Welcome to my day: 2 October 2023 – autumn has come…

It’s October already, and despite the rather pleasant September that we’ve had, today offered a sense that the seasons are turning. And whilst the Conservatives are still in Manchester, engaged in what the Economist described as “magical thinking” (paywall, I’m afraid), the rest of us have moved on to what will happen in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Tamworth and, of most interest to Liberal Democrats, Mid Bedfordshire.

If the polls are accurate, Labour should win in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, but Tamworth is supposedly neck and neck, despite Labour’s recent performance in local elections there, and Mid Bedfordshire is being claimed by all three major parties. Should the Conservatives hold either or both, it will be a confidence boost for them, even if it persuades them to keep going as they are – in the face of the national polling data. Thus, it’s important that we keep pushing in Mid Bedfordshire, and I’m perpetually impressed by the reports of activists converging on the area from across the country.

Otherwise, the reports of infighting at GB News have provided much entertainment to those of us who believe that freedom of speech must be matched with a freedom to accept the consequences. Yet, I’m not one of those who believe that GB News should be shut down. If Paul Marshall wants to pour vast amounts of money into an organisation likely to fall foul of defamation laws on a regular basis, and which serves mostly to signal the sort of people who are ill-suited to decent society, then I wouldn’t want to stop him. Apparently, there are concerns that events at GB News will impact on his desire to buy the Telegraph group of newspapers but, again, if he steers the Telegraph towards the same sort of audience, he’s probably only going to lose more money – are the sort of people who watch GB News the sort of people who but broadsheet newspapers? The evidence suggests not.

Federal Council meets this week, and I was interested by Chris Northwood’s article that we published on Thursday. As a member of Federal Council myself, I’m almost as much curious about how Federal Council defines its role going forward as in what it chooses to debate short term. I’m one of those who feared that Federal Council was potentially a sop to Conference in order to persuade it to agree the reforms to Federal Board. However, you’ve got to test the concept to see if it can be made effective. I’m not sure that this is really emerging yet, but it’s up to us to work on it. You may hear my views on what happens at Friday’s meeting, unless a colleague drafts something better.

Looking forward, in my capacity as a member of the National Assembly of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), and as Vice Chair of NALC’s Smaller Councils Committee, if you’re a Liberal Democrat Town or Parish Councillor, I’d strongly encourage you to join colleagues from across England for the ALDC Town and Parish Councillors Conference on Saturday, October 21st. Opened by ALDC Chief Executive, Tim Pickstone and NALC President (and former Liberal Democrat President), Baroness Ros Scott, there’s some interesting content that might help you to take advantages of the opportunities available to you in our sector.

Finally, I may have a lot of moderating to do today, so do bear with me. I would draw the attention of our readers, especially the more infrequent ones who only show up when we publish articles on a particular subject, to our comments policy. And, you are courteously reminded, using comments to challenge our moderation policy will lead to your comment being rejected without hesitation.

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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