Richard Kemp writes: Why I’m standing to be Party President

I was amazed to be told that the Federal Board has decided to run the internal elections for the Presidency and Party committees this Autumn. Yes, I know that they are due BUT I also know that they will be taking place when there are far more important things to do. There may just be some issues like stopping Brexit; welcoming new MPs to our Party and fighting a General Election that should take precedence. 

Had it been left to me I would have taken the opportunity to tell the Conference in Bournemouth that the Party would be postponing the elections until January and, I would expect, getting a rousing standing ovation from our front-line troops for doing so.

But perhaps it is because decisions like this keep getting taken that I want to stand to become the Party President in the first place. I first became interested in standing when our LGA Lib Dem Executive was told in March last year that the Party was proposing to send out three emails to the membership before the May elections all about Brexit campaigning and not one about local elections. Don’t get me wrong I believe that Brexit is important. As far back as 1975 I chaired the Liverpool ‘yes’ team in the EEC referendum of that year. Elections are even more important. Unless we get elected to councils and parliaments, we are a talking shop, a debating society.

The elections last year began the very public process of raising in people’s minds the full potential of the Lib Dems. The 175 gains and subsequent headlines led to repeated successes in council by-elections. That lead to this year’s huge gains in this year’s round, the election of Jane Dodds and the defection to us of 5 MPs including our own Luciana Berger MP in Liverpool Wavertree.

That’s the way I think that we can grow. We built our Party in the past street by street, community by community, ward by ward and then to parliamentary success. That’s the Lib Dem way and it’s the right way. Parliamentary successes caused by defections or Brexit will be short-term unless underpinned by a phalanx of Councillors and strong community action.

For 52 years I have been a front-line worker for the Party. For 37 of those years I have been a Liverpool Councillor. At times I have represented some of the most deprived communities in the UK. Now I represent a wealthier ward which includes the most famous Lane in the World! I lead the Lib Dem opposition on the council where we are clawing our way back to power against an increasing cult-like extremist Labour Party.

That has not stopped me doing things globally or nationally. For 10 years I was the UK representative on the World body for local government UCLG. For 8 years I was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government at the LGA. I now lead on health & social care at the LGA and regularly attend sessions of all sorts in both Houses of Parliament.

I believe that we need to change the way we do things nationally:

  • We need to change the way we relate to our members. We need to give them real news and information not just endlessly appeal for cash (Yes, I do know that we are short of money!)
  • We need to link our policy making processes to our campaigning processes. We have large numbers of excellent policies which never see the light of day either in our leaflets or by way of being used in conversations with specialist local and national bodies.
  • The excellent work of our Councillors and Lib Dem controlled councils is rarely publicly recognised or used in social or other media.
  • We spend money on performing back office operating from an expensive central London property on wage levels that would be good if we paid them to none-London based staff but are poor for London prices.
  • We need to become a much more disciplined ‘fighting force’ for liberalism which involves far more of our members and registered supporters than we currently do in our campaigning.

I will, of course, be available at Conference to discuss these or any other ideas with you. I won’t be spending lots of money on a campaign. I won’t be showering members with messages at a time when they will be concentrating on more urgent priorities. I will however, be keeping people in touch with what’s happening and my views at my new Facebook site, my blog which is and my Twitter account @cllrkemp. It would help me greatly if you liked this Facebook site and retweeted my relevant tweets.

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE is the Leader of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • nigel hunter 13th Sep '19 - 1:46pm

    Yes we do NOT sell our policies AT ALL in our leaflets which is ridiculous. How do the voter know if they are not informed.Johnson prorogued Parliament cos he did not want to be questioned AND to start electioneering. Yes we do need to build up our council support and be proud of their efforts and shout them from the rooftops. WE ARE NOW IN GE MODE .

  • James Murray 13th Sep '19 - 3:30pm


    We need to attract the young ideologues out there who are looking for a world-view that they can believe in.

    Yes, policies are important but always they are formed and guided by the ideology of the party and mostly are temporary solutions to temporary problems.

    The party’s ideology is what will get the blood rushing through the blood of young people so that they are willing to become the core of our party activists over the next decade and then the party thought leaders and actual leaders after that.

    The Liberal Democrats have an ideal philosophy which far and away beats that of the Socialists – Liberalism.

    A soupcon of that Liberalism and how it applies to modern life and society would be absorbed by the young looking for something to fight FOR – all we give them is something to fight AGAINST.

    What a waste of an opportunity.

    Jim Murray

  • I really don’t think cancelling elections is the way forward, particularly in the present political climate.

  • “We need to change the way we relate to our members. We need to give them real news and information not just endlessly appeal for cash (Yes, I do know that we are short of money!)”

    OK so the party doesn’t related well to members. I’d probably agree but what are you going to change. That’s your 10 word answer. What, to put it in Bartlett terms are your next 10 words?

    I’m not convinced by your schtick if it is based on people speaking to you at conference (which 98% of members will probably not be at) and ‘not showering people with messages’ How can you be a communicating president if your campaign is based on not communicating?

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Sep '19 - 7:27pm

    More power for local councils in education?

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