Rishi Sunak’s (latest) mistake (LDN #174)

Liberal Democrat Newswire #174 came out last week, looking at how the Prime Minister is continuing to blunder and the increasingly positive prospects for the Lib Dems.

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.

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The big focus for the Liberal Democrats at the moment of course is Somerton and Frome where another historic victory is possible – if enough people go to help – and where I turned down chocolate ice cream from a voter.

It’s particularly important given how Parliamentary by-elections foretell general election performances. Did I mention about going to help?

It looks like Threads is finally the serious competitor for Twitter so many have been hoping for. You can find me on it here.

Best wishes,


P.S. Last time’s edition, The wonderful Wendy Chamberlain, is available online here.

Rishi Sunak’s (latest) mistake

Here’s my latest report for Liberal Democrat members and supporters. These reports also appear on the party website.

So much has happened in British politics in the last year, it’s easy to forget along the way that Rishi Sunak managed to lose a leadership election to Liz Truss. Having been selected for a safe seat, that was the first hard fought contest in the public’s eye that he had to contest. He lost, and lost badly. For all his career success, he isn’t very good at the basics of politics.

We saw that again with his decision to duck the House of Commons vote on the Privileges Committee’s verdict on Boris Johnson. The one hope for the Conservatives under Sunak is to show that they have really changed as a party, something that John Major managed to do, at least initially, after replacing Margaret Thatcher. But instead of using the vote to show his party is changed and that he’s serious about restoring probity to public life, Sunak ducked the opportunity. He’s Prime Minister of our whole country but driven by the internal myopic politics of a small number of his MPs.

Making the most of Sunak’s mistakes

Over the long history of our party and its predecessors, there are three things that have fuelled recoveries for our party: spectacular Parliamentary by-election wins, brilliant May local elections, and foreign policy disasters such as Suez and Iraq.

The first two are certainly the preferable routes to success and we’ve already made a good start on both of them in this Parliament, with three record-breaking by-election victories and the amazing wins this May, building on previous council gains.

Now we have the chance to build on that with Sarah Dyke’s campaign in the Somerton and Frome by-election. Sarah and the team are running a brilliant campaign, highlighting the Conservative failures on the NHS, cost of living and sewage.

But Sarah can only win with our help.

Please do head over to help if you can as there are only a few days left until polling day on July 20. We only win by-elections when we all turn up to campaign.

We’ve already shown what we can pull off three times in this Parliament. Let’s make it a fourth.

New priorities for our diversity and inclusion work

At our last Federal Board meeting, we agreed a new set of priorities for our diversity and inclusion work, building on our recent progress in areas such as target seat Parliamentary candidates. For the next phase of progress, we’ll be concentrating on targets such as improving the diversity of our local government base and who we speak with on the doorsteps.

Both of these are important in their own right and also important for their knock-on impact. Who we have canvass data from and who our councillors are in turn affects much else that we do, such as who we then try to recruit as a member or who ends up on one of our committees.

To support these new priorities, our previous Equity, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EEDI) working group – which did great work to help get the previous diversity audit implemented – is being replaced by a new working group geared specifically to these new priorities.

Legacy fundraising

The Board also agreed a plan to boost our legacy fundraising, including launching a new ‘Future Fund’ and giving the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee (FASC) the task of ensuring its funds are used appropriately. If you are interested in leaving the Party a gift in your own will, please do get in touch.

Other Board work

We have also (nearly) had the first call-in of a Board decision by the new Federal Council, created as part of the Board reforms passed by conference last year.

Although the number of Council members did not quite reach the required threshold for a call-in, we agreed to come and be quizzed by the Council anyway about the decision, which was related to how we fill volunteer posts through the party.

Given how easy it is for such processes to become insular, with only a few people in the know getting to apply and decisions being made based on who you know best, it’s always good to have some constructive pressure on looking widely and thinking beyond familiar names when filling such posts.

Access Accelerator launching to improve party’s diversity

Under its new chair, Chris French, and vice chair, Sam Young, the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) is the vehicle in the party that finds, trains and supports candidates from under-represented ethnic minorities through to their candidate approval, selection and election.

It’s got a new support programme going:

One of our flagship projects, the Access Accelerator, will be launching in August 2023. The Access Accelerator is an informative programme specifically designed to assist individuals in understanding and becoming approved candidates within the political approval process. This inclusive programme welcomes participants from all backgrounds, regardless of their past political affiliations.

Through a series of expert-led webinars, participants will gain a comprehensive understanding of the approval process, learning essential information and acquiring valuable tips and strategies to navigate each stage effectively. The aim is to equip candidates with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully become approved candidates.

To further support participants on their journey, we provide supplementary resources such as checklists, toolkits, and handbooks. These resources aim to empower individuals by offering practical guidance throughout the approval process. The programme will conclude with a practical panel discussion, where participants can seek guidance and clarification on the next steps towards their political aspirations.

The Access Accelerator offers a unique opportunity for individuals to enhance their understanding and increase their chances of becoming approved Liberal Democrat candidates in the political arena.

Find out more, including how to apply to take part, here.

