Tag Archives: spring conference 2018

Radical, distinctive and quite possibly the start of something big

How do we get off 8%? We’ve been at or around that figure in the polls since well before the 2015 election, and despite our very clear and principled stance on Brexit, we’re still stuck.

Maybe we just need some ‘events, dear boy’. We’ve had precious few parliamentary by-elections, which were the lifeblood of the party’s momentum in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, and we haven’t had the kind of Iraq War issue that puts us on the right side of public opinion and leaves the Conservatives and Labour on the wrong side. But do we just wait for such an event to arise?

No, we have to grasp the nettle and do something, and if you’re going to be in Southport for the Lib Dem conference, please come to a fringe meeting that involves doing just that. It’s only for an hour, and at 6.15pm on the Saturday night before the alcohol starts flowing. But it’s aimed at starting the ball rolling towards the party finding a handful of policies that can define us as a caring, distinctive and radical social force in British politics.

Entitled ‘Radical Liberalism – defining what we stand for’, it builds on a paper Paul Pettinger and I wrote in the autumn, and which was the subject of a piece we jointly wrote on LDV on 27 October. Many of the responses from LDV readers were very helpful, and have helped shape the meeting we’re organising in Southport in association with Social Liberal Forum and Compass.

The two central thrusts of that paper – which are also the two thrusts of our meeting – are that we need to be defined in policy terms, not in relation to other parties, and we need to frame our policies so others who support what we stand for in elections where we can win (and their preferred party can’t) feel able to vote Lib Dem. There is also an implied willingness to work with people of other parties who have a similar mindset to ours, be it pre- or post-election, public or behind-the-scenes. As elections get closer, the media will try to present a Lib Dem vote as a closet vote for another party; we will find it easier to rebut such coverage if we can say ‘We’re clear what we stand for – if you agree with it, just vote for us!’

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

The holistic Need for the Ask an Expert Stand at Conference

At our last two conferences, the Ask an Expert stand has gradually been expanded and developed. Many people have asked me why we need this facility? My answer would always be that sometimes a one to one conversation can be a really good way to solve a nagging question or issue.

On the stands previously, we’ve had experts in compliance, Connect, communications, campaigning, Diversity & Inclusion to name but a few, and all have had detailed conversations – sometimes quite private and confidential – to overcome those issues which wouldn’t necessarily have been possible to explain or detail in a general training session.

The stand is a great addition to the programme of training that goes on at conference. For those that perhaps find large training sessions intimidating, or suffer from difficulties in learning, or feel awkward asking questions that they feel they probably ought to know, then the volunteers on the Ask an Expert stand offer support on a one-to-one basis. This means they can help in a far more intimate way to explain, cajole, reason and support our members and activists. If the activists learn more skills on the ground, then they can spend more time using the new skills they’ve been shown, or the ways they’ve learned to support critical issues in their local party, region, Council group, SAO (Specified Associated Organisation) or AO (Associated Organisation). 

Posted in Op-eds | Leave a comment

Why you should think about submitting an amendment to a Conference motion

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference takes place in Southport in just two and a half weeks’ time. Party members will be discussing policy motions on the NHS at 70, party strategy, housing, Brexit, education and rural communities.

You might want to take note  that the deadline for submitting amendments is 1pm on Tuesday 6th March so you have a whole 13 days to put your amendment together, find 9 people to agree with you and submit it to the Federal Conference Committee.

I bet virtually everyone who has been to Conference has been in the hall and realised that the motion under debate would have been so much better if it had made an additional point or said something slightly differently.  Failure to read your conference papers ahead of time could have you kicking yourself that you didn’t take the opportunity to make a motion better or to spark a lively debate.

Amending a motion can make for a very interesting debate. If a motion submitted by members is deemed a bit too radical by the leadership, they’ll often submit an amendment to make it a bit more on message. They don’t always win the day in these debates either.

Sometimes members feel that a motion submitted by the party’s Powers that Be is not sufficiently radical for their liking so they will submit an amendment that beefs it up a bit.

We Liberal Democrats are pretty good at having high quality, passionate debates on controversial topics. Twice recently we’ve debated nuclear weapons and the tension in the hall has ensured some really high quality speeches. Similarly, one of the high points of the Bournemouth Conference last Autumn was the debate on Brexit strategy. There was all the high drama of suspending standing orders to change the agenda to have a proper debate rather than a consultative session and then a challenging and passionate debate on the substantive issue.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 2 Comments

Southport and strategy

This is my personal view about the Southport Conference Strategy motion – what’s good and what can be improved.

