Tag Archives: liberal democrats

Who knew knocking on strangers’ doors could be such fun?

“I don’t mind delivering leaflets, but I wouldn’t want to do canvassing.” My thoughts exactly, a few months ago. I joined the Lib Dems in the aftermath of the EU referendum, determined to do something to demonstrate my frustration at the direction the Tory Government was leading us. Delivering leaflets was a positive activity and in the excitement of the 2017 General Election, I felt I was doing my bit. But over time, it has become clear that the task to influence public opinion and make the Government take notice of the 48% is huge. The leaflets were great, but I couldn’t help wondering how many of them went straight in the recycling bin. What could I do that would make more impact with my time?

I began to wonder again about canvassing. Research shows that people are 20% more likely to vote if they have been visited by a canvasser: even a just a smile and a friendly greeting is enough to make a difference. But I was worried about what it would be like. Would I be on the receiving end of angry householders determined to give me chapter and verse of their views, or would there be endless doors slammed in my face? Eventually, I summoned up some courage and went along to an action day to find out.

I was surprised to find how pleasant the experience was. When I arrived, I was paired up with an experienced canvasser and we went to each house together. We only called at houses where previous canvassing had shown that the owners were open to voting Lib Dem, which meant that we had a friendly reception at nearly every house. There was a list of questions to ask, depending on how much the householder wanted to chat: a surprising number were happy to stand on the doorstep and tell us their concerns about the local area and Brexit. It was fascinating to find out what people thought and how they saw the local scene and the national picture. When we found someone who was willing to join the mailing list, have a stakeboard in their garden or even become a volunteer, it was a cause for celebration! At the end of the morning, we all gathered at a pub for lunch and to share our stories. After that, I was keen to have a list of my own to do.

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We must deliver upon the Alderdice Review

Before I discuss this report I want to put it into perspective:

  • An article in the Guardian, some time ago now, stated that there were 159 seats where the winning margin in 2015 general election was lower than the number of Muslims in the constituency;
  • Of Sikhs and Muslims, over 70% of them vote Labour;
  • Newspapers reported in the elections following the Iraq war over 20% of the voters originally from Pakistan and Bangladesh voted for the Liberal Democrats and in 2010 and 2015 general elections Runnymede points to this same voting group going down to 2%;
  • In the 1960s 13% of the

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Two cheers for Liberalism: Thoughts from Torbay

What will 2018 bring for my party? That’s a question every local party Chair has probably asked themselves already, as we paused to reflect on the turbulence and mayhem (no pun intended) of 2017.  Local elections will be on many party officers’ minds, as it is in my neck of the woods, where work on finalising our pool of candidates for 2019 is already underway.  The prospect of another General Election- seen by the bookies as more likely in 2019 than 2018- will never be far away.  And Brexit will muddle on while the contradictions of the process become ever plainer to see.

In my Christmas stocking was Nick Clegg’s “How to Stop Brexit”- a gift from someone who truly knows me well.  No sooner had I read it then a new hero emerged to back the Lib Dem call for a referendum on the Brexit deal – in the unlikely form of Nigel Farage.

If ever you wanted proof that the wheels are wobbling on the Brexit bandwagon, look no further.

Farage, (somehow overlooked in the New Year’s Honours…) has spotted something that most Brexiteers have yet to grasp: the need to prepare for Parliament rejecting the government’s Brexit plans on the deal.  He sees, quite rightly, that there is every prospect of Parliament taking back control and refusing a deal that would leave Britain bound by rules it could no longer influence, with reduced trade and uncertain co-operation on everything from nuclear safety to counter-terrorism.

And we know his simple solution- no deal and the disaster of rupturing access to our biggest export market overnight.

That’s why 2018 has to be the year we fight Brexit.  As David Davis said “A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy”.  Plenty of folk thought that taking back control of our fishing grounds, ending payments to Brussels and having an extra £350m a week sounded like a good deal.  As these turn out to be delusions, we should be brave enough to say let’s let the nation think again.  

