Turning our policies into practical action (LDN #178)

Liberal Democrat Newswire #178 came out last week, including news on Lib Dem councils building houses, a new move to ban conversion therapy and how party support varies by supermarket.

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.

Hello and welcome to the penultimate Lib Dem Newswire of 2023. Do let me know what you’d like to see more or less of in the editions for general election year. (Or, if we’re really lucky, the year of two general elections.)

Welcome also to the new Liberal Democrat councillors elected since last time: Colin Taylor, James Owen, Kevin Whincup, Anja Schaefer, Ted Last, Claire Hall and Chloe Masefield, Nicky Coppins, Lynne Thompson and Deirdre McGeown. More details on their results below.

As Christmas is approaching, don’t forget that if you’re getting any books or similar, you can use these links to help cover the costs of this newsletter: Waterstones, Bookshop.org (independent bookshops) or Amazon (prices the same as if you go direct, but a commission is paid for any purchases).

Before we get to this time’s edition, if you haven’t had a chance to read the October Lib Dem Newswire, it is online here.

Happy reading,


P.S. I also do a weekly email about polling, The Week in Polls. It comes in free and paid-for versions, and any Lib Dem Newswire reader can get a 60 day free trial of the paid-for version with this special link.

Turning our policies into practical action

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

Getting council housing built

Congratulations to the Liberal Democrat team on Kingston Council who have just celebrated the completion of the first set of council flats for over 30 years in the area.

It’s another sign of how Liberal Democrat councils can both build high quality homes in the right places, and win elections – by turning our policies into practical actions to improve people’s lives.


I know we have all been moved by the horrific news from the Middle East in the last few weeks. The bedrock of the Liberal Democrat approach is support for international law and for a two-state solution, as set out in our previous conference motion and in Layla Moran’s moving interview to Newsnight. There’s also more on this in the latest piece from Ed Davey on the party website, calling for an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.

In all our comments and campaigning it’s important that we continue to hold close to our liberal values, that we don’t seek to stoke up division or hatred, and that protests are not used as a shield to allow antisemitism, Islamophobia or any type of hatred.

The party has a range of support services available to help members or staff who are finding any of the issues particularly difficult.

Are you using WhatsApp locally?

One of the crucial parts of my role as President is being in touch with what members are saying all around the country (and overseas too). It’s been noticeable in the last year how much of the online conversation among members and supporters in local parties has moved away from (semi-)public social media, for example away from Facebook and X/Twitter and often moving to WhatsApp (and to a much lesser extent Slack).

If WhatsApp plays a big role in your local party’s chatter, and you wouldn’t mind an outsider being in your group so I can better see the temperature of members around the party, it’d be great if you can add me to your relevant group. You can either message me the join link on president@libdems.org.uk or ask for my mobile number to add. Thank you.

Election plans

Our elections committee (FCEC) has started looking at more detail for our support plans for non-target seats at the next general election. The workings of first past the post make our target seat results the dominating difference between success and failure. But general elections are still important opportunities for everyone else too – to build up the local party to help win more elections at other levels in the future, to create new target seats – and to mobile help to get the nearest target seat over the line too.

Huge thanks to Emma for being our candidate and everyone else who helped in Mid Bedfordshire. A feedback survey has gone out to everyone who helped. If that includes you, please do share your experiences. Continually learning from people’s experiences at the coalface of our campaigning is an important part of getting things right.

Learning from each other

I’ve recently been to both the Welsh and Scottish Liberal Democrat conferences in person. As well as being great to catch up with colleagues in person, it was also great to see the number of innovations being tried out – and successfully! Ideas such as the mini-motions debate format at Scottish conference are ones that I’m sure the rest of the party can learn from, including for regional conferences in England and perhaps also for our federal conferences too.

One of the strengths of our federal and decentralised structure is the innovation that comes from variation, and the ability for good ideas to copied and spread. Many things that we now think of as a standard part of how the federal party operates, for example, have come first from other parts of the party.

General election agent training

We’ve made a big change about our support and training for general election agents. For the next election, every agent must have been through – and passed! – a one or two day training course.

