Tag Archives: party president

Mark Pack’s monthly report: September 2022

Paying tribute to the Queen

As Ed Davey said in paying tribute,

For many people, including myself, The Queen was an ever-fixed mark in our lives. As the world changed around us and politicians came and went, The Queen was our nation’s constant. The Queen represented duty and courage, as well as warmth and compassion. She was a living reminder of our collective past, of the greatest generation and their sacrifices for our freedom. My thoughts and prayers today go especially to the Royal Family. And they also go to people in every corner of the world whose lives she touched.

You can watch the tributes from other Liberal Democrats here

Cancellation of party conference

Following the death of the Queen, the Federal Board received a recommendation from the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) to cancel our autumn conference. We agreed to this after a special meeting. There was widespread understanding of the many drawbacks of cancellation, and how disappointed and out of pocket many members (including committee members) would be. But it was the least worst of the options available.

FCC chair Cllr Nick Da Costa explained the reasons for the cancellation, including the range of options considered, in an email to those registered for conference and which is also online here.

(If you were registered for conference and did not receive the email, you can contact [email protected] to check the party has an up-to-date email address for you and that you’re not opted out from such messages. It’s also worth checking to see if the emails are ending up in your spam folder.)

FCC is now looking at ways of putting on extra events to help fill some of the gaps left by cancellation, such as online sessions to hold party committees (and people like me!) to account and extra online training. If you were hoping to ask the Board any questions at conference, either at our helpdesk or in the formal Board report session, you can instead email them to me and I’ll do my best to ensure they all get answered.

The Returning Officer has also decided to adjust the timings for this autumn’s internal elections as they overlapped with The Queen’s funeral. Details are on the party website.

Receiving emails from the party

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President’s Report August 2022

The next general election

With a new Conservative Party leader nearly upon us, the range of plausible dates for the general election is wide open. As it now may well be much sooner than seemed likely at the time of our last conference, the Federal Board has been reviewing our general election plans.

Preparations are being stepped up across the party. The pre-manifesto document being debated at conference is an important part of that as is Ed Davey’s announcement of a major new package to help people with their fuel bills this winter – axing the planned increase in the fuel bill cap and providing extra help to those most in need.

This all makes now an even more important time for us all to be out on the doorsteps, recruiting new members and campaign helpers. There’s been a clear pattern in our recent electoral successes at all levels that building up campaign organisations well in advance of the formal election campaign is a central element to success.

A Membership Incentive Scheme is in place, with generous additional payments to local parties who recruit or renew party members locally, especially if it is done on direct debit.

Thanks in particular to our wonderful three Parliamentary by-election wins in the last year, when that general election comes, we’ll be a key part of the route to removing the Conservatives from government in Westminster.

That makes the Parliamentary seats in the (variously and flexibility defined) Blue Wall an increasingly important focus for us as the next general election polling day nears. But the majority of our councillors, our members and our voters are outside the Blue Wall.

So it’s not only the target seats for the next Westminster election we need to prosper at. We also need to be winning at other levels of election more broadly. We need to continue the sort of breadth in our recovery we saw in May’s local elections – amazing progress against the Conservatives in the Blue Wall and continuing recovery elsewhere, including up against Labour and the nationalists. Both of these tracks need to be successful for us to be a growing, national party.

That’s why the Board has continued to prioritise investment in the breadth of our campaigns officers network, supporting not only Parliamentary target seats but also progress in other areas too. Thank you to all the other parts of the party who have cooperated on this, giving us a much larger network of staff supporting grassroots campaigning than we had before.

Could you be a Returning Officer?

With Parliamentary selections picking up across the country, there has never been a better time to volunteer to be a Liberal Democrat Returning Officer.

Every Parliamentary selection is run by a trained Returning Officer – and although it is not a task for everyone, it’s a really valuable role that we need more volunteers for. Returning Officers need to be organised and methodical, to understand and interpret the rules, solve problems and work constructively with people whose perspectives on a situation may differ.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? If so, please contact / ask them to contact your Regional Candidates Chair in England or state Candidates Chair in Scotland and Wales to discuss the role and the availability of training. If you need putting in touch with the relevant person, just drop me a line.

There’s a training session being run on the Sunday morning at Conference, so now is a great time to get people thinking about this role.

Note that a Returning Officer cannot run selections for the local party of which they are a member, but they can help others so that others can help you.