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Why you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers about the Lib Dems

It’s the annual “Trash the Lib Dems” day in the national press with gloomy analyses in both the Times and the Guardian. When the papers do SWOT analyses of us, they do tend to omit the strengths and opportunities and focus on the weaknesses and threats.  We can quite often do that about ourselves, too, and talk ourselves down. There is no doubt that we face some pretty intense challenges in 2018, but there are signs of a plan coming together to meet them and also that the political environment is changing.

The Guardian tells us that we are facing a “fight for our political future”. People have been writing us off for pretty much the last century and we are still hanging in there. I’ve lost count of the times in my political lifetime that we have been told we are doomed right through from the disastrous election of 1979 to the present day.

Jessica Elgot talked to senior grassroots figures, academics and anonymous party sources about the party’s future. They cite our low poll rating, low staff morale, the departure of senior staff and the enormity of the political task ahead to regain seats as the main challenges facing us.  They didn’t mention some key positives such as Vince being absolutely everywhere. He is doing so many broadcast interviews, and going to places you wouldn’t expect, like Nigel Farage’s show where he did a good job. He is breaking out of the echo chamber and positioning himself where he needs to be when the Brexit thing falls apart.

The Times has an article with similar themes (£) suggesting that Vince has failed to spark the Lib Dems into life.

Sir Vince, 74, has struggled to turn his political experience into increased support for his party, which is polling at about 7 per cent, according to YouGov.

An attempt by Sir Vince to encourage the party’s 11 other MPs and 100 peers to engage with each other to devise fresh policy ideas has yielded lacklustre proposals so far.

The “clusters” initiative, which refers to grouped areas of policy, has been nicknamed the “clusterf***s”. One insider remarked: “Like most things Lib Dem, there’s a lot of talking, but nothing ever comes out of it.”

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On leaving the “best job in politics”

It is with a heavy heart that after nearly a decade working for the party in one form or another, I am finally moving on. I started as a press officer a few months into Nick Clegg’s leadership and since last summer I have had the privilege of serving as the party’s Director of Communications. In that time I have managed to clock up three General Elections, three referendums, three party leaders, four chief executives, 18 spring and autumn conferences, nine TV debate ‘spin rooms’, two crucial by-election victories, one Glee Club (I walked out and vowed never to return), one Daily Mail hatchet job, and snuck references to Milton Keynes (#cityofdreams) into two party leaders’ conference speeches. I even met my wife Thais at a Lib Dem conference.

The most memorable moment for me came a few minutes after the first ITV Leader’s Debate in April 2010. I was in the spin room at the Manchester Hilton when all the journalists in my eye line started rushing to the back of the room. I turned to see that Peter Mandelson had wafted in, with a swarm of cameras, Dictaphones and shorthand notebooks forming around him within seconds. I edged a little closer, in time to hear the opening words of his no doubt carefully crafted response: “Nick Clegg won”. The full sentence was “Nick Clegg won on style but Gordon Brown won on substance”, but when the Dark Lord of Spin acknowledges in any form at all that your guy won, you know you have stepped through the looking glass.

That night changed the course of our party’s fortunes, but it also changed my life. I had joined the press office of a party that hadn’t been in national government for decades, with no expectation that would be changing any time soon. A few short years later I would be working in 10 Downing Street. And five years on from that fateful night in Manchester, I would be sat at two in the morning in the smoky front room of Nick Clegg’s flat in south west Sheffield, as the scale of our 2015 collapse began to become apparent, helping him to write a resignation speech. 

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Membership matters: Are Lib Dems really ahead of the Tories? And if so, is that good enough?

One of Vince Cable’s stated aims as leader was to overtake the Tories in terms of party membership. We knew that that was a reasonably tall order, as the last known figure for Tory membership was around 149,000 three years ago. That aim was going to take a wee while to fulfil, we thought. However we were looking at it in terms of us growing. It sounds like we’re already there because the Tory membership has sunk like a stone over the Summer.

David Hencke reports on an interview with a key Conservative campaigner who puts membership at around 100,000 – below our figures:

John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, in an  eve of conference exclusive interview  on the Tribune magazine website, says the real membership of the party has plummeted to around 100,000- way below the 149,500 figure and 134,000 figure used by the party in 2013.

Mr Strafford said: “The party is facing oblivion. If you take the fact only 10 per cent of the membership is likely to be very active they will not have enough people on the ground to fight an election – they won’t even have enough people to man polling stations on the day.

