The Lib Dem Lowdown – Swinson Surge Special

Welcome to the thousands of people who have joined the Liberal Democrats this week. The Swinson Surge has seen our total number of members and supporters surpass 120,000. When you think that just 4 years ago, our membership wasn’t much more than 40,000, that is spectacular.

A Lib Dem Lowdown piece would not be complete without a Greg Foster (Lib Dem Head of Membership) GIF.

Though the GIFs are great, he may have to pay some attention to his hashtags.

It’s so great to check Twitter in the morning and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

Some of our newest members are:

The Scottish Lib Dems have a new Councillor:

And he wasn’t the only former Conservative repelled by Boris Johnson. Justine Greening’s former special adviser joined us too.

As a new member – or an old one – the best thing you can do over the next few days is help us win the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.. See more below in the real ale bit.

You might, by the way, have noticed the wee orange diamonds some people have on their Twitter posts to show that they are Lib Dems. Here’s how to get one:

You basically copy the code from here and then go into your Twitter profile paste it next to your name.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the¬†Preamble to our Constitution¬†which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity, ¬†decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

The Liberal Democrats gives its members a great deal of say. You will have a vote to elect the leader although you will have to stick around for a few years before you get that chance again as we’ve just elected a brilliant one!

Our Party President Sal Brinton is limited to two terms so she can’t stand in the Presidential election. That post will be elected in an all member ballot in the Autumn.

You will also have the right to a say in choosing your UK wide (Federal)and local party office bearers and committees at the end of this year. You might even want to stand for election to any of these bodies.

The Federal (UK wide) committees are:

Federal Board – which sets the party strategy and ensures that the party is on track to deliver its objectives.

Federal Policy Committee – produces policy papers, for debate at conference, to develop our policies on various issues and writes the party’s election manifesto. Last year, for example, we developed new immigration policy.

Federal Conference Committee – which sets the agenda and organises the debates for our Spring and Autumn Conferences

Federal International Relations Committee – does what it says on the tin – keeps up our relationships with other liberal bodies across the world.

The committees above have directly elected representatives who are elected by the membership as a whole and members representing, for example, state and parliamentary parties.

These committees are elected by the Federal Board and include representatives of state parties. They often write reports of their meetings for this site, so keep an eye out.

Federal People Development committee – which covers things like membership, diversity and training

Federal Finance and Resources Committee – which sorts out the money. As a (now recovering) state party treasurer, I was on it for six years.

Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee which runs our election campaigns.

You will be a member of the Federal, relevant state (English, Scottish or Welsh) party and local party. In England, you will be a member of your regional party.

Conference

Any member can attend our UK-wide, Scottish, Welsh or regional conferences. We have two UK wide events a year, a weekend in March and a four day event in September. This year’s Spring Conference was held in York and Autumn Conference takes place in Bournemouth from 14th – 17th ¬†September. Our last few Conferences have been blessed with the attendance of many Newbies, who have been fantastic additions. Some newbies are now councillors, parliamentary candidates and one was even, all too briefly, an MP. Our candidate in the most marginal seat in the country, North East Fife, is Wendy Chamberlain, who joined the party just after the election in 2015. She is also the Scottish Party’s spokesperson on Constitutional Affairs.

At Conference, we have proper debates and members decide the policy of the party. MPs and ordinary members are on the same level, each with a vote on every issue. Many of the motions we debate come from local parties and ordinary members of the Party. Find out how to do that here. Once the full agenda gets published for Conference, you can have a look at the motions and if you think they could be better, you could amend them.

Attending Conference is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the party and meet people. There are usually about 5 things you want to do in every time slot throughout the day whether it’s debating in the hall, attending fringe meetings or training. You might find¬†my annually updated guide to the craziness of conference useful to read.¬†And there is absolutely no standing on ceremony. You can find yourself queueing up for things and chatting away with anybody from a senior councillor to a member of the House of Lords or Nick Clegg.