Treating our staff well

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Mark Pack’s monthly report – June 2022

Tiverton and Honiton

We saw last year what a huge boost it gave to the party getting two new excellent MPs elected in Parliamentary by-elections. It’s good for their constituents and also good for the party’s prospects across the whole country.

We’ve also seen this month how Conservative MPs have failed to do what our country needs – to remove Boris Johnson from 10 Downing Street.

Which is why the latest contest in Tiverton and Honiton is so important for us all again. The single most effective thing you can do in the next few weeks to help bring about his demise – and to help the party win in your own patch – is to help Richard Foord get elected on 23 June.

Many of the team have gone straight into this campaign from the May local elections, without the chance to pause for the hoped for break after those. Thank you hugely to everyone who is stretching themselves to give Richard the best of chances of winning.

Thank you too to Jamie Needle and the team in Wakefield, fighting a carefully targeted campaign there which I’m sure will help the continued growth of our council group on Wakefield Council.

Treating our staff well

Some good news to report on party staff: the federal party has been awarded the ‘excellence’ status by the Good Work Standard for how we go beyond legal minimum requirements in looking after staff.
With the amount of change since the 2019 election plus all the strains of lockdowns, it’s been a particularly tough few years for our staff. But standards such as this show how we’re taking seriously making the party a good and happy place to work.

Welcome to Cllr Mike Cox and Chris French

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President’s Update, February 2022, Europe, Party reform, supporting candidates, new Vice President

The next steps in our European policy

There’s a lesson we should learn from Brexiters. It’s that for most of the road to the tragedy of the 2016 referendum they weren’t Brexiters but Euro-sceptics. For most of that time, they weren’t campaigning for Brexit to happen tomorrow, but against a particular aspect of the EU. That is how they built up a broad coalition of support to get Brexit through.

In turn, we need to do the same in reverse – to recognise that even many Remainers are put off by ‘let’s rejoin the EU now!’, but that even those who voted Leave can be won over by campaigning issue by issue on the merits of cooperation with our neighbours.

It’s an approach that party members overwhelmingly supported in our recent (with a record-breaking response!) consultation.

At our spring federal conference, we’ll be fleshing out the details of what this means when we debate a motion which sets out our comprehensive plan to reconnect our political and trading relationship with Europe.

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Mark Pack’s January report – the plan to build on our success in 2022

In 2021 we achieved something we’ve not achieved since 1993: winning two Parliamentary by-elections in the same year off the Conservatives. We start this new year with a larger Parliamentary Party than any of us would have dared dream of a year ago. (A winning run that has continued with the first council by-election of this year too – congratulations to now councillor Andrew Dunkin who won a seat from Labour from third place.)

The question now is how do we build on that success in 2022, and how do we make the most of our limited resources? Here’s the plan.

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Mark Pack’s November report: North Shropshire beckons…

Our campaign has already got off to a flying start in the by-election caused by Owen Paterson’s disgrace.

The local party had already made impressive progress in this May’s local elections. They secured a clear second place and created many marginal Conservative-Liberal Democrat wards.

Now we have a brilliant opportunity to turbo-charge that growth in our support and to see just how angry voters are about sleaze and sewage. Ed Davey is already on his third visit there.

Whether it’s by helping in person, on the phones or with your wallet, please do help too. You can donate online or sign up to volunteer. Thank you!

Thank you also to Simone Reynolds and Simon Drage, respectively our candidate and agent for the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election. More details here.

Have your say in how the party is run

There are two musts for how our party is run. It must be run in a way that is true to our values, and it must be run in a way that helps us work together to be successful.

Sadly, our 2019 General Election Review (the Thornhill Review) found major flaws in how the party operated. That cost us votes and seats.

Since its publication, the Federal Party has been making many changes in response, as I’ve covered in previous reports. But there is still important work to do.

One of the Review’s key findings was about the Federal Board itself:

There is no clear ‘leadership team’ where the three pillars of the party – political, operational, federal – can make cohesive decisions, simply, quickly, and effectively. The Federal Board – 40+ members – is not, cannot, and should not be that team.

So the Board is consulting on options for Board reform, and will put one or more to Spring Conference for members to make a decision.

As part of this we are running a consultation survey. Please do give your views via the consultation survey here.

