This week FPC met with an unusually light-looking agenda but we still managed to talk for two and half hours! We received an excellent presentation from Mimi Turner, Director of Strategy, Messaging and Research. Mimi talked us through the scale of the task ahead of us in terms of understanding how the Party fares when voters are asked whether we share their values; whether we’ll do what we say; whether we’re perceived as wanting to help ordinary people get on in life; and whether they see us as competent and capable.
Mimi explained that by segmenting voters and targeting certain groups, we are missing the opportunity to speak to millions of voters. From a policy perspective, our role is to develop distinctive policies on the issues that matter most in terms of improving people’s lives and that resonate in our target seats. Easy, right?! Well I don’t think any of us underestimates the scale of the task head but we’re certainly up for it.
FPC work programme
FPC members found the presentation very useful as we went on to discuss our current and future work programme in the context of Mimi’s analysis and thoughts on future strategy. We have a number of pieces of work underway at the moment – a mixture of pieces looking at the bigger picture, some high profile issues that we’ve been tasked with looking at, and some specifics where we hope to bring forward some appealing policy proposals:
Nature of Public Debate – planned for Spring 2021
Making Utilities Work Better for the Public – planned for Spring 2021
Federal England – aiming for Spring 2021, with the group working fast since autumn conference
Natural Resources and the Natural Environment – planned for Autumn 2021
Liberal Democrat Principles and Values – planned for Autumn 2021
Universal Basic Income – planned for Autumn 2021
Carbon Pricing – (a sub-group of the former climate change working group) – planned for Autumn 2021
Themes Paper – (building on the World After Coronavirus consultation) – planned for Autumn 2021
The themes paper will act as a pre-manifesto and messaging document but also help us to set out where we need to do further policy development work between 2022 and the next General Election. We agreed that we need to make sure we are planning future pieces of work in good time. One piece of work we have already agreed to undertake is a focus on carers.
In discussion we agreed that the Principles and Values and themes paper exercises were excellent opportunities for wide engagement with members, including through SAOs/AOs and regional parties. We discussed the need to integrate and intersectional approach to all of our policy work and there is an opportunity to work with other party bodies to achieve this.
We were joined by Christine Jardine who outlined the current parliamentary work around Brexit. CJ explained that the situation is changing on a daily basis, and although the UK may secure a last minute trade deal with the EU it’s likely to be a very “skinny” deal. The current focus is on protecting Britain’s interests and holding the government to account. This includes identifying areas where people will be most impacted, including passport queues, supply of medicines, and pet travel. We also discussed how EU Exit may impact the upcoming elections in May, particularly in Scotland where the Conservatives and SNP each argue for being inside one union and out of another.
Over the last fortnight FPC members have been attending regional party conferences to run sessions on policy development and the work of the Committee. Feedback from these sessions has been very positive and a number of common questions have come up including how to access the most up to date policy information easily and how to improve communication and coordination between the regions and FPC (and between S/AOs and FPC).
On the wider issue of member engagement I will be resurrecting our member engagement sub-group, and I reported back on a very positive meeting Jeremy and I had with Bess Mayhew, the new chair of the Federal People Development Committee, to join up our efforts to support members who want to get more involved with policy work.
We’re also looking forward to seeing the results of the current membership survey (which you should have received from Greg Foster). If you’ve not already responded, please make sure you do – every response will help inform what we do.