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Why we need the English State Party of the Liberal Democrats

Is there any point to the English State Party of the Liberal Democrats?”

A recent article asked this question, and it’s a good question, and one asked by many people over the years.

In some ways the English layer of the Lib Dems is there because we are a Federal Party with the Party in Scotland and Wales who are the constituent parts of the party, and there has to be something at an English level.

For the last three months I’ve been Chair of the Party in England. I don’t like calling it the English Party, as one of our Bangladeshi members in Portsmouth saw that I had got this new role and was worried that I had joined some right wing fringe party.

The Party in England has done good, behind the scenes work, over the last few years. It provides the framework for the approval and selection of parliamentary candidates so that we have the same standards across England. It has also run the disciplinary function in England for many years. For individual members this is now being done by the Federal Party, whilst the Party in England will try to resolve problems in Local Parties and Council Groups.

There are many functions that the Party in England could do, but it has decided its better done at a different layer of the Party. During the Covid 19 crisis we have seen the different nations of the UK make different decisions on lockdown etc. That’s because health is a devolved issue. The list of functions that the UK wide Government does are limited. Defence, foreign affairs, pensions, social security and abortion rights. So policy on education, transport, farming, environment, energy, health etc are all decided at the state level (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England). So developing policy on these areas should be done by the Party in England as it is by the Scottish and Welsh Lib Dems. But we have taken the pragmatic decision that we will leave the policy creation work for these devolved subject areas with the Federal Party HQ. So there is no English Policy Committee, as this would be duplication. The same is true of the bits of Party Conference looking at devolved issues etc.

So what does the Party in England do? In my view no institution has the right to exist unless it is doing something useful and adding value.

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