UPDATED: The Lib Dem Lowdown – European elections surge special

Welcome to the thousands of people who have joined the Liberal Democrats in the last few weeks, and a special mention to those of you who joined this morning. You were noticed by our Head of Membership.

It’s actually been really heartwarming to wake up every morning for the last few weeks and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

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 and party president – and you have joined at just about the right time, as both posts will be elected before the end of the year.

Vince Cable indicated before Spring Conference that he would be stepping down at some point this year and on Friday 24th May, confirmed that a new leader would be in place by 23rd July. Candidates have until 7th June to collect the required 200 signatures from members. Anyone who joins the party by 7th June will get a vote.

There will be plenty opportunities to question the candidates, in person or online, before the ballot papers are despatched at the end of June.

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. 

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, ‘Liberal History’, is a good place to start if you’d 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.

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.

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

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

8 Comments

  • Guardian : Heidi Allen says Change UK could merge with Liberal Democrats.

    .. Just when you’re reestablishing yourselves after the Clegg,Cameron fiasco, you’re going to merge with this unimpressive, divisive , Tory-lite outfit?

  • Charles Pragnell 26th May '19 - 4:39pm

    I think that Change UK are going to have to eat a massive portion of humble pie after tonight’s results.
    It is clear that Britain needs a radical political party. I he late Paddy Ashdown when interviewed on election night 1997 told the reporter “That we are independent radical party. That must be the foundations the Lib Dems must build on , to thinks our broken politics .
    Tig is not the answer to the problem.
    It is a party full of individuals with super egos . Heidi and her pal Sarah Wolleston is a he nearest you would get to Liberals. Both seats they represent has strong liberal traditions. In 1997 Richard Chave got with in 700 votes of taking Totnes. In the case of Heidi Allen , the Lib Dems run South Cambridgeshire council. If both switched to the Lib Dems they would stand a real chance of holding their seats.

    Tig is a spent flush and would better off joining the Lib Dems to form a the base of a radical alternative to two old parties , one splitting apart over Europe, and a Labour Party driven by far left anti-Semites .

    What the Lib Dems need to do now, is hold the golden line, and be a party which has tight party discipline.

    I hope tonight we see a large European group of Liberals return to Strasburg to counter the threat of far right nationalism .

    What ever happens tonight and tomorrow in Scotland , five years on from the disaster of 2014 , we will be stronger.

  • Charles Pragnell 26th May '19 - 4:44pm

    I think that Change UK are going to have to eat a massive portion of humble pie after tonight’s results.
    It is clear that Britain needs a radical political party. I he late Paddy Ashdown when interviewed on election night 1997 told the reporter “That we are independent radical party”. That must be the foundations the Lib Dems must build on , to fix our broken politics .
    Tig is not the answer to the problem.

    It is a party full of individuals with super egos . Heidi and her pal Sarah Wolleston is a he nearest you would get to Liberals. Both seats they represent has strong liberal traditions. In 1997 Richard Chave got with in 700 votes of taking Totnes. In the case of Heidi Allen , the Lib Dems run South Cambridgeshire council. If both switched to the Lib Dems they would stand a real chance of holding their seats.

    Tig is a spent force , and would better off joining the Lib Dems to form a the base of a radical alternative to two old parties , one splitting apart over Europe, and a Labour Party driven by far left anti-Semites .

    What the Lib Dems need to do now, is hold the golden line, and be a party which has tight party discipline.

    I hope tonight we see a large European group of Liberals return to Strasburg to counter the threat of far right nationalism .

    What ever happens tonight and tomorrow in Scotland , five years on from the disaster of 2014 , we will be stronger.

  • @Andy – I think quite a few Lib Dem members would have a thing or two to say about that!

  • Andy – No.

  • OnceALibDem 26th May '19 - 5:58pm

    And I think the LIb Dems will know how merging two political parties works 🙂

  • @Andy. It takes two to tango. What do they bring to the table? And in case you’re worried, any agreement to work together would be on *our* terms not theirs. We’re now going to be part of the largest single bloc (ALDE) in the European Parliament with over 100 seats; they don’t have any MEPs.

  • clive english 28th May '19 - 8:45am

    The problem is there is quite a difference between Allen, Wolleston and Berger who might bring something worthwhile (in different ways) and the rest who are uninspiring hacks (Gapes), egotists or out and out thatcherites (Soubry)

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 25th Jun - 12:48am
    Joseph Bourke I don't know about you (or Peter M, for that matter) but that doesn't sound like real "income" to me - in the...
  • User AvatarNigel Ashton 25th Jun - 12:43am
    Geoff Tordoff was Chair of the Liberal Party when I was first elected to the National Executive Committee in 1979. He was an outstanding Liberal...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 25th Jun - 12:31am
    David is so right about the urgent need for increased spending on social care. The cutbacks may even have contributed to a fall in life...
  • User AvatarMike Read 24th Jun - 11:57pm
    1st August is the date.
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 24th Jun - 11:14pm
    You could not publish articles like this in a newspaper. If they were printed the publishers would be in trouble. The same law should apply...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 24th Jun - 10:50pm
    ITV's political reporter Paul brand has said on Twitter that the chief whip has told the opposition parties that the writ will be moved tomorrow...