When will the next general election be?
Sorry, I don’t know. But I do know that the range of plausible dates is wide open - from only a couple of months away through to January 2025. And that whenever the date is, we also have a massive round of local elections in May.
Which is why we need to step up our campaigning, capacity building and planning through the second half of this year. Even if this Parliament goes its full term, the benefits of extra canvassing, member recruitment and training this summer will still be considerable.
We certainly need to be out campaigning, looking at the horror show that is the Conservative Party leadership contest so far - full of candidates who aren’t headlining big issues like fixing the NHS and tackling climate change, but are rushing to the media to talk about restricting the rights of trans people.
Both our elections committee (FCEC) and the Board have recently reviewed our general election preparations, and the team at HQ is revising our contingency plans for a snap election. A pre-manifesto overview of our policy approach is also coming to the autumn’s federal party conference.
It was great to see the huge bump in canvassing as a result of our ‘Big Build’ weekend in early July - and the bump in new leaflet deliverers that came in as a result. Our party membership also not only got a bump from the win in Tiverton & Honiton, but the growth has continued since too rather than fading away as happened with previous by-election bumps.
So I’d encourage everyone in local parties to think about how to up your campaigning plans over the summer, and where we don’t yet have a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in place to think about talking to your state or regional party about when to timetable your selection for.
We’ve had a brilliant run of council by-elections already since the May local elections, with a net seven gains (compared to net four gains for Labour). That makes us the best performing party in those contests, and it was particularly good to see Linda Chung win the Hampstead Town by-election - winning the seat from third place and taking it from Labour.
Also deserving particular praise is the first person to top our ‘Golden Mallets’ scheme for people who got the most posters put up in the May elections. Cliff Woodcraft from Sheffield topped the list with an awesome 466 (!) posters. Badges are on their way to all the winners.
Our next big set of prizes is the Party Awards at our autumn conference. Nominations are now open for:
- The Belinda Eyre-Brook Award
- The Dadabhai Naoroji Award
- The Harriet Smith Award
- The Patsy Calton Award
- The Penhaligon Award
- The President’s Award
You can read more and make nominations here.
Autumn conference in Brighton
Registration is open for our return to physical federal party conference. An online-only option is also available.
Brighton is where at a previous party conference, many years ago, a student Liberal Democrat member argued for the abolition of the monarchy. Anyone know what happened to Liz Truss?
I look forward to meeting many readers there!
Improving the way the party operates
One of the most important ways to support our grassroots campaigners is through the right data and tools. Alongside improvements to how data is shared across the party, plans are going well for the launch of our new website, email and event tools this autumn. These will replace services such as NationBuilder and will provide everyone with access to high-quality tools that share data effectively and securely. For more details, see the Technology Blog.
Our federal party HQ has been accredited with the highest level possible by the disability confident scheme. This demonstrates as an employer we are leading the way in providing a great working environment for those with long-term health conditions.
What your Federal Board is up to
As well as reviewing our general election preparations, the latest Federal Board meeting also agreed a new Code of Conduct for party members and registered supporters. It will be put to autumn conference and, if ratified there, will replace three different current codes we have. The new code would therefore be simpler and clearer, as well as more specifically putting into force our values, such as ensuring that staff are treated with respect.
The conference will also have the usual motion on membership fees and related financial matters. The proposal is once again to freeze our minimum membership fee in response to the cost of living crisis. The motion also proposes abolishing the ‘recommended’ membership fee as this has fallen into disuse. We in fact only very rarely now recommend the recommended fee to members, so it’s become a bit of a governance myth - everyone spending lots of time setting a figure that then doesn’t get used.
We agreed the appointment of Becket McGrath to fill a vacancy on the Federal Audit & Scrutiny Committee (FASC) and Stephen Harte to be the new Vice Chair of the Disciplinary Sub-Group (DSG).
We also appointed David Crowther to the new federal Returning Officer post, ahead of this autumn’s internal elections, as well as setting the timetable for them:
- Publication of the notice of elections: Monday 29th August, 17:00
- Opening of nominations: Monday 12th September, 17:00
- Close of nominations: Monday 26th September, 18:00
- Deadline for submission of candidates’ manifestos: Friday 30th September, 17:00
- Despatch of ballot papers: Tuesday 25th October c13:00
- Deadline for return of ballot papers: Tuesday 8th November, 14:00
- Counting of votes and declaration of results: Tuesday 8th November, 17:00
The Board also set the expense limits for the President and Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities at £15,000 for each (reducing the former and increasing the latter to bring it into line with the former).
We agreed the new conflicts of interest policy to apply to all federal committees following the reforms agreed at our spring federal conference.
The Board report to conference will also include measures we’re taking to ensure improved diversity among posts filled by the Board in future.
As ever, if you have questions on any of this, or other party matters, do get in touch on [email protected].
Do also get in touch if you’d like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body. I’m always keen to do more of these as they’re a great way of hearing from the frontline what is and isn’t working.