Edition #49 of Liberal Democrat Newswire came out last week, including an exclusive Q+A with candidates to succeed Tim Farron as Liberal Democrat President (and thanks to everyone who contributed ideas for the questions to ask). You can read it in full below.
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UPDATE: One of the candidates, Pauline Pearce, did not provide her answers in time for inclusion in the newsletter but has now done so. Here they are.
1. Why are you a Liberal Democrat?
The Liberal Democrats stand for equality, diversity, fairness, racial and gender balance, freedom of speech and the freedom to be oneself. Its the Lib Dems who stand up for disadvantaged and minority groups, not as cheap labour fodder or clients of the state but as independent people of worth who can contribute to society.
2. The role of President combines both internal aspects (e.g. chairing the Federal Executive) and public aspects, and they’ve been interpreted in different ways by past incumbents. What do you think the role of the President is?
The role is to represent and boost the morale of the grass roots, the activists and all of the party. Not solely the establishment of the party, but of all the Lib Dems and the Lib Dem electorate
3.What’s your experience of successfully putting the case for an organisation or for the party in the media?
I have been in the forefront of representing the party in the media ever since the moment I joined. I am experienced in putting the party’s message forward and of thinking on my feet, dealing with the awkward and unexpected question.
4. What’s your experience of leading and chairing committees similar to the party’s Federal Executive?
I am not as experienced in this field as some others. But I do have experience of chairing public meetings and steering groups of various different and diverse (and sometimes difficult) community groups, as a Lib Dem and as part of my work with “united communities”.
5. What have you learnt from how previous Presidents have done the job?
The only president I have experience with is Tim. His social skills, including being approachable, presenting a clear and simple message and offering support for all the party. Tim is someone I look up to he will be a constant example for me to follow.
6. How will you help preserve and strengthen the party outside constituencies with Liberal Democrat MPs?
We have to fight for Liberalism across the country. I will pay attention to all of the parties, have regular meetings, keep updated and keep them updated, and push hard to spread our message into the ethnic minorities
7. Do you believe in one member one vote for the party’s federal committee elections?
Yes. Now, when the party is divided over the leadership and when there is increased controversy over policy, this is necessary.
8. What is your top priority if you are elected?
To connect with and encourage the young inside the party and to connect the party to the young in the electorate.
9. Why are you the best candidate for President?
This party is said to be ” Too old, too male and too pale.”
I am none of the above. I am the diverse , the grassroots, the representative for real people’s people.
It’s also a party where everyone can stand up to be counted.
I want this message to reach out to the electorate. By standing for this position it shows that anyone can come in at any level and make changes for a better future of our party’.
Experience of the establishment may not be my strongest point and may well be where the other candidates are stronger than me , but they may not be as experienced as I in fields such as (1) youth connections, (2) daily connections with the active people of the very many diverse communities in and around London, (3) street rambling – talking to and supporting disadvantage, deprived people, i.e. homeless , neglected children, gangs and drug users. This is why I believe I can connect the party to the diverse, the marginalised, those that need us, and particularly to its own ethos which may have been neglected.
10. Who do you think should lead the party for the 2015 general election?
Nick all the way…
Welcome to the 49th edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, which contains an exclusive Q+A with candidates to success term-limited Tim Farron as the Liberal Democrat Party President.
One subject this edition isn’t about is the party’s choice of leader, as the attempt to marshal local parties to call for a leadership contest has fizzled out. If you’re interested in the details, my (unofficial but the most extensive) tally of how local parties have decided on the issue is that 51 decided either at a local party executive or a members meeting against calling for a leadership contest and 3 decided in favour.
You can see the details and caveats behind those figures in the full listing on my website.
If you like this newsletter, the chances are other people you know would like it too, so please do share it.
Thanks for reading and, as ever, do please let me know your views.
In this newsletter:
- The contest to succeed Tim Farron
- Good first answers, but much more to do
- Also worth reading on this contest…
- What have the Lib Dems achieved in government?
- Clegg changes direction and drops the condiment strategy
- New email list service for party news
- Sign up to receive future editions of Liberal Democrat Newswire
- 101 Ways To Win An Election
- Sal Brinton
- Linda Jack
- Liz Lynne
- How do you like this newsletter?