There are four big ideas:

  1. A dual approach to politics. We are an insurgent party In our hearts and minds – we want to use political power for change and reform through government and by working with people to help them to take and use power over the forces that affect their lives. It means practical campaigns for our values, fighting the forces that diminish people’s lives and making modern liberalism into a political and social movement.  We should win campaigns NOW on local, national and international issues, working with people in other parties and outside conventional politics.  Our members should be on the streets, into social media and telephoning to win campaigns not just votes. Votes will follow successful campaigns; if they appear to be our main or only purpose, we’ll fail to win hearts and mind for liberalism, fail to win a mandate for radical change and fail to win big elections.
  1. A re-statement of the big ideas that define our core campaign themes: the open society, tolerant, pluralist and internationalist; a fair economy which challenges inequality; and helping people to take back control. We want a strong society, a fair economy, and communities where people find themselves as confident, powerful individuals.

These campaigns resonate with communities throughout the UK . We are not defined by Brexit, although we have important things to say to people on both sides. We have strong messages for people “left-behind” by globalisation and for everyone who wants more control over their lives. We are an inclusive Party, hearing and responding to the pain of many who feel that the EU doesn’t help them, and explaining why open, tolerant, internationalist society works best.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Towards a party strategy

Optimists and pessimists alike can find plenty to feed on about the current state of the Liberal Democrats. Dramatic council by-election gains. Stuck in single figures in the opinion polls almost constantly for over seven years, with our best monthly average only 11%. A massive growth in party membership taking us to all-time record levels. A local council base that has been shrinking steadily since the peak of 22.3% of councillors being Lib Dem in 1996. A distinctive position on the big policy issue of our times, providing plenty of political space for the party.

The list could go on. What even this short sample shows is that the Liberal Democrats have huge potential, the need for us to successfully argue the liberal and democratic position has never been greater and yet we’ve not yet found a way to turn that into sustained success.

It’s a challenge to us all to work out how we can raise our game, be smarter in what we do, raise more money and involve more people.

Which is where the strategy motion coming up at Southport conference comes in. Any party member who can make it to conference has the chance to debate and vote on it. It’s not a strategy from on high, but one based on widespread consultation with members last year, including two all-member surveys and on which members get the final say.

It is also, quite deliberately, a strategy. It is not a manifesto, a vision statement or an HQ business plan. It is not the one magic document that contains all the solutions for what the party needs to do. We will also need, for example, great manifestos for future devolved and Westminster general elections. So don’t expect to find the answers to everything in the strategy motion – it is (just) our propose strategy.

It is also, as any good strategy should be, a deliberate choice of priorities. There are plenty of things that could be in it which aren’t. That is because to prioritise everything is to prioritise nothing. You will, I suspect, have some things you’d love to see in the list of organisational priorities which aren’t there. I can certainly think of some I’m tempted to add. But even in an organisation overflowing with money, staff and volunteers, let alone in the reality of the Liberal Democrats, you need to prioritise to make meaningful progress.

So what the proposed strategy does instead is to set out a clear political approach for us – one which combines the mutually supporting aims of electoral success with the broader challenge of making our society and political system more liberal – and then sets out what sort of organisation we need to achieve that and how to get there.

If we get that right, we can rise to the challenge that the news brings us almost daily and turn far more of what we believe should happen into political change that makes our country more liberal, more green and more successful.

The text of the motion is below:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 43 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 24th Feb - 2:19am
    @Roland. Consultation Paper 134 on Tuition Fees does not, of course, represent party policy, which is yet to be decided by Conference, probably next September....
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 24th Feb - 12:28am
    Roland, Predictions are difficult to make, especially about the future - so goes the quip. Keynes in the 1920s predicted that productivity and incomes would...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 24th Feb - 12:11am
    Peter, to be fair to the associate professor he does not claim that the UK will face insolvency. His argument is "the falling pound and...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 23rd Feb - 11:22pm
    @ Micheal BG, "bigger government deficits will bigger government deficits will everything else being equal produce a bigger economy in that economy produce a bigger...
  • User AvatarRoland 23rd Feb - 11:09pm
    @Joe Burke - "The conclusion notes “Keynes believed that aggregate real income would continue to increase as more and more capital is accumulated. This increase...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 23rd Feb - 11:05pm
    @ David Raw When someone makes an incorrect statement even if it is off topic others should rebut it. Like Laurence Cox did with me....