The totally unofficial Federal International Relations Committee report – May 2018

There is a certain irony in that, having written the Committee’s communication plan before I resigned as its Secretary, that the Committee leadership has evidently forgotten that it exists. Thus, this report is wholly my own work. You’ll remember that if I run for re-election next year, right?

The key areas for discussion this time were the workplan and our response to the Alderdice Report on BAME participation within the Party.

The workplan is, I sense, a work of obligation rather than commitment, in that it looks to have been put together because one is required, rather than desired. Federal Board not unreasonably wants the various Federal Committees to buy into the overriding Party strategy, and thus a rather last minute document was presented to us. A closer examination indicated that it was less than entirely SMART, that a number of the items within it required action by other bodies altogether, and that in terms of engagement with the wider Party membership, it was rather poor.

For what it’s worth, I fear that the Committee is too set in its ways to change. Its relationship with the rest of the Party is opaque – for example, the Chair sits on the Federal Board and, informally, on Federal Policy Committee, yet doesn’t report back, either in writing (preferable) or verbally. The representatives of both the Federal Board and Federal Policy Committee never seem to relate their “day jobs” to the work of the Committee either. Something, or someone, needs to change.

On the Alderdice Report, I noted that the elected members of the Committee, six of us, are actually better in terms of BAME representation than gender (two BAME, one woman). The problem is the nominees from other bodies. Kudos to the Federal Board for nominating Joyce Onstad (a BAME woman), but the rest are, how can I put this kindly, middle-aged or older white men. We need to do better than that, and I suggested more judicious use of our right to co-opt to address that.

I’ve already touched upon communication (and the lack thereof), and I took the opportunity to remind the Committee that it had actually adopted a communications plan, drafted by my own fair hand, which it had promptly ignored thereafter. You perhaps begin to note the trend towards simple technical compliance rather than any enthusiasm.

I called for space on the Party website, and better outreach. Our engagement with the Party full stop is pretty woeful, let alone any attempt to broaden participation in terms of diversity. We need to be more visible both as a Committee and as individuals, drafting policy resolutions, speaking in debates, telling members what we’re for and what we do.

That leads into how we choose our delegations to ALDE Party events. Too many of our delegates appear to be there for the trip, rather than to contribute, and they’re older, whiter with a tendency not to mix with other delegations. We need to send delegates who look more like the Party we want to be, rather than a stereotype.

It’s time for a change. And in the words of Hughie Green, “I mean that most sincerely,”.

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Federal International Relations Committee. He appears to be its radical fringe, which might tell you something…

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Party policy and internal matters.


  • Very interesting. Do I detect a certain tension amongst the committee serving ranks of our party ? As you say, Mark, committee engagement with the party is pretty woeful. Non existent would be my preferred term.
    Regarding diversity, it is good that a third of the elected members are BAME. I’m sure I would have voted for them as well, though I confess that I don’t remember ever receiving my polling card ! As far as the nominees are concerned, there has to be a point where we allow bodies to just put forward their best person, regardless of demographic profile, otherwise, what hope is there for middle aged middle class white guys like us, eh Mark ?
    I imagine that for most members reading this post, this is all a murky world that we the poor bloody infantry are not allowed to see into. If that’s what you’re trying to address, then more power to your elbow.

  • Ian Patterson 28th May '18 - 6:35pm

    Shockingly some members live outside the M25 and Ipso facto can’t readily go on national party committees, so this leads to a narrow body of people who can easily flit to London at a drop of an agenda.

  • Peter Chambers 28th May '18 - 8:59pm

    The well written comments here feel wearily familiar, from committees in several spheres. Ignored plans, poor communication, interlocking circles, lack of fresh blood, un-SMART objectives. Some get better, but others stay in the mire.

  • Andy Hinton 28th May '18 - 9:20pm

    It’s a good thing you labelled this post so clearly as being your own unofficial work, Mark, otherwise I might have mistaken it for a Pravda-esque pronouncement of total approval for all the committee’s wondrous activities.


  • Having watched – and remembered all the events – in what is sure to be an award winning drama on BBC 1about a former leader of the Liberal Party – the conclusion my wife and I came to was that the party couldn’t run a p–s up in a brewery let alone successfully dispose of a threat down a tin mine.

    It seems – according to Mr Valladares – that some things haven’t changed.

  • Richard Underhill 29th May '18 - 11:05am

    Mark Valladares | Mon 28th May 2018 – 1:25 pm
    May I translate please?
    S Specific
    M Measurable
    A Achievable
    R Realistic
    T Time-bounded
    E Evaluated
    R Reviewed
    A policy from a Human Relations consultant, to be compared with management’s

  • Richard Underhill 29th May '18 - 11:09am

    Chris Cory “don’t remember ever receiving my polling card “.
    Are they elected at an OMOV conference?

  • Richard Underhill 29th May '18 - 11:13am

    May I suggest inviting the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon?

  • “There is a certain irony in that, having written the Committee’s communication plan before I resigned as its Secretary, that the Committee leadership has evidently forgotten that it exists. Thus, this report is wholly my own work. You’ll remember that if I run for re-election next year, right?”

    Ouch! But a good example to people on bodies that exercise power!