Conference can be an expensive business but there are ways to do it on the cheap. One such way is to volunteer to be a steward as our Paul Walter has done. He says:

You don’t have to pay for registration, they refund you for a certain amount of travel and accommodation and you get paid a small subsistence amount for each half day you steward for.

Join one of the party interest groups

There are very many groups representing every topic and interest imaginable. All would be very happy to have you as a member. Some have special status in the party.

If you want to get involved in campaigning,¬†membership of ALDC¬†(the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners) is pretty essential. It’s a brave person who faces the electorate without their advice and support – and figures show that ALDC members are more likely to be elected.

Liberal Democrat Women¬†aims to ensure that our policy reflects women’s views and needs and to ensure higher representation at all levels of the party and government.

The amazing Young Liberals have made fantastic contributions on policy and to campaigning over the years. They are a fair bit better behaved than they were in my day, however.

LGBT+ Lib Dems played a huge role in the campaign for same sex marriage and are there to ensure that our policy has a liberal approach to LGBTQI people and engage with LGBTQI groups outside the party.

The Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality  represents the interests of and tries to increase the representation of BAME Liberal Democrats.

Outside these five there is a huge array of interest groups from Green Lib Dems to ¬†Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats to the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum to friends of various countries to campaign groups for electoral reform and land value taxation. There’s also not entirely serious carbohydrate-laden rivalry as Lib Dem Friends of Biscuit engage in a highly amusing turf war with Lib Dem Friends of Cake. There truly is something for everybody. And for those with furry friends, Liberal Democats and Liberal Demodogues are fun Facebook groups.

You definitely want to join the Lib Dem Newbies UK group on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. This group was set up in response to the initial surge in 2015 and has been going from strength to strength ever since. They hold regular Lib Dem Pint events around the country and at Conferences.

If Lib Dem Pint isn’t your thing, in Edinburgh and I’m sure in other places around the country we have regular Lib Dem Pastry events on Saturday mornings.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has put his whisky where his mouth is and set up Lib Dem Friends of Whisky which is holding events throughout this year across the country and at our conferences. There is now a rival Lib Dem Friends of Gin set up by Dawn Barnes, our prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, which has been known to use the hashtag #ginninghere. The Twitter account LD Friends of Gin is not run by Dawn but is very amusing. The people behind it can atone for their cheek to me about this post by buying me an Electric Spirit Achroos and Tonic in Bournemouth.

The Social Liberal Forum and Liberal Reform are two other non official groups who contribute to our thinking. Both organise fringe meetings at our Conference and SLF has a brilliant conference every July.

The Liberal Democrats have a proud history, stretching back more than three hundred years. The¬†Liberal Democrat History Group¬†publishes the Journal of Liberal History and a range of books and booklets, and organises meetings. Their short booklet, ‚ÄėLiberal History‚Äô, is a good place to start if you‚Äôd like to know more.

Our little quirks

I would never wish to enslave anyone by conformity but the party certainly has more than its fair share of Doctor Who fans. There’s something about that slightly socially awkward person who spreads a message of live and let live and peace throughout time and space that seems to appeal to us.

We tend to like beer, too, especially if it’s real ale produced by some small, independent micro brewery. Actually if you like beer, you might like to head to the Arvon Ale House in Llandindrod Wells – but only after you have done some campaigning for the fabulous Jane Dodds. We so hope to win the by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire next Thursday. If we do, Boris’s majority is depleted. And Jane would be such a brilliant MP – so kind and wise and committed to fighting poverty and inequality.

It’s fair to say that we have proportionately more constitutional and electoral systems geeks than just about any organisation in the world.

Getting involved locally

Your first resource is¬†the party website. As a member, you can sign up to the members’ only section which has all sorts of information about the way the party works. If you want to find details of the local party in your area, you can do so¬†here. The local party is the first building block in the structure of the party and is usually based on a parliamentary constituency but it can be a council area or a number of constituencies. In England you then have 9 regions. They look after things like candidate selection. The state parties of England, Wales and Scotland are responsible for, among other things, membership and policy affecting each state. They are autonomous. We are not hierarchical – the Federal Party does not tell states and regions what to do.

