A new plan for rebuilding the Lib Dems: Liberal Democrat Newswire #84

Liberal Democrat Newswire #84 came out last week, launching a new pamphlet from me about rebuilding the party, several special book discount offers for readers and the latest party news, including the recent mini-flurry of people resigning.

Here’s LDN #84 in full for you to read if you didn’t get it on email first time round.

Dear Friend,

Welcome to issue 84 of the newsletter which Tim Farron calls “a must read”. This time the focus is on a new pamphlet I have written which is out today. It has the Ronseal-style title: How to rebuild the Liberal Democrats and you can be one of the very first to read it – see story below.

If you enjoy reading this edition, you can help cover the costs of running this newsletter by signing up to make a small regulation donation here (includes details for one-off donation too).

Best wishes,


In this edition:


101 Ways To Win An Election - book advert

Here it is: the 2nd edition of 101 Ways To Win An Election. LDN readers can get a special 20% discount when ordering from Biteback by using the code WAYS20 at checkout. There is also a Kindle version available from Amazon.

A ruined factory
Rebuilding the Liberal Democrats has an awfully long way to go, and it’s about much more than just having a good leader in the hot seat.

Targeting Plus: building a lasting Liberal Democrat recovery

Targeting Plus: that’s the name for a new strategy for rebuilding the party set out in a pamphlet published today. It is based on the four pillars of building a larger core vote for the party, increasing the party’s capacity to campaign, creating a new model for local party development and fostering innovation.

With fifty-three specific recommendations, my pamphlet sets out a very different future for the party. One where building a larger core vote based on our values is at the centre of activities. One where the party campaigns not simply to promote its policies but also to change the outside world. One where the campaigning model is based not only on narrow targeting but also on winning elections across large geographic areas too. One where members outside target seats can have a full role to play in the party’s campaigning and successes. And one where the party learns from data, experiments with news ideas and is comfortable with learning from failure.

You can get the pamphlet in full here and when you’ve had a chance to read it, do share your views, questions or brickbats here.


The Alternative - book advert

Last time’s Liberal Democrat Newswire included an exclusive extract from The Alternative – Tim Farron’s chapter on immigration. You can now buy the whole book, and LDN readers will get a special 20% off discount by using the promo code ALT20 when purchasing it on the Biteback website.

Catch-up service: guns, arms and policy papers

In case you missed these stories from the last month first time round:

Printed version of the Liberal Democrats constitution
On paper, the Liberal Democrats are a very democratic party. But that only means much in practice if members know what is being done in their name by party officers and committees.

Latest news from party committees

No news to report this time as August has been, as usual, very quiet on the committee meeting front. So just a reminder that if you find the jargon such as FPC, FCC and federal confusing, take a look at A Glossary of Liberal Democrat Terms.

Sign up and keep up
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 now 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”.

Other Liberal Democrats in the news



Jenny Willott

Former Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott has been chairing a review of the party’s welfare policies. She writes for Liberal Democrat Newswire about the outcome, including a focus on cutting child poverty.

Mending the Safety Net: how to improve our welfare system

Up for debate at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton will be a new policy paper on social security. Here the chair of the working group which produced the paper, former MP Jenny Willott, explains the ideas behind it.

After almost a year of hearing evidence from experts, the views of hundreds of Lib Dem members and supporters through survey results, written submissions and a number of consultation sessions, umpteen evenings of discussions and a Sunday spent in Lib Dem HQ, the social security working group finished our policy paper Mending the Safety Net.

The remit was vast covering all of social security, except for pensions and the challenge was to update party policy within the 2015 social security budget. We looked at the system entirely from scratch and considered proposals ranging from small tweaks to total redesigns.

We have tried to focus in our conclusions on protecting the most vulnerable in society, making the system more flexible and tackling the stigma faced by those receiving benefits.

At the heart of our paper is reducing child poverty: the effects of growing up in poverty can be permanently damaging so we felt this had to be a priority. The majority of children growing up in poverty now have at least one parent working. One of the most effective ways to reduce the number of children living in poverty is to make it more affordable for both parents to work. We therefore propose to introduce a Second Earners’ Work Allowance to Universal Credit, so a second parent keeps more of the money they earn, which increases household income. We also want to increase the child element of Universal Credit by £5 a week over time for the first child in a family.

We also wanted to do more for young people as they move into adulthood. The current benefits system discriminates against under 25s in various ways and we want to treat young people more fairly by reinstating housing benefit for 18 – 21 year olds and increasing the rates of Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit for those aged 18 – 24 in line with increases in minimum and apprentice wages for that age group.

We heard from those who have experience of claiming benefits and looked at how people are treated. We heard particular complaints about the work capability assessment (WCA) and how sanctions are applied. Claimants should be treated with fairness and respect and it was clear that many of those who have undergone a WCA felt that this standard was not being met. We came to the conclusion that the WCA in its current form is not fit for purpose. We therefore propose scrapping it.

Benefit eligibility will still need to be assessed but we believe it would be better done locally. We would also change the assessment dramatically, so that it would include a “Real World Test”, considering whether are jobs available nearby that could be done by a claimant as part of judging whether they are fit for work.

The sanctions regime also clearly falls short of treating claimants with dignity and respect. Fixed sanctions can impose set punishments on claimants for technical infringements of the conditions of their benefits without any scope for considering the context of the breach or the claimant’s circumstances. This particularly affects those with mental health conditions. We would therefore scrap fixed sanctions, add more flexibility and introduce a basic income below which a claimant cannot fall, protecting housing and child benefit.

We also want to make it easier for people to protect themselves from the financial impact of unemployment and illness. In other Western countries it is normal to have top up insurance and we want to make it easier for that to happen in the UK.

This is a quick summary of the key policies, and I am looking forward to debating at conference the whole package that we are putting forward, which aims to treat claimants with more fairness and dignity and reduce the number of children growing up in poverty.

I am particularly pleased to see the point in the penultimate paragraph about making self-insurance easier as it was something I pushed during the drafting of the paper. Making it easier, simpler and safer for people to make financial choices is a vital part of giving people more power over their own lives. It is also a way of helping people without having to spend state money – and therefore makes it possible to keep the poorest as a priority for extra funds whilst also helping people who are not amongst the very poorest but whose lives are not all pampered luxury either.

What did you think of this edition?

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Thanks for reading

I hope you’re found this edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire interesting, informative, useful – or all three! If you would like more stories – such as my daily digests which include all the council by-election results each week, just sign up here.

Best wishes and thank you for reading,


P.S. If you enjoyed reading this edition*, you can help cover the costs of running this newsletter by signing up to make a small regulation donation here. If you’re an Amazon customer, you can also support LDN by using this link to go to Amazon before making your purchases. Thank you!

* Or indeed, if you didn’t.

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