Getting our new party team in place

Liberal Democrat HQ - Great George Street - preamble to party constitution

Here’s my latest Federal Board report from the party website:

Improving our candidate process

Following the issues with our Mayor of London selection and in response to a request from the London Lib Dems, I asked Alison Suttie – a Liberal Democrat peer and the new chair of the Joint Candidate Subcommittee (JCSC) – to do an investigation to learn the lessons, not only for London but for our selections more generally.

She has turned around an excellent review with admirable speed, ensuring that her recommendations on how we vet would-be candidates can be considered in time to inform our Parliamentary selections for the next general election too.

Candidate selections are run by English, Scottish and Welsh Parties, so it will be for them to decide how to react to Alison’s recommendation. If acting on any of them requires assistance from the federal party, I am committed to ensuring we find ways to do that.

The London selection itself is now over. Many congratulations to Luisa Porritt for winning the support of members to be our candidate in next May’s elections.

Getting our central team right

One of the key lessons from the Thornhill Report into what went wrong in 2019 is the importance of getting our management structures and team right in the central party operation, as unless we do that we’ll just be endlessly caught in firefighting the latest problem.

Part of that is about how the Leader, CEO and President work together. As well as having established very productive working relations between the three of us, the relevant party bodies are coming to the end of consulting on a new scheme of allocation of responsibilities between these three roles, as recommended by the Thornhill Report.

In addition, following the previous appointment of Mimi Turner as our Director of Strategy, Messaging and Research, Trudy Church has been appointed our Chief Operating Officer and Cllr Dave McCobb our Director of Field.

With a new Chief Technology Officer currently being recruited and Fern McLurg and Sian Waddington continuing as Financial Controller and Director of Operations respectively, we have an excellent new senior management team in place alongside our CEO, Mike Dixon.

It’s also good to see that our talk about how other organisations need to improve their record on diversity is matched by us making progress in improving our own. I’m very much looking forward to working with them as we tackle the next set of changes needed to raise our game and to help you win.

Changes on federal committees

On the Board itself, we have welcomed two new members recently. Cllr Anita Lower (Newcastle Council) is a new directly elected member following Ruby Chow standing down. Bess Mayhew has been elected the new chair of the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) following Barbara Gibson’s departure.

Best wishes and thank you for their work to Ruby, Barbara and to Kevin Lang, also standing down from the Board as Scottish representative. Scottish members are voting to elect his successor. Bess was already a member of FPDC so in addition to her becoming chair, Nicola Clark has been elected to join the FPDC.

As you will see from this, there is a steady trickle of posts that need filling all through the year. They are advertised on the party website in the ‘work for us’ section, alongside paid vacancies.

October Board meeting

The big issue at this Federal Board meeting will be our budget for 2021. Coronavirus has had a big impact on fundraising across the charity and not for profit sectors. Political parties have not been immune from this. This will require some tough decisions. It’s important that we take those with a clear view of the route through to political and so financial success.

So we will be looking at proposals which prioritise investing in electoral success, improving our diversity and enhancing our technology. We currently have the largest field team for the first year of a Parliament in the party’s history, and I’m very grateful to the different parts of the part that have worked positively with the federal party to ensure we have a team much larger than what the federal party could have done on its own.

As part of the work to maximise our membership income next year, we are seeking agreement from the English, Welsh and Scottish parties on a package of support and incentives for local parties to renew members who have not responded to renewal requests from HQ. Local knowledge and local conversations are crucial for persuading such colleagues to renew their membership.

We will also be reviewing the feedback from members to our consultation over governance reforms, such as how to respond to the comments made about the (lack of) transparency around how individuals vote at Board meetings.

There will also be what is now a regular quarterly review of party performance, measured across supporter engagement, messaging and our public standing, campaigning capability, and people and culture.

Comments, questions and feedback very welcome as ever – president@libdems.org.uk.

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