There may not be an active local party, in which case you will find details of your regional or state party contacts. Those regions and state parties should be making efforts to get you involved in your area – but that might take time, so bear with them.

Online opportunities and social media

As a member, you can take part in our members’ Forum which is private. Sign up¬†here, but it can take a while for your membership to be confirmed so bear with us.

There are numerous Facebook groups you can get involved in. One of the most popular for new members is Lib Dem Newbies UK which, for the past year, has been a fantastic resource and is a very positive place for discussion about all aspects of Lib Demmery.

If you have a blog, why not add it to the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator which is run by our technical wizard, Ryan?

Some essential Twitter follows include the sassy Lib Dem Press Office, Alex Cole-Hamilton, our MSP for Edinburgh Western who admits to things like dancing round his living room on occasion, Jennie Rigg for good old Yorkshire common sense and funny, practical liberalism. And cute doggies.

Also keep tabs on what’s happening on this site by following us.¬†If you want to tell us why you joined, please feel free to write for us – our guidelines for submissions are here.¬†

I have some Twitter lists that you might want to subscribe to. I have to say that setting up the Lib Dem MEPs’ one last Monday was pretty darned satisfying as we went from 1 to 16.

This has been a very quick whistle-stop tour round the party. It’s barely scratched the surface but I don’t want to overload you with too much information. ¬† I hope it has been useful.

What else would you like to know? If you have any questions, ask in the comments or drop me an email at [email protected] If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does. And do have a chat on social media. You can find me whiling away way too much of my life on Twitter here.

But most of all, welcome to our growing, passionate, spirited party.  Enjoy your membership and get involved in as much or as little as you want.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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19 Comments

  • Fantastic news. Well done and keep it up, we must have nearly surpassed the Tory membership by now. Also good to see Scotland. But we seriously need more from Lib Dems on Scotland devolution., including what would be a winner an Isle of Man approach. Total devolution apart from Defense and Overseas issues.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jul '19 - 11:02am

    Maybe we should be thinking about Dover. Tory MP suspended. Important local issues.

  • David Becket 26th Jul '19 - 11:18am

    @Dan
    Agreed, more essential if we get a hard Brexit. Jo and the party will need to move from the current inflexible position and look for a compromise.

  • @Dan 26th Jul ’19 – 10:46am
    Fantastic news. Well done and keep it up, we must have nearly surpassed the Tory membership by now

    Let’s not get carried away! Tory membership is 160,000+ and rising.

    We are on around 110,000 and rising. (There are also 10,000+ supporters.)

  • @DavidBeckett. No No No!!! We will move from pro remain to campaigning for readmission. There can be no compromise over the future of our country because leaving the EU will be catastrophic.

  • Great that our membership is surging When will we see MP defections?
    So far it’s all speculation, but no sign of any movement at all.

  • @ Mick Taylor “We will move from pro remain to campaigning for readmission. There can be no compromise over the future of our country because leaving the EU will be catastrophic.”

    Be interested to get your view on whether Scotland should continue to be chained to a Brexit supporting England and a right wing Tory neo-liberal Westminster or go for a social democratic independence and readmission to the EU. All highly speculative of course.

  • Nobody is happier than me at last nights results, I stayed up to see what happened.
    In our excitement and euphoria let us ask ourselves what we would do if we were a Labour voter in one of the many, many seats where at the last election Labour was within 5,000 votes of the winning Conservative, where we polled less than 4% and have no organisation or councillors etc.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Jul '19 - 5:49pm

    @David Raw. I have always taken the view that Scotland has the right to decide whether or not it should remain part of the UK. If I lived in Scotland and the UK does leave the EU then I would seriously consider an independent Scotland inside the EU as preferable be chained to the sinking ship England would then become.
    I am also aware that a majority of Scottish Lib Dems are firmly pro union, though not all. As a mere Sassenach, I have no right at all in making any such decision, but in my view being closed to the possibility that the Scottish situation may change if the UK leaves the EU is, as Sir Humphrey was prone to say, is a “brave decision”.

