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Liberal Democrats

Alderdice and beyond - the future of the Vice Presidency

By Isabelle Parasram, Dec 19, 2020 2:12

Isabelle Parasram, Liberal Democrat Vice-President

At a recent meeting of The Federal International Relations Committee, I had the chance to recount what I’ve been doing in the past couple of years (almost!) as party Vice President.

It’s been my privilege to serve since first being elected to the role in 2019 and then again, in 2020, and I had been invited to speak on how we, as a party, can reach out to ethnic minority and other minority group members, how we handle situations where two opposing groups want exclusive public support and how we can cross cultural divides.

At that meeting, I had the chance to thank two of the attendees - Lord John Alderdice, whose Alderdice Review called for the establishment of my role - and Baroness Sal Brinton, who ensured that the role was ‘activated’ before the end of her term of office as Party President.

But as well as thinking about the past, the event galvanized me to think about the future. The future of my role, of the party, and of what we can collectively do to be the most diverse, inclusive and forward thinking party in the UK.

As Vice President, I have worked on so many projects, launching our first webinar Party campaign with Ed Davey: “Stand up for Carers”, campaigning for Parliamentary and Council candidates and holding outreach events such as “What does it mean to be Black in Britain?” geared towards non-Party members.

I also do a huge amount of internal work - ‘arbitrating’ for Local Parties when there are internal contentious issues, advising on equality messaging and, since the Summer, acting as a member of The Steering Group, which supports the more operational work of the Federal Board.

The role has become increasingly embedded in, and vital to, how the party works. I believe that direction of travel is right, because I believe that ethnic minority voices must be at the heart of what we do.

To push forward, therefore, I believe now is the time to update the office of Vice President. I worked hard to be elected by the Federal Board (there was some tough competition for my role!) but I remain conscious that I was elected by a subset of the membership. With that in mind, I’ll be proposing a Motion at Spring Conference calling for my office to be directly elected and, consequently, to have a vote on the Federal Board.

There are a number of reasons why I think that my role should be directly elected by the Party membership. Not only does this strike me as the most democratic means of filling my role, but it also gives it legitimacy and wider recognition.

But this role is not about me, it is about the ethnic minority voices which are not heard enough. So I want to know what you think. Would this be a good next step in the evolution of the role? Can you see difficulties with this proposal?

If you would like to feed back, please send any comments to our Company Secretary: [email protected]

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