This has undoubtedly been a great start to the year. Thanks go to all the local campaigners who over the years never gave up and continued to deliver Focuses, campaign and push the Lib Dem message in their communities. When the opportunity came following Tory mismanagement of Brexit, we were ready and prepared to secure gains in the local elections. Over seven hundred local council seats gained – fantastic!
The success in local elections was followed by the best MEP election results we have ever achieved – by having sixteen MEPs elected.
Recently, we have elected a new Leader – Jo Swinson – who I would like to congratulate and believe that she will take us to the next level (as they say). I would also like to thank Vince (a visionary) for all that he has done and is doing for the party. Moreover, all this has been done against the background of us consistently polling high with the electorate after many years.
My faith in the Lib Dems never wavered, and that’s because our principles of equality, the individual, internationalism and opportunity (to name a few) was right and is still right going forward. The English Party is there to support these principles and support the English members who campaign on these values.
All this has helped the EP to focus on what they wanted to develop and start to deliver in 2019. These goals can be summarised as:
- The party needs to grow, and the way it does that is by gaining more local council seats. The more councillors we have, the more robust the party; the greater our base of elected councillors is the more opportunities we will have to secure additional seats in parliament. The EP, therefore, should look to assist the LPs in campaigning and securing more councillors;
- One of the benefits of successful campaigning is it allows us to attract more members. Increase in members helps us with much-needed fundraising, assistance in campaigning, strengthen local resource base, to name but a few benefits; and
- We live in a liberal country, with a progressive outlook and values, and there is only one party that encapsulates these values and that’s us - the Liberal Democrats. However, we have not been able to associate our message with these liberal thinking voters. Consequently, the third aspect of the change is communication: to push the Lib Dem brand with the right message in our diverse communities, to improve our internal communications and to listen to our members.
The three priorities are discussed in more detail below:
Gain an additional 2500 councillors in England over the next four years (to May 2023).
Where Are We?
At the start of this year, we had just over 1800 councillors in England out of approximately 17,000. After May’s election, we now have just over 2,500 councillors. Consequently, we are focusing to gain another 1,800 more councillors by May 2023 (the gain of 700+ councillors has already started us off on a positive note). Even last May we were only able to put up 53% of candidates for available council seats (the Tories managed to fill 97%).
What Are We Doing
ALDC will work with the regions to develop a plan that will focus on the next four years to win 1,800 additional council seats. The idea is to build campaigning capacity, identify training to skill up activists and produce good campaign plans. The English Party will (if possible – budget permitting) look to support regions to appoint development officer where they don’t have one and provide more funding to G8.
I am hoping we will have the initial plans agreed with the regional parties by the end of October 2019.
Develop a platform to enable better communications with members and stronger messaging.
Where Are We
Our web presence current has been challenging, and that limited the interaction between the English members, Council and the English Executive. Moreover, there is little communication with the wider English members.
What Are We Doing
- Our thanks go to Iain Donaldson and Prater Raines who are working on getting an English Party web page ready. The web page will hold dates of all meetings, summary of minutes, and details of members on the English Executive and English Council. There will be links to useful resources, links to region webpages, announcements, a blog and eventually a feedback mechanism for members. The site is currently being finalised. Once that is completed you will be provided with the URL to access and join the site;
- We have started the Newsletter to the English Council that will continue quarterly, and other newsletters to the whole of the English membership;
- With ALDC and LDHQ we are progressing with the development of English Party “One Voice”. This will be a growing group of members who will promote agreed Lib Dem messages (specific to a local campaign or a national one) on social media. The new website will assist in controlling the activities of this group
To increase the English members in the party from the current 85,000 members to above 100,000 by the end of 2023 and for the same period to have over 20,000 signed up friends of Lib Dems.
Where Are We
Currently, we have achieved this objective for England. We have therefore looked to increase the target to 130,000. The party has also been successful in signing up Friends of Lib Dems (for which I do not have the numbers at the moment). Again, we will support and work with the initiatives that LDHQ have been successfully implementing.