- Thank you – and please forward
The contest to succeed Tim Farron
Courtesy of the party’s term-limit rules, Tim Farron has to stand down as Liberal Democrat Party President at the end of this year.
That makes the Presidential election being held this autumn a very open contest. I invited all four of the declared candidates to take part in a Q+A for Liberal Democrat Newswire, and three of them have done so: Sal Brinton, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne. Pauline Pearce is the other candidate.
With no incumbent standing and also with such a varied background of the candidates, this contest looks set to be one of the most open in the party’s history. The new President will also take office at a key time, just ahead of a general election (and possible second hung Parliament, with all the issues for the party that would trigger).
Even without a second hung Parliament, they will have a busy agenda, including many issues to address regarding the party’s disciplinary processes and internal culture and the health of the party’s organisation around the country.
As chair of the party’s Federal Executive, the Party President can be central to the party’s development and organisation, if they wish.
Some past Presidents, notably Charles Kennedy, have used the role to be a public party figure with relatively little attention given to internal party matters. The next President certainly won’t be wise to take that approach.
But even Presidents who have gone into office promising significant changes to the party’s organisation and ways of working – such as Simon Hughes’s aim to double the party’s membership or Tim Farron’s plan to revitalise the party’s approach to Community Politics – have found themselves buffeted by crises and made only modest progress towards their goals.
Good first answers, but much more to do
The full answers from each of the three candidates are reproduced below (in alphabetic order).
What strikes me about their answers is that they’re all decent, solid responses (save for their collective love of acronyms, as if every party member knows what they all mean), but so far there’s little in the way of imagination in their pitches – all their content is fairly predictable – and there is also a shortage of credible detail about how their warm aspirations will be turned into reality.
Of course, it’s early in the contest and the Q+A format is concise, but even so, it’s worth remembering that in previous President contests successful candidates have made similarly promising sounding generalised comments and then not delivered much on them in office.
Both the candidates and the party will benefit from members repeatedly putting the candidates on the spot over the summer and pushing them as to why a would-be supporter should really believe they’ll turn headline aspirations into actual achievement in office.
Also worth reading on this contest…
Liberal Democrat blogger Mark Valladares always has an interesting take on internal party matters, and his perspective on the President contest is all the most interesting because he is married to previous President Ros Scott.
His posts about the contest over on his blog are well worth a read and are collected on this page, including his own collection of questions posed to the President candidates.
(Another blogger well worth reading, by the way, is Vince Cable’s former Special Advisor Giles Wilkes, who is now back blogging at Freethinking Economist and bubbling over with thoughtful views on economic policies.)
What have the Lib Dems achieved in government?
My ever-popular infographic/poster highlighting the main achievements of the Liberal Democrats in government since 2010 has had a fresh update (including, of course, same sex marriage now being a reality). You can view the latest version here.
Its companion poster – on what the Liberal Democrats believe – is a little more timeless as Gladstone tends not to do things that require updates these days. You can view that too online.
And if posters aren’t your thing, there’s also a newly updated version of What The Hell Have The Lib Dems Done? website for your idle moments, er…, serious research: www.whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com
Links to all of these and other online resources for Liberal Democrat campaigners are collated on my website.
Clegg changes direction and drops the condiment strategy
Since the European and local elections, there has been a significant change in the phraseology of Nick Clegg’s speeches and other comments which presages a, so far largely unheralded, change of strategy.
Talk of anchoring British politics in the centre ground has been dropped (hooray), consigned to the same retirement home as Alarm Clock Britain. However, this change of vocabulary is more significant for it isn’t just about presentation, it’s also about strategy.
The previous talk about anchoring politics in the centre ground was based on the idea that whoever is in power, the Liberal Democrats will make things better – fairer than a solo Tory government, more economically competent than a solo Labour government.
It was, as Nick Clegg’s former Special Advisor and now my colleague at work Sean Kemp put it, the condiment strategy. Whatever the main fare, add a sprinkling of Liberal Democrats to improve it.
