To rebuild our party, we must be unflinchingly bold

There are some moments when I’m unspeakably proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats.

Last year’s local elections. Marching side-by-side with tens of thousands at the People’s Vote rallies. Every time I crack open Roy Jenkins’ excellent Gladstone biography.

But there’s one rather more recent moment that sticks out as the proudest I’ve ever felt to be a member of this party, and that was reading the general election review. I can’t think of any other party that would have had such a frank conversation with itself about what went wrong.

It makes a tough read, but as important as the review was, it’s even more so to remember that that was the easy bit. It’s easy to feel good about ourselves for having the review, and it’s easy to say “well done” to those who were involved in its construction, before sweeping them under the rug. It’s going to be much, much harder to live up to what it asks of us.

It’s clear that we need to reach out beyond our own circles if we are ever to become a credible force for change again. That means recruiting and retaining voters of all colours, classes, faiths and ages by proving that liberalism is an innovative and bold ideology unafraid to take on the challenges that face these voters. That means dreaming big, but starting small; we need to speak to people’s everyday needs, not just their highest aspirations. Most of all, we need to engage young voters across the country so that we can renew liberalism for the challenges of the new decade.

Part of that means creating a programme that champions the radicalism of the new generation, but it also means creating a safe and secure space for young voices to be heard and, more importantly, listened to. I’m not interested in starting a fight with other Young Liberals, I’m interested in making our party more inclusive, more accessible and more open to young voices at all levels.

We can do that by streamlining YL’s constitutional structures and processes, like introducing a simpler voting system that allows members to register on the website and vote on constitutional amendments. We can do it by increasing transparency and visibility, such as through regular updates emailed to members about what YL is up to. And we can do it by modernising YL’s website; utilising videos, up to the minute graphics and youth-focused policy platforms that will galvanise young voters of all backgrounds.

The time is now. The iron is hot. The party is ready, but only if we’re ready to act. I’m proud to be a member of this great party, and I know you are too. So let’s come together to make a party that lives up to the change it seeks to bring.

* Conor Hilliard a member of the party and the Vice-President of the King's College London Liberal Democrats.

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  • James Bliss 28th May '20 - 4:24pm

    So I totally get the sentement behind this article, and I’d love a lot of the stuff you mention, but it isn’t within YLs power to do some of it.

    In terms is registering with YL, this is not something that we can just do ourselves we are limited by how things with with HQ. I would love for example for the party to ask for date of birth when you sign up as a member (which other parties do), so you can be easily opted in to YL, or a more streamlined and simple process for registering yourself as a student. But none of these things are things YL can just do by itself, it is out of our control, and its not like we haven’t tried.

    In terms of constitutional amendments, we have a conference system and a process for constitutional amendments (alongside Policy Motion’s, business Motion’s and reports from/scrutiny of the exec). This year this is taking place online, but ordinary takes place in 2 in person conferences. I personally would not be in favour of permanently moving everything online, I think we would miss out a great part of our engagement, training and socialising that comes with YL conferences. I would encourage people who aren’t currently engaged with YL to come along to whenever our next in person conference is, we have an access fund that makes it affordable and it is a really great experience.

    If you have a constitutional amendment you want to propose, then the deadline for our submissions for our online conference is 17th June (drafting deadline is this Sunday, the 31st). Email any motions or constitutional amendments to [email protected]

    Id also point out that we do have regular emails and newsletters updating people about what YL does, if you don’t receive them then please get in touch with the exec so that you can be flagged as a YL member and get the emails.

  • Conor Hilliard 28th May '20 - 5:21pm

    James Bliss – First of all, thanks for your support of the sentiment behind the article; it means a lot to hear that from someone on the Exec. I understand that a number of the things I suggested in the article are unfeasible without the support of the wider party, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go for them; I’m sure we can put pressure on HQ to achieve at least some of these aims.

    Regarding constitutional amendments and conference, those are both things that I am aware of and hoping to work towards; it’s not necessarily that the structures aren’t there for members to propose change, as you say, but that sometimes those structures aren’t as clear as maybe we would like them to be. That’s certainly been my experience, at least.

  • Alex Howarth 28th May '20 - 5:30pm

    Like James I agree with the sentiment behind the article and I think there are things YL can always do to improve. I do think we can do a better job of engaging more of our membership, and I’ve discovered over the last year and a half that that’s much, much easier said than done.

    I’m always open to constructive criticism and having a dialogue with members, so if you want to discuss anything to do with the Membership Development portfolio (that is, membership training, engagement, etc) please do drop me an email at [email protected]

  • James Bliss 28th May '20 - 7:33pm

    Like I said in my original comment Conor, a lot of the things you have suggested (like email updates) we already do. And for things like having a better system to sign up members of YL so we have accurate membership records, we regularly try and push HQ to improve things, we *do* put pressure on them but often (like with date of birth on membership sign-up) get told it cant happen at all, or with other solutions get long delays (in fairness because HQ is incredibly busy and deals with lots of issues so stuff gets pushed back).

    In terms of conference, we have been organising online conference under unusual circumstances, but even so I and the Comms officer have both been putting out as much advertisement for conference and the deadlines as is possible, with him doing emails and me posting in a range of Facebook groups and our discord server. I understand things aren’t always clear, and that’s why I’ve been making guides on policy and conference (the former is done and on young liberals forum, and the latter will be out before conference starts). If you have any suggestions then as Alex says, please get in touch.

  • Gwyn Williams 29th May '20 - 10:44am

    I know that when I was a Young Liberal Noah had just parked the Ark but there used to be local YL branches. Anyone could just set one up. Here in North Wales we used to hold social events. We used to have discos with over 100 young people attending. Does anything like that happen today?

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