“They are keeping council seats because often the families of the councillors are campaigning with party members to get them re-elected. They simply don’t have the local resources to do this in a general election.”

The Tories have been notoriously secretive about their party membership. Unlike us, the don’t publish the number in their annual accounts as we did even during the bad times. However, this House of Commons library report published last month gives some interesting facts and figures about trends in political party membership. Over the last 70 years or so, the Tories have had the biggest fall.

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Compassion and compromise – to get things done Labour has to work with the Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party are two parties that historically have had many things in common. The birth of the Liberal Democrats stems from a splinter section of the Labour Party joining with the Liberals. Therefore, whilst the two parties are further apart than they ever have been in their histories they both share a common history of social justice and a willingness to oppose the Conservatives.

Given that we are once again in a Hung Parliament it is more important than ever for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to work together to ensure that Britain gets the best possible deal out of Brexit and that positive legislation is passed to ensure that Britain can continue putting forward radical, innovative and game changing legislation despite having a Conservative government. This may certainly be a difficult task – whilst the Conservative’s majority is practically none existent even with the help of the DUP they still have a majority – but it is not an impossible task. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats alongside the SNP can work together Brexit can still be held accountable.

Similarly, though the most extreme elements of the Conservative’s manifesto won’t be implemented it is not impossible that they will not try to pass legislation which is ultimately detrimental to the people of Britain. Attempts at the restriction of privacy or the failure to check where British weapons are being sold are not something that either Labour or the Liberal Democrats wants to see or can allow to happen. Therefore, neither party can stand idly by in the Houses of Parliament and let the Conservatives turn Britain into a free for all, allowing any unscrupulous private investor to buy up companies, property or landmarks of British culture without proper investigation and examination of their motives. It is vital that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats come together and force these issues to the forefront of debate in the House of Commons. 

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Vince Cable on Lib Dem mission to reduce inequality

For me, the Liberal Democrats have always been about reducing the inequality that poisons our society, that holds people back from opportunities.

We have always talked about it, but perhaps in the last few years the language has been a bit different. I was really chuffed when Vince talked about the need to tackle inequality so explicitly in his leadership manifesto. Today, his first major speech since becoming leader is on this issue and you can watch a clip here.

The full text of the speech is below. It’s thoughtful, serious stuff as you would expect.

Yes, under his leadership we’ll be looking for the exit from Brexit, but our main mission as a party is to do something about this inequality.  That works for me.

Politicians talk at length about fairness and unfairness. Verbal confetti. Bland. Something almost everyone can relate to emotionally. And it can be defined in so many different ways that it can be applied in almost every situation, for about every audience. Inequality narrows the subject down a bit but, again, has a wide range of definitions and meanings.

Putting aside the health warnings and the academic qualifications there is however, in the UK in 2017, something stirring around the idea of inequality: something new and worrying. It starts from the observation, or the belief, that inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity, between classes, regions and generations, are getting worse; that Britain is becoming relatively as well as absolutely unequal when we look at comparable countries, especially in Europe; and that this inequality is not merely offensive to the sensibilities of progressive minded folk but is doing serious damage to the wider society and economy.

Sometimes an event crystallises this feeling. The Grenfell Tower disaster wasn’t just a horrific accident with a large loss of life but illustrates in a graphic way that relatively poor people were not listened to by those in authority and attracted a casual approach to life threatening risk. And close by geographically, but light years away socially and economically, lived London’s super-rich.

What motivates me personally and politically is the way this this new Britain contrasts with the more egalitarian culture and mobile society that I grew up with: parents who progressed in 20 years from being factory workers living in a terraced house with an outside loo to being part of the professional class living in a detached house; from parents who left school at 15 progressing though ‘night school’ to a son at an elite university. There were of course ‘posh’ people in post-war Britain but they were few and largely inconspicuous; and there were poor people on the council estates but they were distant relatives or friends and we played and watched football together. A provincial British city, even today, does not have the jarring contrasts of London; but my sense is that even there, big differences in living standards and opportunities have opened up.

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Lib Dem Chief Executive Tim Gordon steps down

Tim Gordon has stepped down as the Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats.