One problem with this was that promising always to moderate other people’s work a bit didn’t make for a compelling message about a principled party with strong beliefs. For a predominantly single-issue party, a condiment strategy can work – whatever the government, we’ll make it greener, for example. But the Liberal Democrats aren’t a single-issue party in that sense.
Another problem was that although the rhetoric of adding a practical and moderating touch to the ideological extremism of other parties often goes down well in the short run and in polling to really succeed you need consistently extreme parties to be up against. For all that is wrong with Labour and the Conservatives, they’re not off at the extremes of the political spectrum in the way they’ve been in the past. Even when they were, ‘we’ll be a bit nicer and more sensible than the others’ was a brittle base on which to build a party’s success and create a robust activist-based campaign infrastructure on the ground (look what happened to the SDP).
So what replaces the condiments? In Clegg’s public comments in the last few weeks, there’s been a much greater emphasis on liberalism, or rather a return to it as the rhetoric echoes his pre-2010 talk about the future of British politics.
It is still a work in progress, for both him and the party, as on the key economic issue the party’s new fiscal rules are still of the ‘split the difference’ variety – close the deficit more slowly than the Tories and reduce debt more quickly than Labour.
There is ground to be different rather than moderating on the economy, such as in shifting tax from income to wealth, altering the structure of the financial system and really embracing employee control and participation. Whether the party will do that – and whether those issues will interest the public enough to make an impact on the party’s position in the view of the electorate – remains to be seen.
New email list service for party news
Created originally for my own use, I thought others might find this useful too: a daily email which contains the latest stories from the Liberal Democrat (federal) website.
There will be no more than one email a day – and no email if there hasn’t been a news story added in previous day.
On a similar point, apologies if you’re signed up for the daily email from my website with its latest posts. Due to a technical fault, there was a hiatus with the service. It should all now be sorted. Thank you for your patience – and the kind emails from people bemoaning that they weren’t getting enough emails from me whilst it was broken!
Sign up to receive future editions of Liberal Democrat Newswire
If so, then why not join thousands of others and sign up to receive direct to your email inbox future editions of what the Daily Telegraph calls a “must read”?
101 Ways To Win An Election
Its 308 pacy pages cheerfully zig-zag between marketing manual, self-help book, and campaigning A-Z — with dollops of political history, pop-psychology, and behavioural economics thrown in for good measure – Stephen Tall
101 Ways To Win An Election is available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle editions).
For Apple fans it is available on iTunes as an iBook for iPad, iPhone and iPod.
Users of Kobo readers are also catered for with the Kobo ebook version.
I joined the party 40 years ago because the Liberals stood against apartheid and against capital punishment, for Europe and we wanted to give employees a say in the companies they worked for. The basic philosophy of liberty, equality and community are just as important today as they were in 1974, and we Liberal Democrats have a key role in fighting for it.The role of President combines both internal aspects (e.g. chairing the Federal Executive) and public aspects, and they’ve been interpreted in different ways by past incumbents. What do you think the role of the President is?
The public role of the President, as the face of the members, is absolutely critical especially in a General Election year and yes, there are a great deal of internal aspects to the job. However there is more than just chairing FE effectively because the President is effectively the Chair of the Board, and oversees the management of HQ on members’ behalf, and I intend to take a hands on role.What’s your experience of successfully putting the case for an organisation or for the party in the media?
I have appeared on television and radio over the last 20 years for the party, including Newsnight, the World at One, Sky, Daily Politics, and many local radio stations, promoting the party and all its policies. I used to work for the BBC, and I have trained candidates in media.What’s your experience of leading and chairing committees similar to the party’s Federal Executive?
I’ve frequently chaired FPC as past vice Chair and more recently, I have chaired the 35-strong Diversity Engagement Group, including telephone meetings to reduce the need for all members to travel to London for the meeting. Outside of the party, I was Chair of the Cambridgeshire Learning and Skills Council from 1999-2004, Deputy Chair and skills champion of the East of England Development Agency, and Chair of Governors of my local primary school.What have you learnt from how previous Presidents have done the job?