And finally, for those who love the details of rulebooks…

The Federal Party constitution has been updated to include a new appendix listing the various rules that have been ratified by conference.

And lovers of procedural motions should take their hat off to the way a US governor used his power to delete some of the words, numbers and punctuation from a budget measure…

Have questions on this report, or other party matters? Then please drop me a line on president@libdems.org.uk. Do also get in touch if you’d like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.

How to get more houses built

The July episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts is one I’m really looking forward to recording – taking a look at new research evidence into what does and doesn’t work in election campaigning. It’ll be out in a few days so subscribe to the podcast in your favourite podcast app to make sure you don’t miss it.

In the meantime, to keep your ears filled on the Focus rounds, one of the most popular episodes so far this year is the one with Cllr Keith House – about how to build houses and win elections. It’s also on YouTube here.

Happy listening!

🎧Find all the episodes of Never Mind The Bar Charts here and sign up for an email notification each time a new episode appears here.

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

The cost of living crisis: Lib Dems in the news

Ed Davey has been pointing out just how big a hit is happening to people’s standards of living thanks to the rising costs of mortgages. Nor is he happy about water bill increases. Speaking to the LGA conference, he said, “Our fundamental belief that it is through local government – where people come together to make decisions about their local area – that we can make the biggest difference to people’s lives.”

Daisy Cooper is warning about the coming impact of GP retirements and wants the government to do more over gambling addiction. Sarah Olney has been in the news over the shocking fact that only one in 14 violent assaults are solved. Munira Wilson is on the case about crumbling schools.

Wera Hobhouse has been speaking out against conversion therapy and Wendy Chamberlain has been supporting the Mosaic Trust’s work with transgender and non-binary young people.

Tim Farron wants greater scrutiny of staff churn between water firms and regulators. The party has tabled a Parliamentary Bill to “rip up” Thames Water and begin industry reform. Ah, Thames Water.

The Lib Dems are trying to block Shaun Bailey’s peerage and for Boris Johnson’s resignation honours in general to be revoked.

Alex Cole-Hamilton likes the story from recent Scottish polling of SNP troubles and Jane Dodds supports trials of a four day working week.

Cllr Joe Harris thinks the government should let councils meet virtually. He’s just been re-elected leader of the Lib Dem group on the LGA, with Bridget Smith as deputy. Cllr Gale Waller, new Lib Dem leader of Rutland Council has set out how things are now going to change.

Matthew Pennell has a nice write-up of how Lib Dem councillors are getting new housing built.

Former Lib Dem turned independent council leader Jason Zadrozny, is up in court on several charges.

John Russell is the latest Lib Dem member of the House of Lords. Former Lib Dem MP and minister Nick Harvey is the new Chief Executive of the European Movement. Four Liberal Democrats featured in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Jeremy Hargreaves has a new report on the work of the Lib Dem Federal Policy Committee (FPC).

Three by-election opinion polls

In case you missed them first time, here is a selection of posts from my websites since last time:

Two more Parliamentary by-election polls (Uxbridge and Selby).

What to make of the Opinium Mid Bedfordshire opinion poll?

Are the Conservatives on 11% in Mid Bedfordshire?

The public views the government worst on the most important issues.

What the polls are saying

Table of latest opinion polls

To give the latest figures some context, here’s an up-to-date poll tracker graph:

Opinion polls graph

And here are the issues that the public says are the most important to them:

Ipsos monthly issues tracker

Latest from The Week in Polls

Find out more about which issues most concern voters – and why we should trust the polling results on such questions – in my first edition of The Week in Polls for July.

Council by-elections round-up

Contests since last time have seen four Lib Dem gains, with a fifth gain being missed on the drawing of lots. There have also been some chunky swings from Labour, a rare Conservative gain from Labour and a good Lib Dem hold in difficult circumstances.

These contests bring the running tally of seat changes since the main May elections to +3 for the Lib Dems, +2 for the Greens, +1 for Labour, -2 for SNP and already -5 for the Conservatives. For more details, see my local by-elections scorecard here.

Across the second quarter of the year as a whole, the Lib Dem vote was up with Greens, Conservatives and Labour all falling back.

Elsewhere, a councillor has left the Lib Dems for independents in North Yorkshire and another in Central Bedfordshire.

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.

Can you help?

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Selection news

In by-election news, Emma Holland-Lindsay has been selected for Mid Bedfordshire, and Matt Walker for Selby and Ainsty.

Normal selections made public since last time include Bromsgrove: David Nicholl, Central Devon: Mark Wooding, Leigh: John Skipworth, Newbury: Lee Dillon, South Shropshire: Chris Naylor, Wigan: Brian Crombie-Fisher and York Outer: Andrew Hollyer.

The party is always in need of more volunteer Returning Officers to help run these selections. Do you know someone who might suit this role?

See all the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) selected and announced so far here. If you’ve spotted a selection I’ve missed and which is public, by all means hit reply and let me know.

And finally…

I’m not sure I agree with Tim Farron’s views on social media.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, why not forward to a friend or let them know they can sign-up here for future editions?

Thank you and best wishes,


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