Barring some unexpected political crisis that requires an emergency meeting, Monday night saw the last Liberal Democrat Federal Board meeting of this three year cycle.
It’s been a remarkable three years in all sorts of ways for the country and for our politics. It has also been really challenging for the party, trying to recover from the massive setback of the 2019 election and Brexit going ahead, and coping with the impact of COVID-19. I don’t think anyone would have taken seriously a prediction three years ago that the next Federal Party President would go through a full term without the party holding an in-person conference. Something we very much need to put right for the next term (and something I was reminded about by being at the Scottish conference in person just recently – so nice to be meeting colleagues in person once again).
It’s also, crucially, been a three years in which we’ve got the Liberal Democrats back on track, with more MPs, more Lib Dem controlled councils and more councillors. There’s plenty more to do, but we’re heading in the right direction.
Rather than the cuts we’ve seen so often in previous Parliaments, we’ve expanded the network of campaign staff supporting local parties across the country, invested heavily in improving our data and technology and started important new initiatives to raise our game on diversity and inclusion, including Project Stellar to support the next generation of parliamentary candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds.
We’ve also been implementing the Thornhill Review into the 2019 election and improving the way the party’s internal democratic systems work, including clearly separating the roles of Leader, CEO and President and conference voting by 71%-29% to introduce a new Board of 16 rather than the old one of 41.
We’re seeing the results come through in election results – with gains in both the rounds of local elections, that amazing trio of Parliamentary by-elections wins and the number of Lib Dem majority councils now back to where it was before the 2010 Coalition.
There have been plenty of difficult, even unwelcome, decisions necessary along the way, including cancelling federal party conference and making tough choices over what to prioritise funding for. As a result there have been many lively Board discussions, with some very strong exchanges of views. But all the way through it, even when people have disagreed, we’ve been able to keep our attention on making the strategic decisions and not trying to micromanage party staff.
It’s been great to see the improvement in how staff both view the party as a place to work and how they view working relations between staff and committee members. Volunteers and staff working together well, treating each other with respect, is how we are successful.
There are of course many people to thank given the great team effort over the last three years. I hope though people don’t mind me singling out two people in particular, Elaine Bagshaw and Jeremy Hargreaves, who have been the Board’s two vice chairs all through the three years, being joined more recently by Amna Ahmed.
I make it that Elaine and Jeremy have had close to 100 extra Zoom calls and meetings with me over the last three years, no minor commitment and always very valuable. Thank you both, and thank you everyone else too.
Elections are underway for the party’s federal committees, including for President, and I’m hoping to be re-elected for a second term. Voting closes at 5pm Tuesday, and any party members who haven’t had or can’t find their ballots should email email@example.com.
On which note, thank you to Young Liberals for their kind election endorsement, and here’s my election video…