The Liberal Democrats and coronavirus
Health advice is best left to the experts (links below) but of course the party also has a responsibility for decisions about our own activities.
The latest party advice on campaigning, agreed by both ALDC and Lib Dem HQ, is up on the web here. It will be regularly updated as events move on, so please make use of and refer people to the version on the web.
As the decision to cancel our spring federal conference showed, working out how best to apply current advice to a particular event or activity is not always straightforward, so thank you to everyone who has been so understanding about that decision.
People registered for conference have received an email about how they can reclaim their registration fee. If you were due to go to conference and can afford to waive a refund, that would be greatly appreciated as the party’s conference costs are not covered by insurance given the circumstances. Those costs, therefore, need paying anyway.
One measure the party has taken, which hopefully will help offset the cost for some people of conference being cancelled, is to confirm sooner than usual that the 2021 spring conference will also be in York. Some hotel bookings which cannot be cancelled do however allow the dates to be changed.
The postponement of this May’s elections makes easier decisions about campaigning activities. At the time of writing, we don’t yet know exactly what the legislation postponing those elections will say, and the legislation used for foot and mouth in 2001 (when the local elections and general election were put back a month) did not have to cover the many issues that arise from such a lengthy delay. Questions such as what happens with by-elections, including those which have been held off due to the six months rule*, or with councillors who were intending to retire in May are yet to be answered but the Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians are well aware of these issues. Although the legislation required for the delay is likely to go through Parliament very quickly, there should still be plenty of opportunities to ensure such details are properly addressed.
Sensibly, many internal Liberal Democrat meetings are moving over to using video conferencing (something which will bring other benefits even when we’re past this crisis, such as making it easier for people from around the country to participate).
A good platform to use if you’re looking to start with video calls is Zoom, usable both via an app and via the web and which helps avoid some of the common pitfalls of telephone conference calls. The free version has a cut off of 40 minutes per call – though that’s not a bad discipline to have imposed on some meetings…! Paid-for plans – with unlimited call length and up to 100 participants per call – start at £12 a month.
Coronavirus health advice
* This is the rule under which a local government vacancy that arises within six months of when the seat was due up for election anyway does not trigger a by-election. There are several such vacancies that had not triggered a by-election due to the previously scheduled May elections. It’s not yet known what will happen with these.