  • @Mick, the first thing those sympathetic to the Scots need to understand is that an independent Scotland would have no automatic right to join the EU. It’s the Scottish Nationalist equivalent of “we hold all the cards, we’ll get a great deal with all of the current benefits and none of the pesky down-sides” put forward by Johnson and his ilk.

    An independent Scotland might be considered “Social Democratic”, but we’d be a lot poorer and fairer spending decisions is all very well, but when you’ve got a lot less money to spend, that means deep cuts for the health service and education and everything else. The other side of that coin is that if all of the ‘social democrat’ MPs from Scotland no longer sit in Westminster, then the rest of the UK is much more likely to be stuck with a Tory government. Some Scots might not care, but as well as being selfish, that would wreak havoc on the Scottish economy, which would continue to be aligned with the rest of the UK, especially if we decide to use a currency pegged to Sterling.

    That’s before considering trade. If leaving the EU is bad because of the terrible trade deals between the UK and the EU, then should Scotland gain membership of the EU (minimum ten years to get the deficit to acceptable levels) Scots would just be on the other side of that terrible deal. Most of Scotland’s non-Scottish trade is done with England, so do we really want to move to a situation where the largest trade barriers are with our immediate neighbours? The UK was the original single market, and if leaving the EU single market is daft (and it is), how can it be good to leave the even more important UK single market?

  • So please, while the idea of an independent Scotland in the EU might sound great, especially if people are thinking it might give them access to an EU passport, please be careful about supporting it from afar without putting the work into understanding the very real and considerable downsides for those of us who would be living with it.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jul '19 - 12:32pm

    The weeklies have lots of Boris, all saying he is not good enough.
    Private Eye has “The Ego Has Landed” which will bear countless repetition.
    The New European has a rear view of an overweight Boris looking in a mirror.
    They assume that we all know about The Emperor’s new clothes.
    Page 21 has a full page of Jo Swinson with a mobile ‘phone at her left ear.

    Please will someone put her surname in the spellchecker on LDV! I have spelt it right.

    Her election fills political itinerant Lib Dem member Tim Walker “with optimism.”
    He voted Labour in the last general election and “has finally arrived home”.
    Tim Walker (@ThatTimWalker)

  • And now a by-election in Sheffield Hallam to look forward to!

  • More encouraging news. Since 2015, there have been a lot of surges created by election successes and our new leaders. I rejoined the Party in the aftermath of the 2015 wipe out, enraged but then encouraged by Tim Farron’s barnstorming speeches – so much superior to Johnson’s bombastic waffling. I do hope that the current leadership will make full use of Tim’s motivational talents in forthcoming elections.

  • Yeovil Yokel 27th Jul '19 - 3:33pm

    As GaryE says, a by-election in Sheffield Hallam to come later in the Summer; plus Heidi Allen helping out Jane Dodds this weekend in Brecon & Radnorshire – I’m struggling to keep up with all this, the Lib Dem upsurge is giving me a headache, I need to go and lie down in a dark, quiet room.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Jul '19 - 3:50pm

    Sorry to all those keen Lib Dems who thought they might get a rest after Brecon. We now get the chance to get a seat off Labour in Sheffield. I recall I promised to go there for the duration, though that might have to be after conference.
    Keep piling up the pressure folks. Let’s make the rise of the Lib Dems unstoppable.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Jul '19 - 3:54pm

    Fiona. I am not saying one way or another whether Scotland should be independent, I don’t live there.
    I was saying that being intransigent in the light of rapidly changing circumstances is not necessarily the best policy.
    By the way, I can’t see the EU saying no to Scotland if it applies as an in dependent country.
    The best way to ensure that none of this comes about is to stop Brexit!

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