Navnit Dholakia taught me that the President has to listen, learn and then act; Ros Scott visited so many local parties, and Tim Farron uses Twitter effectively in his role. Some of the President’s job is in public, but much is in private and the action needs to be decisive, appropriate and timely.How will you help preserve and strengthen the party outside constituencies with Liberal Democrat MPs?
Every local party, no matter how small or large is vital to the future of the Liberal Democrats. I want to make sure that all have support and services from HQ and as President I will make this happen.Do you believe in one member one vote for the party’s federal committee elections?
Yes because if we are a democratic party we should have the confidence to ask all our members to vote on policies at Conference, and to vote for our Federal committee representatives. We do need to involve more members in speaking and making policy in the party but I do think FE may also need to consider some safeguards to ensure that key voices such as councillors aren’t drowned out.What is your top priority if you are elected?
Holding the party together in the run up to the General Election, and then in the immediate aftermath. Secondly, and at the same time, we must overhaul the way the party works and its internal communication, to modernise, inform and support members at all levels.
Why are you the best candidate for President?
I believe I have a useful combination of experience and expertise both inside the party at all levels and in business, universities and charities, being open, energetic and hands on. Above all, I have the strength of character to break through the Westminster bubble to connect the leadership and parliamentarians with the party.
Who do you think should lead the party for the 2015 general election?
Of one thing I am absolutely clear, the President should be absolutely impartial because she will oversee any leadership contest and be the public voice of the party on this matter. Therefore I believe that whatever their personal views, the presidential candidates must be absolutely neutral.
For me the preamble to our constitution encapsulates everything I believe in a way that no other party does. Our commitment to what works as opposed to cheap populism, best reflected in our policies around crime and punishment, civil liberties, human rights, the environment, education, mental health etc. – and the recognition that we must seriously tackle inequality and poverty through redistribution of wealth.The role of President combines both internal aspects (e.g. chairing the Federal Executive) and public aspects, and they’ve been interpreted in different ways by past incumbents. What do you think the role of the President is?
The primary role is to manage the smooth internal operation of the party, to oversee strategy and to represent the interests and views of the membership, (through engaging with local parties and SAOs), to the leadership and beyond. The President is the voice of the party and should reflect the views of the party above their own personal views.What’s your experience of successfully putting the case for an organisation or for the party in the media?
Outside of the party I have put the case for financial capability nationally and internationally, and have a regular blog for Children and Young People Now Magazine, being regarded as a leading commentator on youth affairs. I’m one of the most recognised activists in the media, as a party activist, Parliamentary, European and PCC candidate, often appearing on programmes such as Newsnight, The Daily and Sunday Politics, The Westminster Hour, Sky News, ITV, The Jeremy Vine Show and Radio 4’s Today; I’ve also written for the Guardian, New Statesman and specialist publications.What’s your experience of leading and chairing committees similar to the party’s Federal Executive?
I have been chairing committees since I was President of my Student Union, nationally chairing Unison’s Youth and Community Workers Committee; serving as the only ever Lib Dem chair in Beds County Council on the Employees Joint Consultative Committee; chairing the party’s Young People’s Policy Working Group; the FPC Equality Impact Assessment group; my local party executive and served as Vice-Chair of Bedford Borough Scrutiny Committee. In the voluntary sector I have chaired a youth counselling charity, and am also a board member for an HE institution and a national community development charity.What have you learnt from how previous Presidents have done the job?
The best Presidents put the effectiveness and integrity of the party first, it’s not about them, it’s about the Lib Dem cause and they see themselves as servants of the party, fearlessly and selflessly commit to the collective interest of what we stand for. That kind of Presidency is inspiring – and is my role model, although I believe that the conflict of interest for parliamentarians has meant that they haven’t always been able to speak up as strongly for the membership with one eye on the whip which is why I believe the role should be carried out by an activist.How will you help preserve and strengthen the party outside constituencies with Liberal Democrat MPs?
Party members, wherever they are, need to know we have a clear vision and purpose – something to make it worth pounding the streets for! Other parties have copied our approach to community politics – that is the foundation of our success, so I will reinvigorate community politics for the 21st century by investing in a ‘bottom up’ approach to party development, building on a tried and tested community development model, recruiting and training party organisers across the country.Do you believe in one member one vote for the party’s federal committee elections?
