Our plan for the final stages of this Parliament

28 Mar 2023
Palace of Westminster

It was lovely catching up again with many members in person at our York conference and thank you to everyone who safely voted through the proposals the Board put to conference, including our new Code of Conduct and improvements to our constitution

Winning more power

Presenting the Board report, I talked about  how, as we enter the final phase of this Parliament, there are two overriding aims for the Liberal Democrats: win more council seats and elect more MPs. 

We’ll best do this by concentrating on the issues that matter most to voters. But by doing this we will also get great Liberal Democrats elected and re-elected, who will then use political power to achieve a much broader range of liberal ends. People who can use power to help secure a fair deal for our citizens and our communities.

We have a brilliant opportunity to take the next big step at the May elections, as I wrote about last time.

The closer we get to the Westminster general election, the greater the focus becomes on our held and target Parliamentary seats. That is to the whole party’s benefit, as the better our general election result, the better we can win elections at other levels too.

The number of MPs we have is particularly important for our national profile because it sets so much of what happens to us, from how often a Lib Dem MP gets to ask a question at PMQs, through to how often there is a Lib Dem on political panel on TV, our presence in the regional media  and even how many commercial organisations pay up to exhibit at our conferences. 

The more MPs we have, the higher our media profile, the stronger our finances and the better we do everywhere. Winning a Blue Wall constituency off the Conservatives will help us win Labour council seats in the Red Wall.

Our balancing act

Electing more MPs at the next general election is not enough for success on its own. Which is why the closer we get to that election, and the greater the pull of attention on our held and target seats, the more important the role of President and the Federal Board become in balancing that short-term imperative against the broader, longer-term work we need to continue for sustained success. 

We need to continue to win council seats elsewhere, including in Labour and nationalist facing areas. We need to continue to have a network of campaign support staff helping local parties at all levels of electoral success. We need to continue to up our game on diversity and inclusion. We need to continue a long-term commitment to investing in better data and technology.

It is going to be a tricky balance to get right, and the best way to do that is to be upfront about the balancing act required. 

If we can get it right, the biggest prize at stake is a strong enough voice in Parliament to secure electoral reform for the House of Commons. 

That’s the route to permanently changing British politics for the better - and it’s the route to sustained, closer relations with Europe too. Because other European states can read our electoral statistics just as well as we can. They can see that the Conservatives win two general elections out of three under first past the post - and they know therefore the risk to any future agreements with pro-European British governments being undone by the next Conservative one.

Our need for more candidates

If that is the big prize at stake, the most immediate need is for us to stand more candidates in the May local elections. Last time, both Labour and the Conservatives stood considerably more candidates than us - and that gets reflected in how the media sees us. Missing a Liberal Democrat on the ballot paper also forces people to vote for someone else - breaking the habit of voting regularly for us that we need more of, not less of.

A mini-campaign pack has gone out to local parties about how to find more candidates for this May. If you live or work somewhere with elections yourself, please do think about offering to help get the Lib Dem name on more ballot papers this time.

Preparing for the general election… helping people win in May

General election campaigns are unusual beasts and, given our typical staff turnover, it’s always a challenge to have a good mix of experience in a general election team. Which is why the party already developing detailed general election plans, with a recent full awayday for senior staff to check on progress. 

It’s also why this May’s local elections are being used in many ways as a dry run for a general election - good for boosting this May’s results and good for preparing for the general election. 

One part of that is a daily Zoom surgery with the Compliance team so people can easily get help on the day they need it. Drop a line to compliance@libdems.org.uk for more details. 

Congratulations to our amazing award winners

Our spring federal conference in York included our latest party awards, with four brilliant people winning this time. Read about them and their achievements in the special story here.

Manifesto consultation

Dick Newby, chair of our general election manifesto working group emailed party members earlier this month inviting everyone to help shape our manifesto.

As Dick wrote, “We will be bringing a pre-Manifesto document to Autumn Conference this year, which will give attendees the chance to discuss the key policy pledges we want to include in the Manifesto itself. But we understand that not everybody can attend Conference, so we want to give every Member and Supporter in our party the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

As well as that survey, his email included news of seven online consultation events coming up. 

(If you don’t recall getting the email, search for “Help us shape our future policy and manifesto ahead of the next General Election” in your email folders, or otherwise drop a line to help@libdems.org.uk to check the email address and opt in status on your membership record.)

Welcome to new committee colleagues

The Federal Board has elected or appointed:

  • Helena Cole, Oliver Forder, Robert Laurence, Lucas North and Matthew Taylor to the Federal Finance & Resources Committee (FFRC)
  • Christopher Hudson, Rob Verity, Ellie Hudspith, Claire Hudson and Thom Campion to the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC)
  • Elsie Gisslegård, Matthew Green, Simon Marlow and David Radcliffe to the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee (FASC)
  • Chris French (chair) and Samantha Young (vice chair) to the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC)
  • Candy Piercy (chair), Julia Cambridge (vice chair) and Vikki Slade (vice chair) to the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB).

Claire Hudson has then been elected by FPDC members to chair that committee, and so also become a member of the Federal Board. Dave Radcliffe has also been elected by FASC members to chair that committee, and so also become a member of the Federal Council.

Thank you to everyone who put their names forward for these posts, and best of luck to those who will be serving in these roles for the next three years. 

Equality, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Newsletter

The first edition of our new quarterly EEDI newsletter, dedicated to highlighting our work to improve diversity and inclusion in the Liberal Democrats and sharing information, went out in early March.

As with the new monthly round up of the work of our Parliamentarians, it’s part of our work to improve internal communications. 

If you’re a party member and didn’t receive one or both of these, just let help@libdems.org.uk know and they can check the email address and opt ins/opt outs the party has for you.

We have also just secured continued funding from a generous donor for our Project Stellar scheme to support the next generation of candidates from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. This is an important programme to ensure that we sustained and meaningful change both in our party and as a result in Westminster too.

Internal election review

We’ve also appointed Nick Manners to conduct the review of our 2022 internal elections for federal party posts, and that his review will include also the previous Vice President by-election. Watch out for news in due course on how to submit your views to the review. 

Finding out more

If your local party would  like to discuss any of the issues I cover in these reports, such as our strategy ahead of the general election, then please do drop an email to president@libdems.org.uk and I’m happy to fix a Zoom call or in-person meeting.




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