Tag Archives: future party strategy

Welcome to my day: 6 March 2023 – it’s beginning to feel a lot like Conference…

It’s been a long time since I attended a Federal Conference, or even a Regional one, in person, and the world feels like a somewhat different place post-COVID. But I don’t have a role or function, and it’ll be nice to simply try to take the pulse of the Party less than two years before a General Election.

I suppose that my key question will be, “does the Party offer a sense that it has a destination in mind?”, and it isn’t clear to me yet that there is one, other than give an impression that we’re better than the Conservatives. That’s a pretty low bar, if we’re being honest.

And yes, I support the Party’s line on the issues it has chosen to feature – river pollution, carers and competence in government are all worthy causes. But are we talking about the issues that engage the wider public? We’re cautious (at best) on Europe, even though it’s now widely acknowledged that the trade barriers between the United Kingdom and its nearby markets are the cause of slower economic growth and thus less resources to share around. We’re keen to offer financial support to those struggling with higher mortgages, heating and food bills. But that’s reactive rather than strategic.

We’ll be talking about a fairer society too, which vaguely troubles me, as fairness is a deeply subjective term, very much an “eye of the beholder” concept. But the motion to be debated on Saturday week does offer some meaningful choices, as long as we campaign on them after they’re adopted. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention Europe at this point…

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Transforming our party and winning votes; a medium- and long-term strategy


Embed from Getty Images

The past few weeks since Boris’s resignation offer us some of the most valuable lessons in the history of British politics. What we learn from these turbulent times will be instrumental in shaping our party, and will have a profound impact on our performance in the next general election and every other election afterwards.

Over the past 15 years, I worked with national and international organisations, and a current head of state. I witnessed history being made, in the Middle East and US. Alas, I also saw expertise, professional and ethical standards undermined across much of Europe and in the US. It all boils down to one thing, perception.

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The party President writes…Key party decisions coming up at the Federal Board meetings next week

How do we improve as a party and achieve greater success in future elections? That’s the theme running through the bumper set of key decisions the Federal Board is looking at next week at our meeting. (Or rather meetings, as to avoid Zoom fatigue, we’re splitting one long meeting into halves on consecutive nights.)

Included in that will be the Board’s first considerations of the independent election review, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill and coming out later today. Thank you for all their hard work to her, her colleagues and everyone who contributed evidence to the review.

Even without that review, there are some things we already know we need to change, in particular our use of technology. That’s why the Board will also be looking at major plans to overhaul our approach, learning from the best of those outside politics and from politics overseas. A big part of the plan is much better use of volunteer expertise.

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The Personality of a Party

I grew up in Doncaster, where the Lib Dems didn’t have much of a presence. I couldn’t have told you much about the Lib Dems, except one of them dated a Cheeky Girl. But when the first General Election that I could vote in came along, I did those online quizzes that told you which party’s policies you most aligned with, and kept getting Lib Dem. So I looked a little bit into the party, thought they seemed okay and cast my vote.

Years later, angry in the aftermath of Brexit and wanting to channel my energy into activism, a …

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Christine Jardine considers… What next?

Sometimes stepping back for a moment, and not thinking about an issue, can give you a whole new perspective on it.

This is, I believe, one of those moments for the party.

In the brief, frantic, space between the election result and Christmas it sometimes felt as if we were continuing to hurtle at the same uncontrollable pace which had propelled us into the election.

Before any work had been done to work out what had gone wrong there was, it seemed an almost reckless determination to launch ourselves into a new leadership contest.

Too soon, for me, in so …

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Is being purist consistent with building majorities for change?

I’ve been vaguely following the debate triggered by today’s launch of The Independent Group, and I have to admit to a tinge of despair. The competing stances of “we look forward to working with them” and “they’re not proper liberals and we shouldn’t touch them with a bargepole” are hardly unexpected, and there are people that I respect on both sides.

But, of course, I’m a bureaucrat, inherently cautious, and I’m older and wiser than I once was. So I find myself wondering, what is it we want, and how can this help us to get it?

Think of it as being …

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If Labour splits what do the Liberal Democrats do?

So, some Labour MPs are rumoured to be preparing to leave their Party post Brexit debate. There are talks of six heavily involved and perhaps twenty in total. From my own observations I think that is highly credible but not necessarily guaranteed. There can be no doubt that nationally there are huge fissures in the Labour Party. What precisely those splits are is difficult to discern.

That is replicated in Liverpool. Its only partly a joke when I say that if my seven colleagues and I were in the Labour Party here I would probably be the leader of the largest …

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Liberal Democrats must think big and long to thrive. Craving exit from Brexit does neither.