In a statement today, he said:

It has been an honour to work for the Party for the past half decade. These have not been easy years but I am proud to have worked with both Nick Clegg and Tim Farron who so clearly and eloquently articulated the Liberal voice that Britain needs.

We now have a great new leader and deputy in place and after the challenges of the past few years this feels like an appropriate moment for a change. There are other opportunities that I have delayed pursuing for long enough and I want to give my successor as much time as possible to prepare before what could be yet another snap General Election.

I am extremely proud of what my team has delivered. After decades of decline we are now well in to our fifth consecutive year of membership growth and are on track for our fifth consecutive year of fundraising growth, beating Labour’s non-union donations in most sets of quarterly returns. Both have benefited from our investment in new systems and digital communications; online fundraising has increased over 40-fold. HQ’s diversity has improved: both the director team and salary levels are now gender-balanced. Critically, we are again winning electoral battles – even if there remains much to do. I am incredibly grateful and frequently humbled by all those across the Party who have worked so hard for the fightback that is now underway.

The Party under Vince Cable is now well positioned to move forward. We have the right approach to Brexit for both party and country. And I intend to keep on helping the Party in the ways that I have always done: knocking on doors and delivering the odd leaflet.

Senior figures thanked him for his five years at the helm of the party:

Sal Brinton, our Party President said:

On behalf of the party I want to place on record a huge thank you to Tim for his all his amazing hard work over nearly five often gruelling years.

He has run the party machine during extremely demanding times, with the Liberal Democrats in coalition government, then two general elections and the EU Referendum.

After the setback of the 2015 general election, Tim immediately set out to make sure that the party’s finances were secured, and provided the structures that have allowed the party to recover. In the last two years our membership has doubled, we have won many council by elections and the Richmond Park parliamentary by-election and in June this year increased our MPs. He leaves at a time when the Liberal Democrat fightback is well-underway and we wish him the very best.

Vince Cable added:

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Bob Geldof: Lib Dems are the only party with the balls to oppose Brexit

Bob Geldof entered the campaign today with a robust announcement of support for the Lib Dems. He helped us win Richmond Park in December. Here’s hoping that his influence can help us to a good result in our key seats on Thursday.

Here’s what he had to say:

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Could Rachel Johnson stand as a Lib Dem candidate?

First of all, Rachel Johnson, writer and journalist, welcome to the Liberal Democrats. Every media outlet is telling us that she has joined and some are even suggesting that she will be a candidate for the Liberal Democrats in this coming general election. The Guardian is feverishly speculating:

Johnson’s decision to join the Lib Dems is expected to infuriate her brother Boris, who has had a relatively marginal role in the post-Brexit negotiations so far.

She could not be reached for comment, while a spokesman for the Lib Dems declined to confirm her membership, citing data protection rules.

With just nine MPs,

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Moving towards a progressive alliance

General Election campaigning has got off to a flying start across the country and it is exhilarating to be ‘back in the saddle’. Oxford West and Abingdon was hard fought at the last election and it looks like it will be again. Like many seats, the Tory incumbent increased her majority here in 2015, yet this still feels like a marginal, and we are campaigning to win.

We were knocking on doors yesterday and what struck me was just how different this election feels compared to 2015. The political sands continue to shift beneath our feet but the wind is very definitely no longer against us. This constituency voted strongly to remain, yet the local MP flip-flopped and is now totally behind a Hard Brexit. This, combined with a weak Labour party nationally, has meant that local Labour and Green voters are more open than ever to lending us their vote to beat the Tory this time. And we are going to need them to do it.

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Liberal Democrats expected to surpass 100,000 members today

The Liberal Democrat membership surge is about to take the party to a landmark 100,000 members – thanks to a staggering 12,500 joining since Theresa May announced the snap General Election last Tuesday.

Reaching six figures makes the party bigger than it has been since the mid-1990s and puts it on course to reach its highest membership ever within days. The biggest the party has been since its formation is 101,768 in 1994.

It means that more than 50,000 members have joined since last year’s European referendum and more than 67,500 since the 2015 General Election.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron pledged to build the party to 100,000 members by the end of the parliament as a key pledge during his 2015 leadership campaign – but at that point everyone expected the end of the parliament to be 2020.

