Suffolk Liberal Democrats – building a stronger Party for a brighter future

SuffolkSo, we’d got all of these new members, and they were still flooding in. It was just what we had wanted over the years, a whole new bunch of enthusiastic Liberal Democrats keen to do things. And yet, there was a nagging doubt in my mind, a memory of new, keen people in the past who had come, been confronted with a tradition of doing things a certain way, or given a pile of leaflets, and who had then drifted away. This time, it was going to be different.

But, in Suffolk, where distances are greater and members rather more spread out, it wasn’t enough for the Local Parties to be left to run their own events, we wanted something that would bring people together, old and new, from across the county, but which would help all of our members to engage in all of the work of the Party, and to allow us to tap their skills and enthusiasm.

So, I cajoled our County Co-ordinating Committee to organise a venue for a mini-conference where we could showcase some of the work of the Party, getting key activists and members to talk for four minutes on a range of subjects:

  • Being a councillor
  • Being a Parliamentary Candidate
  • Local Campaigning
  • Making Policy
  • Going to Conference
  • Liberal Youth
  • Behind the Scenes – the Party bureaucracy
  • Using your skills – part summary, part inspiration

And then, over tea or coffee, members could ‘speed date’ with the speakers to find out more, fill in surveys to let us know their skills and interests, and meet their fellow members.

We were lucky, in that the Co-ordinating Committee took on the publicity of the event and really supported it, and that there were people willing and able to take on each of the slots.

And so, on Saturday, the event took place, and eighty people from across the county, and beyond, were entertained and engaged, and were sent on their way enthused by a rousing speech for Sir Bob Russell.

Did it work? We’re still sifting through the responses but, we’ve already discovered;

  • number of people who have professional experience in database management, website design, photography and project management
  • people who want to be council candidates in 2017, when we have County elections
  • a member who would be willing to be a branch treasurer
  • people who are interested in being Parliamentary candidates
  • young members who want to help with Freshers fairs
  • experts in diversity and equalities, arts, social services, planning, finance and the NHS

In other words, a whole range of talent and skills that, if used effectively, can help us campaign effectively, challenge the local Tories in council chambers across the county and serve our communities better. And many of our existing activists have gone away with a spring in their step, knowing that they aren’t alone any more.

If you think that what we’ve done might work for you, and you want to know more, get in touch with me at [email protected], and I’ll send you the brochure.

Ros Scott is a Liberal Democrat Peer from Suffolk, and a former Party President (2009-2010).

* Baroness Ros Scott is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, a former Party President and now President of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors.

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  • John Farrand-Rogers 22nd Jun '15 - 10:30am

    Excellent initiative, Ros. Are all County groups doing this?

  • I certainly think we would benefit from organising something similar in Bath and North East Somerset.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 22nd Jun '15 - 2:38pm

    I was one of the speakers (behind the scenes), and perhaps could help.

    @ John,

    I don’t know, but our Regional Party Chair was present and seemed keen.

    @ Anna,

    Contact Ros and she’ll send you the booklet that the County Co-ordinating Committee produced for the event.

  • Thank you for organising this, which was a great idea. I found Saturday’s mini-conference to be very worthwhile, with a wide range of interesting and informative short talks that were of just the right length to whet the appetite. It was very encouraging and it would be good to see more Suffolk get-togethers of this nature, perhaps working towards the “next step” in particular areas of action.

  • Excellent idea – and great to hear it went well in practice too!

  • Indeed Mark V – I have asked all County Chairs to consider something similar.

    We all need to work harder at building links across local party boundaries.

  • Does anyone know why our new members counter has stalled?

  • William Jones 23rd Jun '15 - 8:12am

    This is excellent, I shall be mentioning it at our exec on Thursday. We need more of this.

  • This looks great… and is an ingenious solution to the problem of small / weak / geographically-dispersed local parties — where members have far less exposure to a “local party” than in places with strong local parties…

  • This was a great event to go to, really showing the strength of the party, and a reassuring amount of young blood made the journey on a rainy Saturday. Definitely recommend it as something for other county and regional groupings to do, even just two hours is worth the trip.

    Thanks to all for organising.

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