An updated new strategy for the Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie on his plans to improve the party’s diversity, a profile of one of the most powerful Liberal Democrats you’ve quite probably never heard of, and more is in this, the 76th edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire.
It’s also the first edition since the Liberal Democrat Newswire community on Facebook topped 2,000. If you’re not yet one of the 2,000+, do head over to Facebook and Like the page. There you’ll find news updates about the party in-between these monthly newsletters.
Last year former Cambridge MP David Howarth and I set out a new strategy for the Liberal Democrats: a 20% core votes plan. With more data now available, the advantage of greater hindsight to help learn the lessons of May 2015, and the reactions of many people to the first edition to digest, we have now produced a much expanded second edition.
Included in the updated edition is more detailed analysis of the data and an expanded set of practical recommendations for the party. The second edition also contains advice on how to use the European referendum campaign to help build a larger core vote for the party, along with the key questions to use in grassroots campaigning.
It’s a very strange to discover that before you have even set foot in the door, you already have a crowd of commentators, speculating about you, your new job and what your priorities should be – not to mention your personal appearance!
Odd as it might seem, just a few weeks in I still maintain I have landed my dream job. The reason? These very same people – the ones that I get to work with and for – and who will no doubt continue to observe, advise and maybe, from time-to-time, even cheer me on.
It’s these opinionated, smart, dedicated and liberal people that it is my job to support as Director for People. My role is to see that the journey people take into and through our party is as encouraging and empowering as it should be. The time is right for us to refresh and renew ourselves, in order to re-build a base on which we can grow into the future.
What this means is prioritising our efforts to attract new people into the party – and indeed new types of people. More members means more ideas, more skills, more funding (oops did I say that?), and more capacity – all things that we critically need. Two people in a London office cannot recruit the next Lib Dem generation, so we must mobilise our local parties and campaigners with the right resources, to ensure that winning members is up there as a goal right alongside winning votes.
Secondly, rebuilding means empowering our members with the skills and opportunities to develop into an active, volunteering base – and beyond that, into the many exciting roles our party offers.
I plan to expand the reach of our excellent training beyond Conference, such as through self-service online learning. I also want to be able to guide these new, enthused members and volunteers immediately towards opportunities – so I’ll soon be asking (begging?) for information about our myriad of brilliant social events, action days, and training activities being organised locally to be fed through to my team.
Communities and organisations grow stale through uniformity, and our party is no different. That’s why growing in diversity needs to inhabit everything else we do.
In my team that will be no different. Diversity cannot just be a standalone project – but part of the objectives of every initiative: to recruit more diversely, to pro-actively upskill and encourage members from under-represented groups so that the composition of our committees, councillors and candidates starts to reflect society better.
At the heart of every good relationship is communication. I look forward to continuing the conversation with people in every part of the Lib Dems. Let’s keep inspiring and encouraging each other, and together we can grow again.
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Willie Rennie sets out his plans for improving diversity
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie has been one of the most prominent voices in the party for radical action to improve the diversity amongst our Parliamentarians. Here he writes exclusively for Liberal Democrat Newswire about his plans for Scotland, which will be debated at the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference in late February.
In periods of adversity, organisations have opportunities to renew, refresh and reorganise to prepare for future successes. For the Scottish Liberal Democrats that opportunity is to build a team of candidates in winnable seats that is more reflective of society.
It cannot be a mark of a system of equality and opportunity that only five of the thirty-six new parliamentarians in the last twenty years were women. Yet that is what our current system has produced and I am determined to change it.
Our conference in Edinburgh will have a choice. They can try, yet again, to achieve more balance amongst our future parliamentarians with the same system that has delivered white, male dominated parliamentary groups since the war. (No, I’m wrong. It’s forever).
Sheila Ritchie, Sophie Bridger, Fred Macintosh and Jo Swinson were all against such action in the past. In fact, many spoke up at conferences against such measures. The motion we will debate has been crafted by them and has their endorsement.
Why? Because nothing else has worked and we must change.
So what are these proposals?
The top of the Scottish European List in 2019 will be reserved for a woman.
The top five most winnable, but not currently held, Westminster seats in 2020 will be reserved for women.
A new package of support (including financial), responsibilities, reporting mechanisms, training and mentoring for all under-represented groups including, but not exclusively, women and ethnic minorities.
Additional measures for the Scottish Parliament in 2021 will be agreed in the autumn following the results of the May elections.
This plan requires a constitutional amendment in addition to a business motion so I need to convince two-thirds of the hall to back me. It’s not an insignificant challenge but I know that the Scottish party is hungry to build a fresh, energetic and radical political machine that advances liberal values. By changing we can send a message to liberal-minded voters that we are serious.
When we grow again I want us to be bigger, better and more powerful than before. Yet to do that we need to be more like the country we seek to represent.
What have the policy and conference committees been up to?
Fellow Federal Policy Committee (FPC) member Geoff Payne produces an excellent set of reports after not only each FPC meeting but also after each meeting of the other federal committee he sits on, the Federal Conference Committee (FCC).
Are you reading a forwarded copy of Liberal Democrat Newswire? Or perhaps the web-based version? If so, then why not join thousands of others and sign up to receive direct to your email inbox future editions of what Tim Farron calls, “a must read for all Lib Dems or people who want to understand the Lib Dems”.
