A glossary of Liberal Democrat terms

ABC in a dictionary
You don’t have to be in the Liberal Democrats long to encounter a wall of jargon. The variety of activities and organisations in the party makes jargon inevitable to a degree, so to help guide you through it all, here is a glossary of the main terms. For the formal scope and make-up of the federal (i.e. UK-wide) bodies mentioned below, see the federal constitution.

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ALDC: the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners focuses on supporting grassroots campaigners, especially councillors and those who wish to be councillors, and also helping Liberal Democrat council groups. It has an HQ and staff based in Manchester. Membership of ALDC is highly recommended for any serious campaigner.

ALDE: The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is the European political party to which the Liberal Democrats belong. It has political groups in the European Parliament, the EU Committee of the Regions, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Every three years a ballot of party members elects our ALDE Council Delegation. The ALDE Council meets twice a year and makes decisions such as which parties can join and who the Secretary General should be.

AOs: An ‘Associated Organisation’ – or a party body which meets particular requirements and so is considered an official party body with some limited extra rights that go with that. One notch down from an SAO (Specified Associated Organisation).

Chester Formula: a formula for calculating likely levels of party support from canvass data. A successor to the previous Richmond formula. Both are named after the areas where they were invented.

Connect: the main campaigning database Liberal Democrats use, which holds the names of people on the electoral register along with other data we’ve gathered about them, such as from doorstep canvassing. Produced by NGPVAN, one of the main technology suppliers to US Democrat campaigns, and used by both the Obama 2008 and 2012 Presidential campaigns.

D and Ps: people who have been canvassed as supporters. The term originates with the party’s old canvassing categories which include Definites and Probables and the phrase D and Ps has stuck even as the party has in recent years moved to using other canvassing categories.

Federal Board (FB): the successor to the Federal Executive (FE) under the constitutional reforms passed in 2016. The Federal Board is the ‘ruling board’ of the party, a majority of whose members are elected by party members and the rest of whom come from MPs, representatives of councillors etc. The party member elections are held every three years. There is quite a lot of lively discussion about how much power the FB really has to steer the party but under the post-2016 plans it has a new formal role in drawing up the party’s strategy and coordinating its implementation.

FCC (Federal Conference Committee): the body which organises the party’s two federal (UK-wide) party conferences each year, a weekend in the spring and a longer one in the autumn. The majority of its members are directly elected by party members in a ballot held every three years.

FE (Federal Executive): see Federal Board.

Flock Together: a website for listing Liberal Democrat events built by a brilliant Lib Dem, Martin Tod. The take off of services such as Nationbuilder and Facebook events means it’s not as widely used as it used to be.

Focus: a local newsletter leaflet, delivered (semi-)regularly in an area. Many use the brand name of Focus on the masthead as in Focus on Anytown, but rather like Hoover the name has become a generic description for local leaflets of all sorts.

FPC (Federal Policy Committee): the party’s national (UK-wide) policy committee, a majority of whose members are elected by party members and the rest of whom come from MPs, representatives of councillors etc. The party member elections are held every three years. The FPC is responsible for the Liberal Democrat general election manifestos.

For more about how the Liberal Democrat policy process works, see the guide from Jeremy Hargreaves.

IRC (Federal International Relations Committee): manages relationships with our sister parties internationally, including overseeing the provision of training for them. Under changes introduced in 2016, it was given the ‘Federal’ prefix, but – so far – the acronym in common use has not changed. A minority of its members are elected every three years in a ballot of all party members. Its other members are the Party Presidents and representatives from other party bodies and groups.

Knocking-up: calling on likely supporters to reminder them to vote in an election, usually on polling day but also sometimes in advance. (Not to be confused with knocking-up, the old alternative to alarm clocks.)

Nationbuilder: an online campaigning system which provides you with a website, mass email tool, event manager, online petitions and surveys and behind it all a database of supporters and people who have signed up for news or interacted with your campaign. It’s available to anyone and is used across many parties in the UK, including Labour, Greens and SNP as well as the Lib Dems.

Newbies: a shorthand for ‘new members’, this phrase gained widespread currency in the party after the May 2015 surge in party membership.

OSKAR: the party’s online training website, with information and tutorials. Sits behind the party member login on www.libdems.org.uk.

PPC: a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate is someone who has been selected to stand for the party at the next Westminster general election but hasn’t yet formally been nominated as a candidate by submitting nomination papers. (There used to be a big legal difference when it came to election expenses between calling yourself a PPC or calling yourself a candidate in advance of an election. Nowadays calling yourself a candidate well in advance of an election makes just a small legal difference that only matters in really intensively fought campaigns, but the old terminology still hangs around.)

RISO: a particular make of printer which is good for printing large quantities of leaflets cheaply and which is very flexible when it comes to changing leaflet designs as switching the master copy takes little time or money. Very popular in Liberal Democrat offices.

SAOs: A ‘Specified Associated Organisation’ – or a party body which meets particular requirements and so is considered an official party body with some limited extra rights that go with that. One notch up from an Associated Organisation.

Shuttleworth: the list of people the party is knocking-up (see above). The name comes from the firm of printers that used to produce the special forms used for creating these lists.

Tellers: volunteers who stand or sit outside polling stations on election day, making a note of people who have voted so that they can be removed from the shuttleworth (see above), in order to make knocking-up (see above) more efficient.

VPB (Virtual Phone Bank): an online system you can log into in order to make phone calls such as telephone canvassing for a by-election or ringing members to invite them to a local event. Powered by Connect (see above).

Your Liberal Britain (YLB): a group of members and supporters of the Liberal Democrats running projects to engage members and promote the party.

Zipping: when selecting candidates for a PR list election, zipping means requiring them to alternate gender, often with the gender of the top post specified. For example, it might be specified that number one on the list must be female, followed by a male, followed by a female etc. Or it might that whoever wins the selection comes top and then genders alternate based on them. First introduced for the 1999 European elections (at a time when defining every candidate as male or female was pretty uncontroversial within the party) and seen as a very successful way of improving gender balance amongst elected Lib Dems.

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