It’s a commitment the regulator, the Electoral Commission, will hold us to. Which means we have to enforce it fully. But it’s also a great thing to do – ensuring that every agent is properly supported and able to do their important task by having had the right training.

If you’re involved with running your local party, please make sure that at least one person has or is being trained up to agent the seat or seats it covers.

If you need details of the dates for training, drop a line to compliance@libdems.org.uk.

New digital imprint rules in force

From 1 November, new UK-wide rules on imprints for digital campaigning came into force, supplementing the rules previously in force in Scotland.

The rules cover all local, regional and state parties and affiliated organisations, as well as elected office-holders, candidates and future candidates.

A guidance note has been sent out through our usual channels for campaign news and is also online here.

Internal elections review

As part of the review into our 2022 internal elections – which was held off to allow for the completion first of appeals resulting from it – candidates and people who were members at the time of the elections have been emailed a feedback survey. The email came from Nick Manners, who is heading up the review, and the deadline for responses to the survey is 10 December.

Welcome to…

Nick Beckett has joined our Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) as part of him taking up the role of Welsh Party Treasurer. Many thanks to his predecessor, David Collington, for all his hard work in the role and good luck, Nick.

Meanwhile, Alex Wagner has stood down from Federal Conference Committee (FCC) and the votes have been recounted to elect Paul McGary in his place. Thank you for your service on FCC Alex, and good luck continuing our stunning run of by-election wins in Shropshire, as well as helping get Helen Morgan re-elected. Paul was previously the Scottish representative on FCC and so that slot is now filled by Fraser Graham, pending the outcome of the current Scottish Party elections.

One other change since last time: Edward Sainsbury has replaced Anton Georgiou on the Federal Council.

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.

Pocast screenshot

PODCAST: A year of Rishi Sunak and lessons from the Mid Bedfordshire by-election

The latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts is another special with the Lib Dem Pod team. We talked about a year of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister and lessons from the Mid Bedfordshire by-election.

Listen carefully also to spot a little Easter Egg from me…

You might also enjoy a podcast I did a little while back about opinion polls, how they work and why we can (mostly) trust them.

🎧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

Lib Dem peer’s bill to ban conversion therapy tops Lords ballot

Humanists UK report news of Lorely Burt, former Liberal Democrat MP and now member of the House of Lords:

“Baroness Burt of Solihull’s Private Member’s Bill, Conversion Therapy Prohibition (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Bill, has been drawn first in the House of Lords ballot. As the first Bill to be drawn, it is possible that, if it received sufficient support, it could become law.”

Banning conversion therapy is supported by the public and is Liberal Democrat policy, following long-standing opposition to the practice.

As Wera Hobhouse said when the party adopted the policy:

“The last three Conservative Prime Ministers have each promised to ban it, but still we have seen no action to live up to this promise.

“Let’s be clear – conversion therapy is a form of torture. Why should we allow religious organisations free reign to induce or pressure people into undertaking this dangerous practice? We should be teaching people to embrace who they are, not try and be something they’re not…

“Liberal Democrats will not stand for this injustice. We are calling for an immediate ban on conversion practices in all forms, with no exemptions. The Government must honour their commitment to the LGBT+ community and act now.”

Good luck, Lorely.

Israel and Gaza: Lib Dems in the news

The latest Liberal Democrat position on the tragedies in Israel and Gaza is set out in the Parliamentary amendment tabled by the party’s MPs, though the Speaker didn’t take it for debate. (A good example of the importance of the Lib Dems becoming the third party in the House of Commons again.)

Among the many piece of media coverage on this issue for Layla Moran and Ed Davey, Layla’s moving interview with Newsnight and her article for The Guardian with Labour MP Alex Sobel particularly stand out. Ed has also been marking Islamophobia Awareness Month.

Tim Farron has been in the media with the news that water bosses’ pay reached a record £10 million for the first time last year. He’s also run a half-marathon for charity. Munira Wilson pointed out that parents face £1,000 a year in ‘hidden’ childcare costs. She also highlighted that more than 120 Met officers are still working as normal while under investigation for sexual or domestic abuse.

