Would you like to serve on a policy working group?


The party sets up policy working groups to investigate a policy area in some depth over the course of 12 to 18 months. The aim of each group is to produce a policy paper, supported by a motion to conference, based on consultations with members and evidence from experts. You can see updates on the progress of the current policy working groups here.

And you can be part of such a working group. The outgoing Federal Policy Committee set up two new ones, and they are now calling for members.

If you are interested in Immigration and Identity and have some knowledge or expertise to bring to the group then click here.

If you would like to be part of the group looking at Power for People and Communities, then click here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Lester Holloway 16th Jan '17 - 9:34am

    We could do with a policy group on equality, with a focus on policies to address discrimination and unequal outcomes.

  • @ Lester Holloway Yes.

    The Guardian today. ” World’s eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50% “

  • Michael Kilpatrick makes an excellent point about what is/isn’t included in each group’s remit. I agree but think the problem goes further than that. For instance asking the right question is often far more difficult than answering it yet, taking the “21st century economy” WP as an example (see first link in article), the FPC has jumped right in and directed the WP to consider a list of 14 main bullet points thereby pre-empting any such debate and giving the WP little freedom to consider what the key questions are – let alone to answer them.

    In contrast the FPC remit could have simply said simply, “The WP should consider why the economy doesn’t work better than it does and what is needed to fix it” leaving the WP to discover and then answer the right questions while working liberal values into their work. (I think we can trust any WP NOT to propose that, “We will make the economy stronger by setting up more sweatshops and strip-mining the environment”.)

    Then there’s another more subtle issue with the FPC approach. The preamble to the remit says that, “The group is particularly directed to identify policies which could be strong campaigning issues…”. I heard Chris Rennard, when still Chief Executive, say the same in the context of writing a manifesto so it’s clearly a long-standing approach.

    It may seem like a good idea but it’s not; it means that, however subtly, a primary aim, perhaps THE primary aim, of policy becomes crowd-pleasing. The result may indeed please some in the crowd but what the majority want to hear is a coherent view of the situation that make sense to them, matches their own experience and articulates what they feel about the life. When that happens people rapidly conclude that you’re the party to vote for. And, as a bonus, policy solutions become fairly obvious.

  • Anyone interested in how the policy-making process works should read Jeremy Hargreaves’ guide (H/T Mark Pack).


    It’s a ponderous process but was set up that way at the SDP-Liberal merger to ensure that policy-making would be (a) participative and (b) democratic, both laudable objectives.

    However, a remarkable feature of the policy-making process is that it’s firmly stuck in the pre-Internet age which condemns it to be very London-centric and creates no effective way to harness the skills and experience of members.

    It also embodies a very peculiar view of democracy; one section in particular caught my eye:

    “People commonly regard any statement made by a senior Liberal Democrat or group on a subject as a statement of Liberal Democrat policy. [Snip] However in fact these do not form formal party policy, as they have not been through the process above.”

    In short, policy is NOT determined by the party leader and MPs (although they are influential); formally-speaking they are just spokesmen with correspondingly weak accountability. Formal responsibility rests with Conference but, as the platform almost always gets its way, policy is largely made by a small group of HQ committee members aided by the working groups that report to them.

    In total the HQ committees have a membership of under 100 ignoring overlaps. Working groups typically have around 20 members with about six active at any one time so, excluding paid staff and those only contributing via conference, the total number involved in policy-making is around 220. That’s less than 0.3% of the membership. Moreover, in recent OMOV HQ committee elections turnout was under 10% while the biggest first preference vote for the FB was 1061 (~1.3%) and for the FPC 587 (~0.75%).

    So, despite the best intentions, policy-making is actually very top-down, has only the most tenuous claim to either participative or democratic legitimacy and, as GEs show, doesn’t convince the voters.

    Time to change?

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