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There are now twice as many Lib Dem members as at the 2015 general election – and more than 5000 people joined today!

A very warm welcome to the 5000 new members who have joined us since Theresa May announced she would ask parliament to call a general election this  morning! What a breathtaking number!

The party has now more than doubled in size since the May 2015 general election.

Tim Farron commented:

This election is a chance to change the direction of our country and thousands are joining our fight.

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WATCH: Tim Farron: Time to fight against a hard Brexit

Tim Farron has made a video on the triggering of Article 50.

How dare the Government enforce a hard brexit on us without giving the people a say, he asks.

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£1 million donation for Lib Dems helps party oppose Brexit

As a member of the Party’s Federal Board and Federal Finance and Resources Committee, I knew that the party were to receive a £1 million donation. We were not told who had donated it. We were told that we would only find out along with everyone else when it was published by the Electoral Commission – which it will be on Thursday. However, the FT has the inside track and has this story today:

The donation from Greg Nasmyth, whose family made its fortune from Argus Media, the energy information business, will be reported on Thursday when Electoral Commission figures are published. It comes as the Lib Dems gain momentum as an anti-Brexit party, committed to advocating a referendum on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU. Mr Nasmyth is understood to have been motivated by the party’s position on the EU and also on green issues. He agreed the donation in July, soon after the Brexit vote. It was finally made in October in the run-up to the December by-election in Richmond Park, where the Lib Dem candidate ousted the Brexit-backing millionaire Zac Goldsmith.

Securing this donation is an excellent achievement by the Fundraising team at party HQ. They will need to bring in substantially more than this very generous donation if the party is to properly oppose Brexit. Labour are clearly not interested in standing in the Government’s way. The Liberal Democrats are unique in British politics – a UK wide party which opposes brexit in general and Theresa May’s Brexit Max in particular with every fibre of its being. We have a great message and talented and innovative campaigners. What we need are the resources to deliver that message to the people on an unprecedented scale for us. That is the challenge for party Treasurer Mike German and the fundraising team at HQ. 

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Brexit – it’s time to stop looking for someone to blame and take action!

Last Friday marked 8 months since I woke up in disbelief at the outcome of the EU referendum. That morning, I looked at my 3 month old daughter, and feared what the result could mean for the U.K in the short, medium and long term. Ever since that result, as events have unfolded, I have been lost as to whom I should direct my despair at:

  • Should it be David Cameron for calling the Referendum, which he did not believe in, purely to solve internal divisions in his own party?
  • Should it be the right wing press (such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express) for all of the years they have blamed the EU for all of the problems in the country, that were in fact the failings of a number of governments?
  • Should it be Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and the rest of Vote Leave for putting together a campaign full of lies, most notably that ridiculous bus claiming £350m a week for the NHS?
  • Should it be at the likes of Arron Banks and Nigel Farage for spreading xenophobia and having the hypocrisy to pretend they are men of the people?
  • Should it be at the 17m voters who were persuaded by their arguments?
  • Should it be at all those involved in planning the Stronger In campaign for failing to articulate why the UK hugely benefits from the EU and the Single Market? Rather than only focusing on a negative economic message that clearly did not get through.
  • Should it be at the BBC for being so concerned about being seen as balanced, they made the Brexit arguments seem credible!
  • Should it be at our unelected Prime Minister who is ignoring half of the population and claims to be able to read the minds of the other half! A Prime Minster who is setting off on a course to drive the economy over a cliff (notably ignoring a manifesto pledge to stay in the Single Market)?
  • Should it be at my own MP Jeremy Corbyn (who does not reply to my emails) and the rest of the Labour leadership for failing to provide any credible opposition whatsoever over the last 8 months?
  • Should it be at the arch Brexiteers like Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg who banged on about sovereignty but then decried when independent High Court and Supreme Court Judges upheld it?
  • Should it be at all those Labour and Conservative MPs who voted for the Article 50 bill in the full knowledge that it would be harmful to the country?
  • Should it be at myself for failing to get involved in progressive politics until I was 31, only joining the Lib Dems a few weeks before the Referendum (although I had been meaning to for years) and only getting properly active (outside of social media rants) in the last few weeks?