The Liberal Democrats are not in a good place. They haven’t been for some time, but there’s now a risk that recovery will never come. Since 2015, the party has failed to rebuild support. Tim Farron talked of a “Lib Dem Fightback” which proved to be anything but, now Vince Cable is declaring the Lib Dems a “well-kept secret” – not much of a boast.

The rise in membership has been a success story and the party had a very decent showing in May’s local elections. Yet the big picture is one of a rot left untreated. The local …

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Keep the faith: our party should not consider any merger

There is a lot of talk about a possible new centrist party forming, given the deep divisions in the two main parties and the lowly position of the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls.

People can’t seem to decide whether we are more pro-Tory, on the basis of our Coalition involvement, or more pro-Labour, on the basis of our commitment to social justice and community. We have some claim to be different from either of them.

But we lack a cutting edge to seize public imagination. Is that because we don’t have any passionate commitment to good causes? What do we care most about? What makes us tick?

In switching back from demanding action on poverty and inequality to a renewed focus on fighting Brexit, I wondered, why does that seem so natural to me? What links my fervour for Europe with my concern about the increasing hardships endured by fellow citizens today?

Perhaps strangely for a social liberal, I think it is pride in my country.

I am proud of Britain being still at the centre for world affairs: a member of the UN Security Council, able to intervene militarily in the Middle East struggles against evil movements, at the same time donating 0.7% of national income to UN development projects. I am also proud that we have had a place in European history that stretches from sharing Roman civilisation to running an Empire to taking a lead in defeating Nazism and Fascism, and that we are still one of the big players in Europe at a time when the Continent needs to stand up to the big powers of the USA, Russia and China.

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How can we be seen as relevant again?

We have to offer people what they need, and I don’t think we are doing that.

The Southport Conference earlier this month, besides passing many useful motions, agreed a Strategy, grandly entitled, ‘Ambitious for our party, ambitious for our country.’ We are good on noble ideas. ‘Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities’ – that’s a natural extension of our famous Preamble, ‘We seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community’.

But is anybody heeding us out there, even in the less than half of the population which takes some interest in politics?

Well, let’s be fair. Even in our diminished state, 7% in the national polls, we attract many more voters in Local Government elections. Our councillors are often known as work-horses who eat up local problems. Community Politics is still a big belief for us – ‘we will empower the individual in his or her community’. A current article here by Oliver Craven emphasises the point.

But I’ve come to believe that it is not enough for us to campaign locally to make a big impact. That’s because there’s precious little ‘community’ in our deeply divided country today for us to work with.

This week is what Christians call Holy Week, leading up to Good Friday, but fewer and fewer British people go to church to find a community. In the workplaces, ever fewer people join trade unions as more people take ill-paid non-unionised jobs. So the Conservatives win elections in formerly working-class areas, and Labour penetrates prosperous south-east towns.

Who feels part of a community in Britain today? Not, certainly, working families on the minimum wage who with curtailed benefits can’t afford even the basics and have to resort to Food Banks. Not people forced out of privately-rented homes into emergency accommodation, sometimes ending up living in another city. Not those trying to make ends meet through ill-paid temporary jobs or chancy self-employment.

There’s little sense of community either for sick folk obliged to stay in hospital for want of social care, or stuck caring for family members themselves at home, or for lonely old people sitting on park benches to talk to somebody. There’s no community for the depressed or for the oppressed.

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Opinion: No more casual flings

Mid-air DustyOne of our candidates, telling last Thursday, was told by his Green party counterpart that this particular ward, Clissold, was the Green Party’s one target in the whole of London. They had volunteers coming to Hackney from places as far flung as Orpington and Grimsby. So, how did they do? Well, they didn’t beat Labour, but they pushed us into third place. Clearly where they work, they win. Well, come second, anyway.

Only here’s the thing. Apart from the one ward, Cazenove, in which we kept all our councillors, the Green …

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Opinion: I’m fed up with process stories. Let’s work out how to win in 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADear Liberal Democrats on Twitter, Facebook and Liberal Democrat Voice,

I am tired of process stories.

I don’t need another analysis of Annette Brookes’ email, Nick saying where we work we win, Lib Dems 4 Change setting up a website on 22 May or Matthew Oakshotte’s self-indulgent polling.

The simple truth is this. In the euro elections we lost 10 out of 11 seats and got 6% of the vote, the same as in 1989 when we had all just discovered we were Democrats. In addition we lost a wealth of MEP …

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