Tag Archives: liberal democrats

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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