Coronavirus and the Lib Dem response: LDN #135

Liberal Democrat Newswire #135 came out last week, focusing of course on coronavirus.

You can now read it in full below, but if you’d like the convenience of getting it direct by email in future just sign up for it here.

I joined the Liberal Democrats when a student at the University of York, so I had been particularly looking forward to my first federal conference since being elected President to be in York. Much more important matters, however, have resulted in the conference being cancelled.

A national crisis such as coronavirus puts such details of politics into the shade, as well as being a reminder of how important both our public services and international cooperation are.

All the very best wishes for you and your family,


P.S. If you haven’t yet got around to reading the previous edition, you can find all its stories – including the new Lib Dem campaign chair and the importance of pointing at potholes – here.

In this edition:

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.

Grocery shopping in Lidl
Image by Soydul Uddin from Pixabay.

Helping your community

I like this advice put out by Dawn Barnes, Luke Cawley-Harrison and Tammy Palmer, the Liberal Democrat councillors for Crouch End, just up the road from my home. It includes the following sections applicable elsewhere too:

How you can help others
If you would like to help your neighbours, the Haringey community and those vulnerable, we recommend the following in the first instance:

  1. Print off the #ViralKindness leaflet and distribute it to houses on your, and surrounding, roads. The link to the file is here [now removed], and for those without printers, we will be asking Hornsey and Highgate Libraries to prepare a stock of them so that they can be collected (we shall confirm when available).
  2. Set up or join street level or Resident’s Association level WhatsApp groups, Google Groups, Private Facebook Groups or email chains to help connect those offering help with those needing help at a micro level. Some have already done this (particularly Residents’ Associations), and they are the optimum way of turning offers into action.
  3. Do not buy too much produce or goods. Those that are most vulnerable are left even more vulnerable if our stores are bare of the essentials.
  4. Donate to foodbanks. Panic buying has led to a reduction in the number of donations to local foodbanks when they need them more than ever, so please do donate what you can (for example to the Muswell Hill Foodbank or to the London Homeless Welfare Team).
  5. If you need help or support then you can contact us as your councillors at any time by email to: crouch.end@haringeylibdems.org

Helping us to help you
As councillors we want to assist in facilitating resources where we can, but whilst the council is putting together its own resource list, we need your help to do so (email to crouch.end@haringeylibdems.org):

  1. Please send us details of the local street/community communication group or mailing list you have setup, as well as a primary contact for this group so that we can direct people that contact us or known vulnerable residents to it if they are in your area
  2. Contact us if:
  • you are a community or volunteer group and would like our support in any way;
  • you are a local business or trader that can help as part of your business, such as with local deliveries;
  • you could offer to be a ‘community lead’ should the volume of information we receive be too much for us to manage on our own.

Do send me any examples you see of good community activity that may help inspire others to act.

One final thought. Like you, most likely, I’ve found some of the instances of apparent panic buying quite baffling. (Especially as the various local convenience stores near me seem to be stocked just fine even at the end of the day.) But it’s always pausing when we see or hear of that person apparently laden down with a bizarre volume of toilet paper and pasta. We can’t tell if they’re off to eBay to try to make a mint or off to two different elderly relatives who are going to have to be in isolation for weeks. If we mock and get angry, sometimes we’ll be getting it spectacularly wrong.

Now published: Bad News

Bad News - quotes from Craig Oliver and others about the book

Bad News, my new book about the media, is now out! It is available both in print and as an e-book. You can order it from Waterstones, Amazon, Biteback or Hive.

Anton Georgiou pointing at a Lib Dem poster
Anton Georgiou pointing at a Lib Dem poster.

What’s it like being a councillor and how do you get to be one?

In the latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts, I talk with Councillor Anton Georgiou, who won a spectacular by-election victory in January, becoming a councillor for the first time.

What’s it like? How did he win? And how can others emulate him? Listen to find out…

And if you enjoy listening to Anton, you might also like my previous interview with a Liberal Democrat council leader.

