Sal Speaks: January 2016

Sal Speaks is a new monthly blog post by President Sal Brinton to Party Members.

January 2016


I hope that you have had a refreshing break over Christmas, and are feeling fighting fit for a busy year – the Scottish Parliamentary, Welsh and London Assembly, and local government elections, not to mention the Police and Crime Commissioner elections and, of course, the EU Referendum means we can all play an important part in our #LibDemFightback.

We will be having a further consultation on the Governance Review at the York Conference – please come and take part, and even if you can’t, do respond to the consultation. We’ve taken on board many of your comments, and want to set out draft proposals. Over the summer we’ll refine these further, and we will vote on them at the Autumn Conference in Brighton in September. This means that the Federal elections after the Conference will take account of your decision at Brighton, and our new arrangements will start in January 2017. In the meantime, Federal Executive is already changing the way we work on the elements that don’t need formal votes – publishing more about what we do, and how you can talk to us.

If you want to talk to me, please email president@libdems.org.uk, and Chris Adams will set up a surgery meeting, either by phone or if practical in person. My virtual door is open!

I want to set up a monthly webinar with members – so watch out for details, and do tell me what you would like to discuss. I thought we would kick off in February with getting the best out of Conference, so if you are thinking about coming to York, or have booked but haven’t attended before, do sign up for the webinar. Watch this space for the date and time!

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We’ve had some notable by election victories in recent months that are showing we can really say “Where we work, we win” again. Just before Christmas, Steve Greenall and the Lib Dems took a seat on Huntingdonshire District Council off UKIP, whose candidate dropped to a poor third. And these victories are happening all over the country! I know that that our candidates all over the country are already out working – please, please help them. 

I joined the Scottish Executive at the end of November, where Sheila Thomson and Eileen McCartin (the newly elected Scottish Convenor & President) and the new exec met with the outgoing Exec.  Good to have such a strong female team at the top to work alongside Willie Rennie!

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Along with other Lib Dems, I represented the party at the 60th Congress of Liberal International in Mexico at the end of October. It reminded me that we often take our democracy for granted: hearing of colleagues from sister parties in Venezuela and the Congo being imprisoned without charge, and of people ‘disappearing’ because of their political beliefs makes me want to fight for human rights even more strongly. I am also a UNICEF trustee, and I spent a day with projects there. This small gift bag was given to me by a six year old: her wish is for “una vida sin violencia” – a life without violence. How I echo that!

At the end of the conference I had a major transport problem because my wheelchair accessible taxi failed to arrive, and I was stuck and couldn’t get to the airport. LI had shared the hotel with the Ferrari Grand Prix team. They arrived back from the Grand Prix, shattered after a very busy three days, but two of them came to my aid, rearranging my flight for the following day, and finding me a taxi, and even berating the hotel who didn’t lift a finger to help.  My faith in human nature was restored, and here is a photo of the three of us, in front of my new car – providing I can get my wheelchair in to it!

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Three weeks later the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) conference took place in Budapest (much more accessible than Mexico City!). We had a large Lib Dem delegation, led by Robert Woodthorpe Brown. We found that the discussions with our sister parties who have had EU Referendums really helpful and a number of our policy motions were accepted by conference, and I am also delighted to report that Baroness Ros Scott was elected as one of the new Vice Chairs of ALDE.

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Brighton, 17-20 September 2016.