I’m guided by conference on this one. It would not be my primary priority, because I do not detect a hunger for it, and it would be a shame to reduce these important elections to a ‘fame lottery’ where the most recognised public figures have a built in advantage over rank and file activists.What is your top priority if you are elected?
We are rather like an army that has been in a gruelling battle, lost many of our pals, hurt, demoralised and wondering if we have the energy to continue, but it is essential for our democracy that we continue to have a strong liberal democratic voice in British politics. So my top priority is to restore the party’s fortunes through reconnecting us with our core values, our leadership and the communities we seek to serve – this is an absolute and urgent priority and can only be achieved through a truly bottom up approach, investing in a complete overhaul of organisational structures, reviewing our internal and external communications, investing in grassroots development and ensuring members feel valued and heard.
Why are you the best candidate for President?
If you want a Lib Dem with grassroots experience as an activist and local councillor, with additional experience on party committees nationally, who always seeks to live her values, who is an experienced campaigner within the party and beyond, who is unafraid to challenge and speak up for those with no voice, both in society and within the party; then I’m the right person. My experience outside the party includes building a successful national campaign from scratch which involved engaging all four governments, local government and the voluntary sector.
Who do you think should lead the party for the 2015 general election?
Any Presidential candidate who offers an opinion about current or future leaders has missed the essential essence of this role – which is to reflect the views of the membership, not to guide them or interfere with the legitimacy of the only other position elected by all members.
I went to my first Young Liberal meeting when I was 11 and they were talking about freedom of the individual, obviously from the preamble of the constitution, that is what motivated me then and it still does today.The role of President combines both internal aspects (e.g. chairing the Federal Executive) and public aspects, and they’ve been interpreted in different ways by past incumbents. What do you think the role of the President is?
The President has to be there to safeguard the constitution, to represent the views of the members, and be the public representative of the Party.What’s your experience of successfully putting the case for an organisation or for the party in the media?
I have done thousands of media interviews over nearly three decades. During my time as MP I was first the spokesperson on Health and then on Social Security and therefore was responsible for putting our case across in the media. When I was MEP I also had to do numerous radio and TV interviews on behalf of the Party; I often had to hold my ground against hostile journalists.What’s your experience of leading and chairing committees similar to the party’s Federal Executive?
I have chaired a number of organisations in the past. In my role as Vice President of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament I was called on to chair the committee for about sixty percent of the time; I had to try and make sure that people from all parties and nationalities were listened to but still ensure that I brought the agenda in on time and that we stuck to the matter in hand.What have you learnt from how previous Presidents have done the job?
Having talked to both the current President and the previous one to find out their view, I believe that the President has the dual role of ensuring that the organisation is effective but also to be the public representative of the Party as the constitution requires taking into account the views of the members.How will you help preserve and strengthen the party outside constituencies with Liberal Democrat MPs?
Targeting is essential but we have to make sure that non target constituencies are not forgotten. In my view one of the key roles of the President is to visit as many constituencies as possible and listen to the views of the members – if members and constituencies are not valued for the work they do for the party then I fear we will see a decline in membership.Do you believe in one member one vote for the party’s federal committee elections?
I have always believed that one member one vote for federal committee elections is the right way forward.What is your top priority if you are elected?
To make sure that we return as many Councillors and MPs as possible next year and to ensure that the voice of members and activists across the country are heard whilst increasing our membership and engaging them effectively. In the longer term I believe we need to review how the structures of the Party are working.
Why are you the best candidate for President?
Many people have said that because of the wealth of experience as an activist, a campaigner, an MP and an MEP as well as having a good working knowledge of Party structures that they feel that I would be the best candidate for President. They recognise that I am independent enough to be able to genuinely reflect the views of all sections of the Party and I also have the time to be able to be an active President nationally with a vast amount of media and campaigning experience.
Who do you think should lead the party for the 2015 general election?
There has been a great deal of debate about this in the Party over the last few weeks but the majority view appears to be that our current leader should take us into the 2015 General Election. If at any time as Party President if I felt that there was a clear balance of opinion that the membership wanted to change the leadership, I would not hesitate to communicate that view to the incumbent.
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