📱 Find Never Mind The Bar Charts on Twitter, give feedback and send in questions for future shows at @barchartpodcast.

🎧 You can find Never Mind The Bar Charts on the web or in your favourite podcast app. Please do post a rating or a review on your favourite podcasting platform – thank you!

Liberal Democrat Newswire is provided for free. Thank you so much to all the kind readers who donate to help cover its costs. It’s quick and easy to sign up for a small regular donation with your debit card using GoCardless:
Thank you! (Other donation options, including by PayPal or cheque, are here.)

A polling station sign

Thank you candidates, agents and campaign teams

News of the delay in this May’s local elections by a year is a sign of just how serious the coronavirus outbreak is.

It also means that for many candidates, agents and campaign teams who were gearing up for May, there’s now an unsettling vacuum in their political lives. What was going to be a peak of effort, with big impacts on the lives of people who are or aren’t elected, is now suddenly put off.

There’s also the weird situation that some councillors – along with their families – find themselves in. Those who were expecting to retire in a few weeks, sometimes after many years of voluntary public service, instead face an extra 12 months before they get to stand down.

There’s a bundle of questions about what will happen with by-elections, for example, in the next year. We don’t yet know the details.

But regardless of them, a huge thank you to everyone involved, and best of luck keeping things going for another year.

You don’t have to wait a month for the next Liberal Democrat Newswire email for further news and resources. You can check out the other email lists I run at www.libdemnewswire.com and you can also find online my guides to canvassing and leafleting, my guide to what the Lib Dems believe and my collection of online campaigning tools and resources.

News about the Lib Dems header graphic

10-point plan to tackle drugs

In case you missed them the first time around, here are highlights from my websites since last time:

⭐ Scottish Lib Dems launch 10-point plan to tackle drugs.

Conservatives robbing police of vital crime-fighting tool.

How to send your views to the Lib Dem elections review.

Shaun Roberts stands down as Lib Dem Director of Campaigns & Elections.

How to get more members and supporters active: the Lib Dem Boost Guide.

Isabelle Parasram re-elected as Vice President of the Liberal Democrats.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson elected new chair of the English Liberal Democrats.

David Hughes passes away.

What the voters are saying, part 1

Latest general election voting intention opinion polls

To get updates about voting intention opinion polls, sign up for Polling UnPacked or follow @PollingUnPacked on Twitter.

To see all the historical trends for voting intention polls back to 1943 see PollBase.

What the voters are saying, part 2

Continuing the uptick seen in my last round-up, council by-elections are now once again regularly seeing Liberal Democrat progress, and not only in areas of traditional strength:

🗳️ Big swing to Lib Dems as Conservatives hold Middlesbrough seat.

🗳️ Lib Dems gain council seat off Conservatives with 21% swing.

🗳️ Lib Dems miss out by just 14 votes in Tuesday by-election.

🗳️ Liberal Democrats gain council seat in Stratford-on-Avon.

Outside of elections, an independent councillor has joined the party in Buckinghamshire, and in South Somerset, a councillor who left the Lib Dems last year has now rejoined the party. However, two councillors have quit the party in Ely.

To get the full council by-election results every week, sign up for my blog posts digest and to be prepared for a council by-election in your patch, see my 7-step guide to getting ready in advance.

Munira Wilson tweet about coronavirus

Other Liberal Democrats in the news

Female equality: 7 laws for women that should – but don’t – exist.

Wendy Chamberlain: We must end period poverty globally.

A programme to attract young people into engineering careers is being extended to primary schools in Wales – Kirsty Williams.

Wera Hobhouse and Layla Moran say they will be running for Lib Dem leader.

David Steel has left the Lib Dems and House of Lords.

Calderdale Liberal Democrats stand aside for Greens in a ward for the (now postponed) May council elections.

Brexit Party candidate switches to the Liberal Democrats.

Thank you for reading

If you enjoyed reading this, please do share the sign-up page with other people you know. Thank you!

Best wishes,


P.S. This time’s inbox search phrase to help find this newsletter buried in your emails: Riso Kitten.

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