Alistair Carmichael said that instead of admitting defeat and concentrating on real solutions to the mess that is the asylum system, Rishi Sunak has doubled down on failure after the Rwanda court ruling. Alex Cole-Hamilton does not like Suella Braverman’s desire to ignore the law.

Richard Foord has been highlighting that thousands of Armed Forces families are at risk from asbestos. Wera Hobhouse has got her second piece of legislation through Parliament, this time the Worker Protection Act to fight workplace harassment.

Sarah Dyke has given her maiden speech in Parliament. Jane Dodds is pressing the Welsh Government to take decisive action in improving dental service access for the elderly.

Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and Norman Lamb are suing the publisher of The Sun and the defunct News of the World, claiming their phones were hacked for stories or to “exert political influence”.

Former Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott is now chief executive of the older people’s charity Re-engage. Liberal Democrat MP turned peer Brian Cotter has passed away.

Councillor Hannah Perkins has won community champion of the year at the Cllr Awards 2023.

A Liberal Democrat councillor is standing up for punctuation in street name signs and the first Lib Dem councillor elected in West Lothian for 30 years has given a fun interview, featuring Star Trek. Also profiled in the news has been the Lib Dem councillor elected when studying for their A levels.

The predictive power of by-elections

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

Do Parliamentary by-election results foretell general election results? Short answer: yes. Longer answer in the post.

Voters are put off by male-dominated candidate lists: research finds that, “voters strongly prefer equal representation of men and women when making their vote choice”.

A traditional pothole pointing pose: a classic of the genre.

Dominic Grieve supports Josh Babarinde campaign fundraiser: good news for one of our top target seats.

How elections were fought, 1990s style: very similar to how they are fought now.

How Medway Lib Dems are planning to get back on the council: impressive coverage from Kent Online for the Medway Liberal Democrat team.

“Confusion over whether Cheltenham mural shows blood-sucking vampires or leading Tories”: top marks to the headline writer for getting our attention.

What the polls are saying

Latest general election opinion polls table

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

Voting intentions graph from ElectionMapsUK

Here are the issues that the public says are the most important to them:

Ipsos monthly issues tracker

How voting intention varies by supermarket

Graph showing how party support varies by supermarket

Voting intention (and Brexit/Rejoin support) by supermarket is just one of the polling insights from my weekly polling newsletter, The Week in Polls.

You can read the latest edition here.

Council by-elections round-up

Contests since last time have seen yet another Lib Dem council by-election win in Shropshire (followed by a town council by-election win too), a pair of gains from the Conservatives in the Blue Wall (along with a town council win), a pair of successful defences in Wales (along with two parish council wins, one a gain), and a seat gain in Bolton.

The total net seat changes in those principal authority contests since last time was Lib Dem +4, Labour +2, Green +2, Conservative -4. These contests bring the running tally of seat changes since the last May elections to Lib Dem +14, Green +5, Labour +1, Conservative -17. For more details, see my local by-elections scorecard here.

Elsewhere, an independent councillor has joined the Lib Dems in Gloucester and a unsuccessful would-be Parliamentary candidate has quit the party in West Berkshire after not getting a selection.

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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Thank you! (Other donation options, including by PayPal or cheque, are here.)

Selection news

Westminster Parliament selections made public since last time include Brighton Pavilion: Ashley Drake, Clapham and Brixton Hill: Ben Curtis, East Hampshire: Dominic Martin, Ellesmere Port and Bromborough: Chris Carubia, Glastonbury & Somerton: Sarah Dyke, Godalming & Ash: Paul Follows (he may, or may not, be up against Jeremy Hunt), Hampstead and Highgate: Scott Emery, Holborn and St Pancras: Charlie Clinton, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland: Jemma Joy, Morecambe and Lunesdale: Peter Jackson, North Shropshire: Helen Morgan, Putney: Kieren McCarthy, Reigate: Mark Johnston, South Ribble: Angela Turner and South Suffolk: Tom Bartleet.

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…

Darryl Smalley has been to the best election count, ever.

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

Thank you and best wishes,


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