Our focus this year has been squarely on understanding the party’s overall political direction, our target voters, and the role our policies can play in helping us to persuade people and win votes. This was the main focus of our in-person awayday at LDHQ at the end of February, and has underlain all our other discussions, with the aim of informing both our current policy development work, and its direction for the future.
We already have quite a large programme of policy development to try and achieve this, under way. Working groups developing policies for a fairer society (including UBI), and a more caring society (with a particular focus on social care) are under way, as are ones looking at planning & homes, early years and the natural environment. These all held consultation sessions at spring conference (see their consultation papers here, and please do respond! Useful responses can be anything from a sentence or two on your top priorities, to a full set of answers to every question in the papers).
We’ve also held our own various discussions with the chairs of these groups, and we will be discussing them further over the next three months before finalising policy papers to bring to conference in the autumn – along with a pre-manifesto paper setting out our current thinking on key policies for our manifesto for the next General Election. Overall we believe they should be a strong platform of policies which will really make a difference to the key challenges in people’s lives, and help to win us votes.
We’ve also been thinking ahead to areas we want to work on further, based on the priorities above, which we intend to bring proposals on to conference next year. Looking widely across the political landscape, and considering a wide range of factors, and following consultation with the party bodies forum among others, we are now planning to set up working groups on international security, food policy, and skills policy. We expect to advertise for party members to join these groups over the next few weeks, and will publicise this as widely within the party as we can. These are all areas where there has been major change recently, and we believe will help us further strengthen our policy platform. Other areas we have also been discussing and may well come back to again quite soon, either to be full working groups or to take forward in other ways, including local measures to tackle crime and support policing, and supporting primary healthcare.
We’ve kept up with other work too: we’ve had good discussions with the party’s parliamentary DCMS team, and the Federal International Relations Committee about key policy issues at the international level, and about our ongoing programme of work on Europe, which is bringing a motion on a different aspect of working more closely with the EU at each conference at the moment. And of course we brought to spring conference our papers on the two really big and difficult issues of developing a closer trading relationship with the EU, and on the nature of public debate in the twenty-first century – and we were very pleased to see them both strongly endorsed by conference.