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Mark Pack’s October update

The autumn party conferences traditionally mark the start of the new political season. They are a time to reflect on the past year and set out plans to succeed in the coming year.

Both politics and coronavirus have made it a tough time since the last round of conferences. But we can look forward to this new political season with confidence that if we continue to raise our game, we can prosper. We’ve seen signs of that already, including with Sarah Green’s fantastic win in Chesham and Amersham and also with the latest net favourability leadership polling from Savanta ComRes:

  • Keir Starmer: net -8
  • Boris Johnson: net -7
  • Ed Davey: net +1

To achieve success in the run of elections to come, we will need to think big. We need to convince wavering Tories, Labour and nationalist voters that backing us isn’t solely a protest. It’s also a vote for something positive. The antidote to the strains of the present is a liberal future. So we must paint a picture of the society we want to build, rather than merely the society we want to prevent.

We’ve made a good start on that with the debates, motions and speeches at our autumn Federal Conference. There will be more to come in the next few months too from the federal party, as we develop the emphasis on a fair deal that was at the heart of Ed Davey’s speech. (Plans for next year’s conference have been announced by conference committee chair, Nick Da Costa.)

Congratulations to…

Our conference closed with the party awards. We now run these twice a year in recognition of how important it is for us to thank and be inspired by our colleagues. You can read all about this time’s winners – including a lovely family connection for one award – here.

We’ve also started sending out ‘top canvasser’ pin badges to thank those who contribute, either on the doorsteps or on the phone, to one of the most important election-winning tasks. Each quarter we’re also inviting those who have canvassed the most to a special call with Ed Davey, our Director of Campaigns Dave McCobb and others so that what people are hearing on the ground gets fed directly in. This is to make sure we never repeat the 2019 campaign mistake of people on the ground knowing a message isn’t working, and it taking too long to change it from the centre.

I’m keen that we continue to look for other ways to recognise people who contribute so much to the party. We’ve made changes to the party awards to recognise a wider range of contributions but I’m sure we can do more. Ideas very welcome.

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Mark Pack’s September update

Setting out our vision for the country

Our September Federal Conference has a key trio of debates on our vision for a Liberal Democratic society, our overall policy platform and the strategy to give us the political power to achieve those aims.

Having spent the first part of this Parliament fixing many of the practical organisational issues that caused so many problems in the 2019 general election, we now need to shift up a gear to get the external aspects right too. Sarah Green’s victory in Chesham and Amersham is a wonderfully inspiring example of what we can achieve when we get this right. The challenge is now to do that across the country.

It’s promising that we’ve seen a sustained boost in our opinion poll ratings since Sarah’s victory (up from 7% on average this year before her victory to 9% since). There’s also been a noticeable increase in our local council by-election performances since Sarah’s victory and the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions on local campaigning. Local factors mean it’s rarely wise to read too much into any one result, but the volume of by-elections – and their spread around the country – now means we look at that improvement with confidence that it’s real.

So we can also approach these conference debates with confidence about our potential – as long as we continue to up our game.

Improving people’s experience of being a member

Our party is our membership. Giving people a good experience is crucial for growing, retaining and encouraging people to be active in our party. And enabling individuals to create the change they want to see in the world is at the heart of our liberal philosophy.

To help get our plans right for this, the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) is doing telephone research calls to understand the perspectives of ordinary members on what works and what doesn’t. If the random selector picks you out for a call, please do take part – and if you have time to volunteer to help make the calls, let me know and I can put you in touch.

Alongside this, a variety of ideas are starting to be piloted, such as new ways of recruiting canvassed Lib Dems as members, a new quarterly cycle of briefing and feedback video calls for all local party officers, and the special £1 registration fee for first-timers at Federal Conference. I’m also very happy to hear any suggestions from you.

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Mark Pack’s August update

Only £1 to come to conference

Our autumn federal party conference is being held online in September. There’s a brilliant offer for people who have not come to conference before: you can register for just £1.

Conference will include an important trio of linked debates: on our party’s values, our policy platform and our strategy. Traditionally, we have debated these separately at conference, even years apart. But all three need to fit together in a coherent way – which is one of the lessons from the 2019 election post-mortem. So this time we’re doing things differently.

The values and platform come from our Federal Policy Committee (FPC), while the strategy is being proposed by the Board. It sets out the practical approach which is needed to grow our party and win more elections, securing us more political power to deliver on what we believe.