I have now realised that, although I still feel all of this despair is justified, just looking to blame any person or group for where we are is not going to help. Ranting on social media will do no good. As Tony Blair said recently, it’s time to rise up! 

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The first results in the party internal elections are in

As we have publicised a couple of times, a new round of party elections is taking place. The electorate is the Federal Board.

The following people have been elected unopposed:

Registered Treasurer & Chair of Federal Finance and Resources Committee:     Peter Dunphy

Party Treasurer:                                               Lord Mike German

Chair of Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee:                               James Gurling

Chair of Campaign for Gender Balance:                                             Candy Piercy

Vice Chair of Federal Board:                                               Neil Fawcett

Federal Board Rep on Federal International Relations …

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Liberal Democrat membership tops 80,000

Sal Brinton, the Lib Dem President, has announced that party membership has topped 80,000, with 1000 people joining the Liberal Democrats since Theresa May’s speech announcing that the Tories are going for the most extreme, hard Brexit that they can. 500 people have joined in the last 24 hours since Jeremy Corbyn signalled a 3-line whip for Labour MPs to vote for the triggering of Article 50.

Sal said:

The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government and it is great to welcome so many new members.

For those who oppose Theresa May’s plans to rip Britain out of

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Why Theresa May’s speech is good news

Theresa May’s speech today was a mixture of vacuous soundbites and ominous indicators of the direction of travel.  Shorn of the window-dressing, it is clear that she leads a government of the Hard Brexit.  She concluded with a nauseous section suggesting that the country is “coming together” after June’s referendum.  As one wag put it on Twitter, that is like setting a fire, burning the house down and expecting those who queried what you were doing to “come together” in the rebuilding project.  More seriously, by opting for a Hard Brexit, exiting the single market (ironically, an achievement of Margaret Thatcher) and almost certainly the customs union, she is demonstrating no respect for the 16 million people who voted Remain.

So, why do I think the speech is good news? The clue is today’s YouGov poll. This shows that the population currently splits as follows:

39%  – Hard Brexit

25% – Soft Brexit

23% – Remain in the EU after all

13% – Not sure

Pursuing a Soft Brexit would have been risky for May but not as risky as Hard Brexit.  For the first time, she has clearly put herself in backing a position supported only by a minority of voters.  This allows the divided Remain side to unite around opposition to the UK coming out of the single market (with much historic material from Dan Hannan and Boris Johnson to support them!).  It also allows them to peel off those Leavers who wanted to maintain single market access.

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Tim Farron announces new shadow cabinet

Tim Farron has announced his new Shadow Cabinet team, saying:

I am pleased to announce my new Shadow Cabinet team. Together we will provide the strong Liberal voice that Britain desperately needs to stand up to this Tory Brexit Government.

The Tories have no plans to protect the interests of the country in the wake of Brexit. Labour is in disarray. Only the Liberal Democrats can confront the Government and stand up for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

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Two ways we are addressing diversity

If there is one thing that we can all agree on is the need to encourage a greater degree of diversity within the party. Although our figures on diversity are far from where we want them to be, it is clear that we have begun to make some considerable strides towards adequately addressing this issue. There is an increasing recognition that if we are to herald ourselves as the defenders of equality and tolerance, then those values should be reflected within every aspect of our party. An important step towards this goal was the passing of two diversity and equality motions at Autumn Conference this year on Combatting Racism and Diversity Quotas, put forward by Pauline Pearce and Dawn Barnes respectively.

Summaries of both motions are outlined below:

Conference Motion Diversity Quotas

The motion has been put in place to increase the representation of those with protected characteristics on federal committees and bodies. The party will endeavor to ensure that:

  1. 40 % of those elected to a federal committee identify as men or non-binary, women or non-binary
  2. 10% shall be from minority backgrounds
  3. 10% shall be people from under-represented sexual orientations and gender identities including non-binary identities

Places on these bodies will be filled if the diversity requirements cannot be met or if an insufficient number of candidates with the required characteristic are nominated.

Both men and women will have an equal opportunity of participating at every level of the party in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, however the Act maybe amended to permit positive action to ensure that those from underrepresented groups are adequately represented within internal party bodies.

The full text of the motion is available here.

