What’s happening in the party?
Here’s my latest report for Liberal Democrat members and supporters, from the party website:
Only £1 to come to conference
Our autumn federal party conference is being held online in September. There’s a brilliant offer for people who have not come to conference before: you can register for just £1.
Conference will include an important trio of linked debates: on our party’s values, our policy platform and our strategy. Traditionally, we have debated these separately at conference, even years apart. But all three need to fit together in a coherent way – which is one of the lessons from the 2019 election post-mortem. So this time we’re doing things differently.
The values and platform come from our Federal Policy Committee (FPC), while the strategy is being proposed by the Board. It sets out the practical approach which is needed to grow our party and win more elections, securing us more political power to deliver on what we believe.
Among the other conference items is also the latest stage in developing our post-2019 European policy, which you can read about here.
As I mentioned last month, the Board has also put in some important proposals for conference to decide on, including boosting our party bodies with an improved, simpler structure and set of rules. These come from the Party Body Review Group, which has run an extensive consultation with existing party bodies before drawing up the plans.
The full conference agenda and reports to conference booklet are both now out.
Additional support for the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC)
The RDC, chaired by Ade Adeyemo, works to improve the diversity of our candidates by finding, training and supporting talented people through approval, selection and election.
I’m glad to report that Ade and our Chief Executive, Mike Dixon, have agreed a £5,000 grant to RDC to support its work through the rest of this year. That’s a crucial time for selections in our most winnable seats. The RDC’s work is an important complement to the Project Stella work to support selected candidates. We need both to succeed.
Being involved in politics should be fun and rewarding. But it can be stressful and at times any of us may need to turn to others for help or support.
Often that support can best come from colleagues in your local party or a party body you are active in. But sometimes help is needed elsewhere, and so a new piece on the party website sets out the support that is available.
Progress in improving our complaints system
When our new complaints system was introduced, rather than having a quiet start which let it establish itself, it had to deal with a much higher volume of complaints than predicted. Thanks to excellent work by both staff and volunteers, we’ve now had six months in a row where the number of closed complaints has been greater than the number of new ones opened. When the Steering Group reviewed progress in July, the number of open complaints had just fallen under 200 for the first time since the numbers started being tracked.
As that six months includes the big May elections – a time when complaints might be expected to spike – this is a good sign that the problems of volume are being resolved.
Of course, the number of open complaints is not the only way to judge a complaints system and there are other areas that need work too. The Board report to this autumn’s conference includes a report on improvements to the system’s rules. There’s both a foreword setting out the reasons for the changes, explaining how they flow from the consultations with members earlier this year, as well as the details of the new rules.
Our new federal party offices
As I mentioned in previous reports, we’re moving out of the party offices in Great George Street, Westminster. The new offices are better, cheaper and, both recognising the switch to working from home and more party staff being based outside London, smaller.
We’ve now left the old Great George Street offices and the finishing touches are being made to the new ones at 1 Vincent Square, London. There’s no problem continuing to use the old address, such as on posters or old stocks of membership forms, as post is continuing to be re-redirected. There will be more communication within the party about the new offices as they start to open up for people to use.
A couple of weeks ago I popped into the new space, and it’s going to be such a better working environment for everyone. Saving money is important, but so too is giving staff and volunteers a decent environment to work in. No holes in the floor here.
Nominate someone amazing
Nominations are open for our Party Awards, to be presented at the autumn conference. You’ve got six different categories under which brilliant, dedicated people can be nominated. Please do take a moment to think about nominating someone as these awards are a great way of us all saying thank you to people for amazing contributions. Details are on the party website.
Changes on party committees
Mary Regnier-Wilson has been elected chair of the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC), filling in for Bess Mayhew while Bess is on maternity leave. Congratulations to both Bess and Mary.
Congratulations also to Chris Adams on being elected one of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) Vice Chairs. He takes over from Nick Da Costa, following Nick’s election as FCC chair.
Our August Steering Group will be looking at our ethical safeguards for donations, progress on the 2022 budget, how we get the best oversight of party technology projects and whether we need to change any of the rules around indemnifying officers and directors of Liberal Democrats Limited for actions they take on behalf of the party.
Feedback on these or any other matters is very welcome. You can get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.