Among the other conference items is also the latest stage in developing our post-2019 European policy, which you can read about here.

As I mentioned last month, the Board has also put in some important proposals for conference to decide on, including boosting our party bodies with an improved, simpler structure and set of rules. These come from the Party Body Review Group, which has run an extensive consultation with existing party bodies before drawing up the plans.

The full conference agenda and reports to conference booklet are both now out.

Additional support for the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC)

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November Report from the President

I should start with a word of thanks – in fact, many words of thanks – to Kirsty Williams. She has announced that she will be standing down at the Welsh Senedd elections next May. As such a successful education minister in Wales, she is a daily demonstration of the difference that Liberal Democrats in power make. A consistently powerful voice for liberalism through all her many years of service, she has made such a big difference to so many lives. Thank you, Kirsty.

We need to get many more people like Kirsty elected in future. As the Thornhill Review

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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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Our President and co-leader writes: How you can get involved in helping to run the party

The Liberal Democrats are about to fill nearly 50 important posts, responsible for everything from oversight of our campaigns through to improving our record on diversity and making sure our finances are in good shape.

Please do both think about going for one of these posts yourself, and also who else you might want to encourage to put their name forward.

We need the best team possible – which means people with brilliant skills, time to do the job properly and a much greater diversity than we often manage with such exercises.

If anyone would like to know more about what a particular post involves, I’m very happy for you to put them in touch with me and I can either directly help or put them in touch with someone with experience of the post.

More details of the posts are over on the party website.

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LibLink: Our new President/Co-leader on the surprising number of elections coming up in May

Embed from Getty Images

Over on his blog, Mark Pack, our new party President and co-leader, gives us a timely warning about the magnitude of voting opportunities this May:

This year’s round of local council elections are only in England and are the smallest round of that cycle of elections. Which may make you think that it’s a small set of elections and one in which many or even most parts of the country will not be voting.

But…

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Sal Brinton writes…A final thank you

As my Presidency draws to an end on New Year’s Eve, I wanted to write to you with a final thank you for the extraordinary help that you have given the liberal cause over the last five years.

To have faced three General Elections and the EU Referendum during these five years – as well as the snap European elections this year – has been unprecedented, draining for everyone who has worked in them. Our candidates and teams, party staff and the many members and supporters who have continuously found that extra bit of energy and effort kept fighting the liberal cause.

Added to this, our local government teams, led by ALDC, have worked consistently hard in elections every year and their success has been rewarded with substantial growth in councillors and councils that we control or run jointly with others. And in Scotland our MSPs hold the SNP to account, and Kirsty Williams is a brilliant Education minister in the Welsh Assembly.

I have been really proud to campaign with colleagues across the UK over the last five years, seeing members building the party in their areas and I want to thank you for your warm welcome over my Presidency. In 2017 alone I covered over 4,000 miles, getting to every part of the country! I have also witnessed the party develop its use of online campaigning, not least honed on the Stop Brexit campaign over the last three years.

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Why there will be no Kemp4Prez stickers at Conference

A reasonable number of people will know that before Christmas I was asking them about whether or not I should stand for the Party Presidency when it comes up for election later. A smaller number know that as a result of those discussions I have decided after Christmas that I will indeed be a candidate.

However, whilst I am not keeping it a secret, I am not yet starting a proper campaign. I am not acting this way because of indolence. In my 52 years in the Party I have never left an election to chance or thought that I would breeze in. The reason I am not doing anything yet is because I believe that there are three things even more important than filling this important post.

The first and most obvious one is that we either have to resolve not to leave Europe or work out how to deal with the consequences of having left. Of course, this all might have changed in the interval between you reading this and me writing it! Brexit will cast a long shadow over both our Country and politicians because of he way that it has been handled. Well done our First 11 for the splendid way they have thought and acted and our second 100 in the Lords have acted superlatively well but we will all have much to do in the coming few weeks and months whatever happens.

Secondly, we have the English local elections coming up on 2nd May and nothing but nothing should distract us from maximising our vote and maximising our number of councillors. This should be a national election and I would appeal to Scottish, Welsh and London colleagues to support campaigning near to you as you have no elections yourselves. Nothing will put us in a better position in the media than more councillors. Nothing will enhance our position with the “Independent Group” than us having even more bottoms on seats in Council Chambers.

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