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Cllr Andrew Lomas writes…Why I’ve left Labour and joined the Liberal Democrats

Andrew LomasFollowing the referendum, Britain has to find a new place for itself in the world. Extricating the UK from the European Union on terms that don’t crash the economy is going to be an astonishingly difficult task that neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party seem to be willing or able to face up to.

On the right, the Conservatives appear to be indulging in post-Brexit nostalgia, an imaginary time when the British Lion merely had to roar to make other nations meekly fall into line. However, Brexiteers can bellow “BUT THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM” as often as they like: the statement does not become any more rooted in reality for the repetition (as both France and Germany are beginning to make clear). On top of this is the noxious language unleashed at last week’s Tory conference about foreigners and the implied threat to fight a culture war against those who want a Britain that is open, tolerant, and engaged with the world. Still, at least we have an effective opposition, right?

Well no. Labour have decided that what really matters, at a time of increasing illiberalism and anti-foreigner rhetoric, are endless debates about the constitution of its internal governing bodies, a(nother) fight about nuclear weapons, and mandatory reselection of MPs. More damningly, amidst the silence on Brexit, it is hard to escape the feeling that the party leadership are ultimately happy to embrace the opportunity to rehash a Bennite version of autarky that Brexit offers. 

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350 years of Liberal history in 32 pages

If you want to read a short summary of the last 350 years of Liberal politics in Britain, the Liberal Democrat History Group has just the thing for you – a new edition of our booklet Liberal History: A Concise History of the Liberal Party, SDP and Liberal Democrats.

This is designed as a comprehensive but relatively short (about 10,000 words) summary of Liberal, SDP and Liberal Democrat history for readers wanting more detail than they can find on the party website, but less than a full book. We produced the booklet originally in 2005, and we’ve revised it twice since; this edition is up to date as of summer 2016.

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Lib Dems march for Europe

Lib Dems at start of March for EuropeEU nailsThousands of people across the UK Marched for Europe yesterday, with demonstrations in London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge plus many more.

In London we put on a huge Lib Dem splash, with more than 300 Lib Dems joining us at the start in Marble Arch. An army of volunteers distributed placards, balloons and flyers. There were so many of us, police escorted us down to the main march on Park Lane!

President Sal Brinton fronted the march, leading a rally of Lib Dems from a banner at the front, flanked by Catherine Bearder MEP and Baroness Sarah Ludford as well as Parliamentary Candidate for St Albans Daisy Cooper and some of our Newbie members Ukonu Obasi and Elizabeth Barnard.

The march took on quite a pace, leading us down Picadilly and on to Trafalgur Square before ending at Parliament Square. Along the route we were chanting ‘We love you EU, we do’ and ‘We don’t want no Brexit’ with the use of a small megaphone and Bradley Hiller-Smith’s melodic tones! 

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Liberal Democrats must enthusiastically occupy the clear pro EU space – nobody else will

The Liberal Democrats have historically been enthusiastically pro EU. The strength of that enthusiasm, it’s fair to say, has not always been uniform. While a small number of Liberal Democrats campaigned to leave the EU, the vast majority of us wanted to remain. That was very clear to the tens of thousands who have joined us in the aftermath of the vote to leave.

As a party during the referendum, we did more than any other to campaign for a Remain vote. That’s quite a staggering achievement given our size and resources compared to the Labour party.

However, there are signs now that the consensus is starting to develop some fault lines. Our position in the aftermath of the referendum has been very clear. We campaign to stay or go back in to the EU at the next election. We want the voters to have their say on the Brexit deal. It’s only polite, really, given that they weren’t given any indication about what it would look like before they voted.

I don’t want to over-egg this particular pudding, but it looks like our general unity as a party on this is now under threat. Many Liberal Democrats  have been very concerned to see that Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg have endorsed Open Britain, the organisation formerly known as Britain Stronger in Europe.  Open Britain accepts the referendum result as final even though they also accept that nobody knows what they actually voted for. They will not be calling for a second referendum which seems to be a bizarre and contradictory stance to me.

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Farron: Lib Dems will take on the Tories and deliver the internationalist, economically competent, decent government that Britain deserves”

An article on the Times Red Box website examined the potential for a Liberal Democrat comeback following the EU Referendum.