  • Sue Sutherland 29th May '18 - 12:57pm

    Thank you for painting such a clear picture Mark. I have been increasingly getting the impression that our committees are in danger of operating in a bubble unrelated to our members. I was very concerned that LD immigrants seemed to be ignored while our immigration policy was developed. I have also heard that another policy working group seems to be ignoring the members of a party group formed to represent the interests of those that the working group are developing policy for.
    We have always been able to see that this doesn’t work for local communities so why are we so keen on top down decision making in our own party? I ‘m very much afraid this attitude led to a lot of the mistakes made during Coalition. We have lots of new members who want to be engaged so now seems to be the ideal time to shake things up, but how do we do this?
    Maybe the first thing could be to ask all policy working groups, including those established by the parliamentary party, to involve relevant groups from the party right from the start when initial assumptions are being made? Even better would be a motion to the next conference that establishes the party itself as a community to be run in accordance with the principles of community politics. I believe this would free us from accepting the status quo in policy development and give all of us practice in how to organise society according to Lib Dem principles. Even just changing the word State to National Community clarifies much of what we believe in and gives an over arching theme to our policies.

  • Adrian H-Trett 29th May '18 - 2:34pm

    As usual, Mark you are very good at putting out criticisms but not somebody who puts their hand up to offer assistance. Your communication plan drafted before you resigned last year, may not now link very well to the Federal Board’s requested objectives, and as that was nearly a year ago, so I quietly suggest if you want to be helpful why don’t do you re-draft (as per our work-plan headings) that to fit in with the needs, rather than going public and criticizing those who are spending a lot of time trying to bring together the objectives in a way that it what the governance of the party desires.
    Yes Brexit is a key, distinctive issue but it not the only major international event happening at the moment (unless you’re living on another planet) and we need to make sure we can cover all bases.

  • Does anyone have the first idea what this committee does and why, what it costs and what it has ever achieved and who is on it and how they were elected.
    If it did not exist, would we invent it?

  • Adrian H-Trett 29th May '18 - 3:13pm

    Mark, very simply if you had requested a report from FIRC Committee for Lib Dem Voice, then I would have happily provided one, but as no request has ever been received or made to the Secretary, how I could have known this. Perhaps your internal communicatin strategy needs to be revised to actually communicate with the correct people.

  • It is always sad when comments are made that lack full knowledge of subsequent events. As FIRC Chairman I feel forced to correct some misapprehensions.

    The Strategy Plan agreed by the Committee was in fact headlines and unsuitable for presentation to the Federal Board. I spent a day mapping out how the objectives would be met in order to avoid legitimate questions by colleagues. These included detailed ideas for implementation of Alderdice.

    As Mark points out, the Committee is unbalanced by the choices of nominees of the many bodies entitled to representation. Also, the new rule by which one had to choose only one body to sit on meant that many women members chose other committees. The contributions of Joyce, Belinda and Merlene are outstanding.

    The comments regarding M25 have been responded to by Mark. He could have mentioned the Wales-based FPC representative, a regular attender and the Scottish rep who is sometimes with us in person, sometimes on the phone. Most of the Committee lives outside the M25, although I confess I have now moved back from Worcestershire

    Joyce Onstad’s remarks on welcome given to new Party members apply to non BAME recruits. The issue waa addressed in the FIRC report to the Federal Board

    Election of 6 members of the Committee is by OMOV simultaneously with the elections to all other Federal Committees. The Chair must be one of the six elected, notably a co-opted person nor a representative of other bodies

    The methodology of choosing delegates to ALDE Congresses – the next one is in Madrid in November – was fully discussed at the last FIRC meeting and conveyed to the Federal Board. In addition to attempts to balance the delegates geographically, by gender, BAME, serial orientation etc, more needs to be done to encourage young attendees and for this the financial implications for them must be compensated

    To answer another query, the Committee costs the Party nothing. Many of its members expend considerable sums of their own money to represent the Party at gatherings of sister parties, often in very far flung places!

  • Geoffrey Payne 29th May '18 - 5:22pm

    As someone who is completely outside of the loop in all this I can’t help but observe that 1/ There has to be a better way to sound off rather than write an article on LDV. If there isn’t then someone should invent one. And 2/ if there are people who go to the trouble of getting elected only to become timeservers, then there is an important lack of leadership providing a vision as to why this is really important.
    I hope someone sorts this out.
    As far as LDV is concerned I think the ideological direction of the party is the most important matter we should be attending to, whilst liberal bureaucracy is better served on niche blogs for those who are into these things.

  • Alisdair McGregor 29th May '18 - 5:54pm

    Could I remind everyone involved that FIRC, as with any Federal Committee, is bound to follow Article 7.7 of the Federal Constitution on this matter. 7.7(b) is particularly relevant.

    7.7 Each Committee of the Federal Party shall make regulations to govern the operation of the Committee and anybody accountable to it. Such regulations must include:
    (a) a transparency policy which sets out when discussions of the Committee, and papers submitted to it, shall be confidential and which keeps confidentiality to a necessary minimum;
    (b) provisions for reports to be made to party members after the completion of each full meeting of the Committee, including the responsibility of the Chair to report on the meeting and the Committee’s work in a manner deemed practical by the Federal Chief executive within 14 days of the conclusion of the said meeting;

  • Zoe O'connell 29th May '18 - 5:54pm

    It seems odd to me that a committee would need to be *requested* to produce a report for LDV, rather than just assuming it’s part of the normal work of the group. We’ve come a long way in terms of committee transparency since my first FCC report, and it seemed we were beginning to normalise the practice of reports back – some items need to remain confidential, but we can’t be democratic if we have *no* idea what our elected representatives are up to.

    If the committee’s work plan had committed to producing reports and that was ignored, it would seem to me entirely proper for Mark to highlight that fact. And as the LDV editor wryly notes, if Mark is being labelled the “radical fringe” it suggests some PR work is in order to sort out the committee’s image!

  • * now imagining Mark with a radical fringe *

  • Peter Hirst 30th May '18 - 1:58pm

    Does this Committee have the right to create motions for Conference and if so why does it not make use of this right more often. For an international looking Party, we do not give due prominence to these issues, relying on emergency debates. And if it does not why not and what is its role?

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