The contests to watch to judge #LibDemFightback no.3: Cardiff Central
Welcome to the third in my series of election contests to watch in May in order to judge the extent of the Liberal Democrat fightback from the depths of May 2015. This time it’s the turn of Cardiff Central.
Not that long ago, Cardiff Central used to have elected Liberal Democrats both in the Welsh Assembly and in Westminster – along with a local party which styled itself, with some good reason, the best organised local party in the UK. It also, as memories of a training session I once co-ran in their offices remind me, had some of the best biscuits of a Lib Dem office too.
Much has changed since those days. When incumbent Assembly Member Jenny Randerson stood down in 2011, the Lib Dems lost the seat by just 38 votes. In 2012, the party hung on to 12 out of the 20 councillors in the constituency, but then in 2015 Jenny Willott lost the Parliamentary seat by 4,981.
With it now being 24 years since the last election in the seat which did not see the top two places taken, in one order or another, by Labour and the Lib Dems, this is very much Labour versus Lib Dem territory. It is also an important test of whether the party can stop the slide in places where it has lost the MP yet still retains local government strength. With all-up council elections next year, will 2016 see the Lib Dems start to recover or will the signs be of further local election losses to come?
The Liberal Democrat candidate is Eluned Parrott, an incumbent Assembly Member having been elected on the regional list last time. Although initially elected after procedural difficulties waylaid the Lib Dem above her on the regional list, she quickly made an impression at the Welsh Assembly, winning the “One to Watch” award in ITV’s Welsh Politician of the Year Awards after just one year.
Shadow minister for economy, transport and Europe, she has also been a leading voice over the treatment of asylum seekers in Wales, especially the reports that some in Cardiff were being forced to wear red wristbands to identify themselves, and over the future of the local steelworks.
Although the race is very much between her and Labour, one curiosity about the Plaid and Conservative candidates caught my eye: they were both Big Brother contestants.
Regular reader, and Liberal Democrat councillor, Iain Roberts made the excellent suggestion that news and people from local government should feature more heavily in Liberal Democrat Newswire. He also offered to help with making that happen, so here is the first in Iain’s new series of profiles of major Lib Dem local government figures, written exclusively for LDN.
Who in the Liberal Democrats is most able to make a difference and improve people’s lives?
Despite liking to think of ourselves as the party of pavement politics and local government, we do rather like our national politicians, with the humblest backbencher (and admittedly that’s now a rather select group) enjoying more attention than most council leaders. Even unelected Lords are often treated as minor royalty in comparison.
And yet when it comes to the politicians who are actually making a different to people’s lives, taking decisions about how hundreds of millions of pounds should be spent, it is the Lib Dems in local government, not at Westminster, making the running.
So thank you to Mark who is allowing me to pen a series of articles about the Lib Dems in leadership positions in local authorities – either as council leaders or deputy leaders in a coalition. Over the coming months I will introduce you to some of the Liberal Democrats whose day-to-day decisions are making a real impact on the lives of thousands and, in some cases millions, of people.
My first subject is one of the small group of people who has a realistic claim to be the Lib Dem with the most influence over people’s lives: Sue Derbyshire. Cllr Derbyshire is leader of Stockport Council, the only urban council in the North of England still run by the Lib Dems.
Sue’s first council experience was as fifty percent of the Liberal group on St Helens Council in the 1980s. Moving to Stockport, she was elected in Manor ward in 1999, her seat giving the Lib Dems a majority on the council for the first time. She held a number of Executive and non-Executive roles before becoming leader in 2012.
Sue leads a council responsible for providing services to 290,000 people, with day-to-day spending of £235 million a year (and falling – thank you Mr Osborne). The council’s capital investment programme in the borough comes to nearly a billion pounds over the next few years.
Sue sees her achievements in Stockport being built around a strong vision and ambition for the borough, with a consensus model of leadership – all the more important since the Lib Dems lost overall control in 2011 and run a minority administration.
But Cllr Derbyshire also works beyond Stockport’s borders, thanks to AGMA (the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, founded in 1985) and more recently the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Sue chairs the Low Carbon Hub, which is on target to reduce emissions across Greater Manchester 48% by 2020 compared to the 1990 baseline. She leads on planning and housing for the combined authority, and is developing the country’s first collaborative plan for strategic planning and housing in the country. All ten Greater Manchester councils will have to sign up for the plan to go ahead and it could shape the future of Greater Manchester for its 2.7 million residents for years to come.
Following on from the previous mentions of Buffer, Dropbox, Canva and CCleaner, today it is the turn of TweetQureet, a great tool for getting a selection of relevant tweets each day by email.
What makes it really powerful for Lib Dem campaigners is that you can use it to find a selection of messages to retweet each day (or schedule for future retweeting if, as you should be, you’re a fan of Buffer too). Reading through the selected set of tweets in your email inbox to find a good selection is much easier and quicker than trawling through different Twitter timelines.
To set it up for yourself go to www.qureet.com and click on the big green signup button “Find me new customers”. (Don’t worry about the wording; this works for what we want too.) Then put in some “product keywords”, again ignoring the sales terminology and going instead for keywords relevant to you – such as Aberdeen Council.
The free version of TweetQureet will probably cover what you need but if you find it really useful and want extra features, there are paid-for plans kicking in at $90 a year which provide more suggestions and greater filtering options.
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