The Federal Conference Committee (FCC) met on Saturday, 15th January to start its work on the final agenda for Spring 2022 Conference, which will be taking place virtually via the Hopin platform.
If you haven't yet registered for Conference, I would recommend doing so here.
We've had a few departures from the FCC in the last few months and welcomed two new members. Jennie Rigg ceased being the English Party's Representative to the FCC and Jenni Lang stepped down as the Scottish Party Representative after becoming the Convenor of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. I would like to place on record our thanks for their service to the FCC, they will be missed, and we would like to wish them all the very best for the future. We welcomed Matt McLaren as our new English Party Rep and Paul McGarry as our new Scottish Party Rep to the committee.
You may remember, last November, taking part in a survey on members' views on Brexitand the party's campaigning on the future of UK-EU relations. Thanks to everyone who participated - 6,500 members, more than any previous survey of this type - and thanks to Greg Foster and Dan Schmeising at party HQ who organised it on behalf of the Federal Policy Committee. This article gives you the results.
After the disappointment and failure of the 2019 general election, an independent post-mortem was carried out into what went wrong. The findings of the Thornhill Review set a broad and challenging reform agenda for the party, which we've made good progress on implementing so far.
On the role of the Federal Board itself, the Thornhill Review found that:
FPC members started the year bright and early with our first meeting last week. We cancelled our December meeting so we could all focus on North Shropshire, so this was our first meeting since November.
Big areas of focus for FPC this year will be further work on our messages and key policies to support them, leading up eventually to the Manifesto for the next General Election; and our substantial programme of working groups developing policies in politically useful areas, to bring to autumn conference.
In 2021 we achieved something we've not achieved since 1993: winning two Parliamentary by-elections in the same year off the Conservatives. We start this new year with a larger Parliamentary Party than any of us would have dared dream of a year ago. (A winning run that has continued with the first council by-election of this year too - congratulations to now councillor Andrew Dunkin who won a seat from Labour from third place.)
Liberal Democrats won a stunning victory in North Shropshire, taking one of the Conservatives' safest seats.
Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Morgan received 17,957 votes, representing a swing of 34% from the Conservatives and giving her a majority of 5,925.
North Shropshire was the 58th safest Conservative seat in the country, with former Conservative MP Owen Paterson having a majority of almost 23,000 votes in 2019. This represents the second biggest majority overcome in a modern by-election, after Christchurch in 1993.
Liberal Democrats have and always will support public health protections that work but the use of so called "vaccine passports'' provides a false sense of security.
The Government has lost sight of why they put forward these measures in the first place - to reduce transmission of the virus. The vaccines being given in the UK are highly effective at reducing the severity of Covid symptoms, the likelihood of admission to hospital and against the risk of death. But even those who are fully vaccinated can still spread the virus.
I've often said history points to two routes for Liberal Democrat (and before that Liberal Party) revivals. One, which we'd much rather avoid, is a foreign disaster - Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Suez… The other is seizing electoral opportunities outside Westminster general elections to give us momentum, increased prominence and growing relevance.
The scenes of people trying to cross the Channel demand urgent action. They also show that the Government's approach isn't working.
in her two years as Home Secretary, Priti Patel has only made the problem worse."
These crossings are incredibly dangerous - as demonstrated so tragically by the deaths of 27 people when their dinghy sank two weeks ago. They line the pockets of the criminal gangs engaged in people smuggling and human trafficking. And they undermine public confidence in our whole immigration system.
When I arrived in London as a teenager, Sir John Major was Prime Minister. I felt a connection with the City. My political views formed, firstly at university, and later whilst living in Islington. I joined the Liberal Democrats.
I was honoured to be elected as the Lead London Regional Diversity Champion. I continuously help to increase participation and engagement within our inclusion and diversity teams. I am vocal within Liberal Democrats Members to help represent those underrepresented in the UK Politics. In 2020 I founded the national BLAC Liberal Democrats (Blac Lives Action Committee) with the mission to make heard the voice of Black members within the Party.
I know already you are as keen as I am to improve the experience of people from under-represented groups within the party, particularly people who are not White. May I
thank you now for your excellent attitude, for listening closely to my suggestions on what to do. The improvements are immediately noticeable. Please keep going.
I want to help provide a platform for better training and promote a programme that supports ethnic minority members to develop their potential, so they are competently able to stand for external and internal elections of office;
I want to see established an attractive and resilient message that helps to build a strong foundation for the Liberal Democrats to engage in Ethnic Minority communities;
Within the party, I want to establish a better understanding of Ethnic minority issues on housing, education, LGBT+, heath, crime, etc. This will allow us to better serve the ethnic minority communities at a national and local level.
As a former Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, I have seen prejudice close-up, within British politics and, sadly, within our party. And I know that I'm not the only one. My experience led me to take time to reflect and then, at Harvard, I learnt from world leaders on race equality, collaborative working, and leadership. I want to translate my experience and learning into change for our party in the UK. As a starting point, we must implement the Alderdice Review recommendations.
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