I spoke to the journalist who wrote it, Natasha Clark, and may have compared Tim Farron to another Liberal leader from across the Atlantic:

They had a dynamic leader who made the case, harnessed the mood of the people with a very simple message. I think we will soon have a majority of people who don’t want to leave the EU, and we will be there to make that case.

Tim Farron was also interviewed and he had a right go at Theresa May:

Farron is, understandably, not a fan of any of either candidate for the Tory leadership, in particular the home secretary, who he slams for her inaction during the referendum campaign.

“Theresa May makes Jeremy Corbyn look like a grafter,” he jeered. “In the sense that she can step into the breach having done nothing to save the country… she may have had more of an impact than if Jeremy Corbyn did. The economy is going down the plughole because of that cowardice.”

In contrast, he made it clear what he and the Lib Dems have to offer:

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Farron: Lib Dems will champion right of EU citizens to stay in Britain

Tim Farron has set out why the Liberal Democrats will fight for those EU citizens who have made their homes in Britain to be allowed to stay post-Brexit.

Both David Cameron and Theresa May have only guaranteed their future to the conclusion of the negotiations. How awful, how unfair would it be if people who had settled, worked hard, married, had families here were forced to leave after the goalposts changed?

How cruel is it to put these people through years of uncertainty?

Tim said:

There is real, and legitimate, upset and worry from European citizens across our country about their long-term status in the UK. Liberal Democrats will not stand by whilst our communities are divided by uncertainty. Regardless of the outcome of any negotiations with Europe around Brexit, EU citizens who have made Britain their home must be allowed to stay.

To Europeans whose lives are now rooted in the UK my message is simple – the Liberal Democrats stand with you, and will speak for you. To the French family raising their children in Manchester, to the Polish mother working to pay her mortgage in Portsmouth, to the German graduate starting his business venture in Birmingham – the Liberal Democrats value you, we will stand by you and we will champion your future here in Britain.

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Liberal Democrats are being excluded from referendum debate – don’t put up with this

We Liberal Democrats are used to not getting our fair share of media attention. Since last year’s general election, that has got even worse. However, we still aren’t getting anything like the coverage we should have based on our size.

Research carried out by the University of Loughborough during the EU referendum campaign shows that we are only being included in 1% of both press and broadcast media. Mind you, the official opposition doesn’t fare that much better, although that has definitely changed in the last few days.

Coverage by party during EU Ref

 

If you were thinking that there was a gross over-representation of right wing men, the study confirms your instincts.

The debate is highly presidential in character, focussing on key individuals. The top six individuals are all right-of-centre and are all men. Despite concern expressed by left-of-centre and female politicians about media coverage it’s still largely a ‘Tory story’ and a male dominated, ‘blue-on-blue’ tale at that.

So who are the main media performers?

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How I am trying to improve diversity in the Liberal Democrats

In December 2015 the ‘Diversity Monitoring Group’ was created which consisted of five people passionate about ensuring progressive change is made to address diversity. Most people are aware that diversity needs to be addressed in the Liberal Democrats. Everyone has heard Tim Farron say ‘we are a male and pale party’. Instead of waiting to see what the Party will do next we’ve decided to create a member-led diversity survey.

The results of the survey have been shared with  Liberal Democrat Headquarters,  chairs of SAOs and AOs and some Federal Executive members.

How it happened

We created a set of questions, set up a Google form, and started publicising the survey, mostly across social media. The survey was shared on social media from December 2015 to February 2016.

The results show that we had 132 responses from Liberal Democrat members, all of who are anonymous. The main issues raised were: communication, party culture, gender equality and unconscious bias.

Questions include:

  • Are there specific areas in the party which you feel men and women are not treated equally?
  • Do you feel better guidance on equality and diversity (via training) could come from diversity team HQ and ALDC?
  • Do you have any more comments regarding the party’s understanding of equality and diversity?

Conclusions from the survey include:

  • The need to take into account accessibility when communicating with members.
  • Party culture  – the “misogyny and sexism” in the Party and the “need to be educated about gender issues eg unconscious bias”.
  • We have passed on specific feedback to diversity SAOs and AOs
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