. I agree with some commentators above that the membership of the CCC would be usefully shared, perhaps not here but definitely amongst members. I also think that there should be online hustings for those who live 75 miles away from one (or 100 miles away in Wales and Scotland…) , or who cannot afford time or petrol to attend in person.

  • Thanks TCO xx

  • I am so sorry for those who have lost their jobs in spite of working so hard and hope you can get new jobs that are even more satisfying . However , can I ask that however hard up we find ourselves, we throw away any posters with the winning here slogan? It was pure hubris during most campaigns it was used in and now we’ve met our nemesis it would just look stupid.

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