Rishi Sunak’s (latest) mistake

7 Jul 2023
Westminster Bridge and Westminster Palace

So much has happened in British politics in the last year, it’s easy to forget along the way that Rishi Sunak managed to lose a leadership election to Liz Truss. Having been selected for a safe seat, that was the first hard fought contest in the public’s eye that he had to contest. He lost, and lost badly. For all his career success, he isn’t very good at the basics of politics.

We saw that again with his decision to duck the House of Commons vote on the Privileges Committee’s verdict on Boris Johnson. The one hope for the Conservatives under Sunak is to show that they have really changed as a party, something that John Major managed to do, at least initially, after replacing Margaret Thatcher. But instead of using the vote to show his party is changed and that he’s serious about restoring probity to public life, Sunak ducked the opportunity. He’s Prime Minister of our whole country but driven by the internal myopic politics of a small number of his MPs.


Making the most of Sunak’s mistakes

Over the long history of our party and its predecessors, there are three things that have fuelled recoveries for our party: spectacular Parliamentary by-election wins, brilliant May local elections, and foreign policy disasters such as Suez and Iraq.

The first two are certainly the preferable routes to success and we’ve already made a good start on both of them in this Parliament, with three record-breaking by-election victories and the amazing wins this May, building on previous council gains.

Now we have the chance to build on that with Sarah Dyke’s campaign in the Somerton and Frome by-election. Sarah and the team are running a brilliant campaign, highlighting the Conservative failures on the NHS, cost of living and sewage.

But Sarah can only win with our help. 

Please do head over to help if you can as there are only a few days left until polling day on July 20. We only win by-elections when we all turn up to campaign. 

We’ve already shown what we can pull off three times in this Parliament. Let’s make it a fourth.


New priorities for our diversity and inclusion work

At our last Federal Board meeting, we agreed a new set of priorities for our diversity and inclusion work, building on our recent progress in areas such as target seat Parliamentary candidates. For the next phase of progress, we’ll be concentrating on targets such as improving the diversity of our local government base and who we speak with on the doorsteps. 

Both of these are important in their own right and also important for their knock-on impact. Who we have canvass data from and who our councillors are in turn affects much else that we do, such as who we then try to recruit as a member or who ends up on one of our committees. 

To support these new priorities, our previous Equity, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EEDI) working group - which did great work to help get the previous diversity audit implemented - is being replaced by a new working group geared specifically to these new priorities.


Legacy fundraising

The Board also agreed a plan to boost our legacy fundraising, including launching a new ‘Future Fund’ and giving the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee (FASC) the task of ensuring its funds are used appropriately. If you are interested in leaving the Party a gift in your own will, please do get in touch.


Other Board work

We have also (nearly) had the first call-in of a Board decision by the new Federal Council, created as part of the Board reforms passed by conference last year. Although the number of Council members did not quite reach the required threshold for a call-in, we agreed to come and be quizzed by the Council anyway about the decision, which was related to how we fill volunteer posts through the party.

Given how easy it is for such processes to become insular, with only a few people in the know getting to apply and decisions being made based on who you know best, it’s always good to have some constructive pressure on looking widely and thinking beyond familiar names when filling such posts.


Access Accelerator launching to improve party’s diversity

Under its new chair, Chris French, and vice chair, Sam Young, the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) is the vehicle in the party that finds, trains and supports candidates from under-represented ethnic minorities through to their candidate approval, selection and election.  

It’s got a new support programme going:

One of our flagship projects, the Access Accelerator, will be launching in August 2023. The Access Accelerator is an informative programme specifically designed to assist individuals in understanding and becoming approved candidates within the political approval process. This inclusive programme welcomes participants from all backgrounds, regardless of their past political affiliations.

Through a series of expert-led webinars, participants will gain a comprehensive understanding of the approval process, learning essential information and acquiring valuable tips and strategies to navigate each stage effectively. The aim is to equip candidates with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully become approved candidates.

To further support participants on their journey, we provide supplementary resources such as checklists, toolkits, and handbooks. These resources aim to empower individuals by offering practical guidance throughout the approval process. The programme will conclude with a practical panel discussion, where participants can seek guidance and clarification on the next steps towards their political aspirations.

The Access Accelerator offers a unique opportunity for individuals to enhance their understanding and increase their chances of becoming approved Liberal Democrat candidates in the political arena.

Find out more, including how to apply to take part, here.


And finally, for those who love the details of rulebooks…

The Federal Party constitution has been updated to include a new appendix listing the various rules that have been ratified by conference.

And lovers of procedural motions should take their hat off to the way a US governor used his power to delete some of the words, numbers and punctuation from a budget measure…

Do you have questions on any of this report, or other Lib Dem matters? Then please drop me a line on president@libdems.org.uk. Do also get in touch if you’d like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.




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