The hidden Liberal Democrats

Editor’s Note:

Actually, we owe Geoff Payne, the Chair of Federal Conference Committee, an apology for this one. He is actually one of the most accessible of the party’s officers and spends huge chunks of his life responding to members’ questions on email and social media and we’ve done him a disservice here so it needs to be put right. 

This article contains the assertion that party officers (with the example given of the chair of the Conference Committee) do not have their contact details visible on the party website.  In fact, that is not correct.  The Conference Committee page on the party website contains  contact details for its chair.


And you can contact President Mark Pack here. 

It is very odd that a party that preaches transparency and accountability hides the e-mail addresses of its key party officers. Any member who wishes to write to the Chair of, say, the Conference Committee cannot do so direct. I am not suggesting that home addresses or telephone number should be made available, unless the individual concerned is happy to do so, but I cannot see any reason why e-mail addresses should be hidden. As far as I know, the e-mail addresses of all elected Councillors are available on each Council’s website. What is more academics – who are often very secretive – have their e-mail addresses public on their academic institution’s website. If these non-Liberal bodies can practise transparency, it is odd that the party does not practise what it preaches and makes it possible for members to contact elected officers and committee members.

I hope that no-one suggests that it is adequate to insist that members write via party headquarters. It may be that, legitimately, a member wishes to comment on a matter of alleged poor administration in which case it would hardly be appropriate it for the communication to go via the party office.

Even more reprehensible is that 17 of the party’s 91 members of the House of Lords do not list their e-mail addresses in the standard Vacher’s guide. I find it very curious that Liberal Democrat parliamentarians should make it difficult for the public to contact them.

* Michael Meadowcroft joined the Liberal Party in 1958. He has served at every level of the party organisation. He was a Leeds City Councillor, West Yorkshire Met County Councillor and MP for Leeds West, 1983-87. For 25 years he led or was part of electoral missions to 35 new democracies on four continents.

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  • richard underhill 27th Jun '20 - 9:23am

    At this time it may be topical to contact the Conference Committee.

  • richard underhill 27th Jun '20 - 10:09am

    Michael Meadowcroft
    Please use adverb/s.
    If you were nominated for the House of Lords someone might ask where you went to school if it is not part of the public record.

  • Good article. 2 strange comments

  • A good article despite some bizarre comments above.

    It surprises and disappoints me that we fail so conspicuously to put our principles into practice when it comes to running our own party.

    Any LibDem councillor worth his or her salt will have put effort into proposing changes to improve the openness, transparency, visibility and accountability of their local council.

    Yet the closed cliques who run our national party – who were responsible for undermining and destroying the best chance of a breakthrough any of us will have ever seen – do their best to stay behind closed doors.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Jun '20 - 10:35pm

    I have no idea if I am in Vacher’s but all my contact details are on the Lords website and in lots of other places! (Just saying). And I am in the phone book. What Michael says is absolutely right. The first thing we did when we published the first ever ALC Bulletin in 1975 was to include a full page of contact details for anyone and everyone involved in positions of influence in running the Liberal Party.

  • Agreed. This is basic stuff, for a supposedly Liberal party.
    If the people concerned don’t want their personal email address ‘advertised’ then create a party one and use that. In fact it would make sense that everyone in any elected position in the party has a generic party email address, all using the same format. That way we would all know what the address was without having to look it up.

  • Hilton Marlton 28th Jun '20 - 7:42am

    Good point. Good timing. I understand that the federal website is being overhauled at the moment. The party should be facilitating communication at every level.

  • Tony Harris 28th Jun '20 - 7:59am

    I’m not sure this article is accurate. It is true that email addresses are not put on websites but in general I think this is to prevent addresses being scraped from websites by spambots (so as to reduce spam). Anybody interested in the work of the FFRC may email me directly via [email protected] or [email protected]. I may not respond instantly (I am working to a tight deadline at the moment) but you will certainly get a response at some stage. As far as I know, all chairs are generally happy to receive comments and questions. I certainly welcome them as I do not like working in a bubble.

    Anthony Harris MA (Oxon) MA (Res) | Chair of FFRC and Registered Party Treasurer

  • Geoff Payne 28th Jun '20 - 8:13am

    As Chair of Conference Committee, I am very happy to be to be written to. Far from being ‘hidden’, my email address is available on the party website as is that of other members ( I know it is not the easiest site to navigate, and it certainly needs an overhaul, but that is in train. FCC also has a Facebook group with over 1,500 members ( and I respond to as many comments as I can there and post reports whenever we have met. The article rather implies that a decision was taken to prevent members from contacting party officers and that is not correct. I certainly don’t consider myself, or the means of contacting me, deliberately ‘hidden’.

  • Geoff Payne 28th Jun '20 - 8:15am

    Having just posted my comment, I noticed that LDV does not publish the email addresses those commenting provide. Any member who wants to write to me about conference at [email protected].

  • suzanne fletcher 28th Jun '20 - 11:45am

    A good article, but it does vary how possible it is to make contact. Some are, Like Geoff Payne. I usually manage somehow as I am on facebook, but we should hardly as a party expect people to have to be on facebook to sort things out. Even then E-mails have at times to go through “[email protected]” which puts a burden on that system, or the excellent Mark Pack, who efficiently directs, but it is not his job to do such.
    Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary has an [email protected] address, that goes to 3 of our officers personal e-mail addresses, so always picked up by someone. I hope that system is seen as transparent and efficient enough. let us know if not!

  • I know there’s a lot more we need to do to improve internal communications. That’s best done starting from an accurate understanding of where we’re currently at. Similar to Geoff’s point above, the Board page on the party website contains a link to contact details for me too.

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