Our political opportunity
Sarah Green’s brilliant victory in Chesham and Amersham shows the huge political opportunity for us - as long as we can continue to apply the lessons from our 2019 election post-mortem.
As part of this, a trio of motions have been submitted for our autumn federal conference. One is from the Federal Board (FB) on the party’s strategy. The other two are from the Federal Policy Committee (FPC), on the party’s values and our policy platform. Hopefully all three can be debated in sequence, so we agree values, strategy and platform in a joined-up way.
Also submitted are changes to implement the major improvements proposed by the Party Bodies Review Group. These will make it easier to create, run and make a success of party bodies, replacing our current AO/SAO structure with one, simple system. That will help us involve more people in our work, and build a larger, healthier party.
Among the other party business for conference is a set of rules for electing Isabelle Parasram’s successor as Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities. Having consulted with the Chair of the Federal Appeals Panel, who will be the returning officer, it’s clear we need to have conference agree rules on nominations and campaign limits before a contest can be sensibly run. The Board will be putting options on both to conference so members can choose.
Cross-party campaigning for electoral reform
Electoral reform for Westminster is vital to permanently improve the way we are governed.
The excellent cross-party Make Votes Matter coalition is running a national action day on 31 July. Many Liberal Democrats are taking part and you can sign up to take part here.
Actions to take on the day include ones you can do on your own and online. So it should be possible to take part whatever your health and lockdown situation.
Do you know someone who would make an amazing MP?
With Parliamentary selections starting up, now is the time to encourage any possible future stars you know to get stuck into candidate approval and selection. Even amongst our most proactive and high flying Parliamentary stars, it’s common to find they only first got interested in standing for Parliament because someone prodded them to think about it.
So please do encourage people you know. The candidate approval and selection processes are run by the English, Scottish and Welsh parties, but if you email me on [email protected], I’m happy to help put anyone in touch with the right person.
Improving the party’s diversity
Thanks to the work of party bodies such as the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB) and the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC), a lot of welcome and necessary efforts go into improving the diversity of our Parliamentary candidates. The focus so far has been on getting a more diverse set of candidates selected. However, recent general elections have shown that progress on candidate diversity can then be undone by a failure to turn that into election victories.
Hence thanks to the kind support of a donor, we are creating a new scheme - Project Stella - to provide support to selected Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates in our most winnable seats. It is due to be launched later this year, in time to support people as selections start coming through.
In addition, the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) will shortly be considering the completed report from diversity and inclusion experts Diversity Matters. It will set out in challenging detail how to improve what we do. There will be lessons, I’m sure, for us all right across the party. So when plans are published, I hope everyone across the party will read them to see how they can play their part. It’s a big challenge, and one we will need the whole party to address to have a chance of success.
Linked to this, we’re currently recruiting for volunteers to a new Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion working group. Details are on the party website, with a deadline for applications of July 19th.
Tragically, Cllr Anita Lower has died from illness. A long-standing councillor in Newcastle, Anita also played many other roles in the party, including serving on the Federal Board. It’s a tribute to her that people from across the political spectrum have praised her dedication, hard work and kindness. Many sympathies to all her family, friends and colleagues mourning the loss of such a special person.
Changes on federal committees
As well as a recount of the votes from the last Board elections to see who will fill the vacancy caused by Anita’s death, a recount to fill Geoff Payne’s place on Federal Conference Committee (FCC) has taken place. Congratulations to new FCC member, Keith Melton.
Lucy Nethsingha has also been elected by Federal Policy Committee (FPC) to succeed Sally Burnell as one of its two vice chairs. Jeremy Hargreaves continues as the other vice chair. The FPC will also be welcoming two new members, following the departure of Aria Babu and Alisdair Calder McGregor. This recount is being conducted shortly.
The future of party meetings
On the Steering Group we’re also currently deciding whether to continue with 100% virtual meetings or revert to some or all having a physical option too. It’s a discussion I know is happening across many parts of the party at the moment.
Having recently started doing more travel to physical party events once again, I sympathise with colleagues who are keen to return to them being widespread. But we mustn’t forget the benefits online events bring. Whether it’s geography, caring responsibilities or travel costs, virtual meetings are often more accessible.
There’s also a potential long-term gain here as the more inclusive such meetings are, the wider the range of people who will think of putting themselves forward for party roles in future. That would be valuable progress.
July Steering Group
As well as considering several of the items already mentioned, our July Steering Group meeting will also be looking at plans for the future senior staff team, following the departure of Mimi Turner, our Director of Strategy, Research and Messaging. Arrangements are in place to cover the vacancy while we get in place the right longer-term arrangements.
We’ll also be doing our latest quarterly review. The cycle of quarterly target setting, tracking and reporting across the federal party staff operation is a major progress, addressing some of the weaknesses found by the Thornhill Review.