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Setting out our vision for the country

September 12, 2021 1:00 PM
By Mark Pack
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Setting out our vision for the country

Our September Federal Conference has a key trio of debates on our vision for a Liberal Democratic society, our overall policy platform and the strategy to give us the political power to achieve those aims.

Having spent the first part of this Parliament fixing many of the practical organisational issues that caused so many problems in the 2019 general election, we now need to shift up a gear to get the external aspects right too. Sarah Green's victory in Chesham and Amersham is a wonderfully inspiring example of what we can achieve when we get this right. The challenge is now to do that across the country.

It's promising that we've seen a sustained boost in our opinion poll ratings since Sarah's victory (up from 7% on average this year before her victory to 9% since). There's also been a noticeable increase in our local council by-election performances since Sarah's victory and the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions on local campaigning. Local factors mean it's rarely wise to read too much into any one result, but the volume of by-elections - and their spread around the country - now means we look at that improvement with confidence that it's real.

So we can also approach these conference debates with confidence about our potential - as long as we continue to up our game.

Improving people's experience of being a member

Our party is our membership. Giving people a good experience is crucial for growing, retaining and encouraging people to be active in our party. And enabling individuals to create the change they want to see in the world is at the heart of our liberal philosophy.

To help get our plans right for this, the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) is doing telephone research calls to understand the perspectives of ordinary members on what works and what doesn't. If the random selector picks you out for a call, please do take part - and if you have time to volunteer to help make the calls, let me know and I can put you in touch.

Alongside this, a variety of ideas are starting to be piloted, such as new ways of recruiting canvassed Lib Dems as members, a new quarterly cycle of briefing and feedback video calls for all local party officers, and the special £1 registration fee for first-timers at Federal Conference. I'm also very happy to hear any suggestions from you.

Bonus payments to local parties for recruiting new members

Recruiting members is central to our long term success, and that's why there are bonus payments available to local parties that do recruitment work.

A local party can qualify for a bonus payment by:

If a member renews another way, but it was the result of your activity locally, then you can still claim them, by emailing [email protected] with some evidence of your activity.

The bonus payments are worked out for new members as:

The first time you renew a member locally, you'll get 100% of their subscription if they renew by direct debit, or 50% if they renew using another payment method.

Next year's budget

At the heart of our September Federal Board meeting was a review of progress on implementing the Thornhill Review into the 2019 general election along with budget priorities for next year. The review is continuing to guide our work. It's not just been put on a shelf and forgotten.

Across the charity and not for profit sector, fundraising has taken a big hit due to coronavirus, and our finances similarly will be challenging next year. We are looking hard at ways to raise income and where money can be saved. There will be some tough decisions to make, but there's a clear focus that the long-term solution is for us to grow and be more successful - as that's what fuels income.

We're trying to draw up the Federal Party's budget in a much more joined-up way with the three state parties and ALDC, given the big inter-dependencies between all of our budgets. The process this year is definitely a big improvement from last year, but there's more work to be done to improve it for future years.

In our other work, the Board discussed how to accelerate the improvements made to internal communications in the last year. My common experience when doing Zoom calls with local parties is that very often the things people say they wish to hear more about are also the very same things people elsewhere in the party are trying to communicate. We need to find ways to close that frustrating gap - and I'd encourage everyone in particular to look out for the monthly email newsletter that goes out from the party.

We also agreed further improvements in the way we fill volunteer posts in the Federal Party, making sure that we've got a clear set of default processes so that we head off controversies over whether there should be a hustings for a particular post elected by the Board.

Do keep an eye on the jobs section on the party website as that is where key volunteer roles appear as well as paid-for jobs.

Our new HQ is up and running

Over the summer the party completed its move out of the Great George Street offices in London. Our new offices are at 1 Vincent Square, London, SW1 2PN - and they are much nicer than the old ones. As well as being a lot cheaper, these new offices give staff and volunteers the sort of space they need to do their work well.

One of the reasons the new offices are smaller is that many more of the Federal Party's staff are now based around the country. In fact, less than half of our staff team live within an hour or less of London. That's good for tapping a wider range of skills and also good for helping ensure we don't end up caught in a Westminster-centric mindset.

(Post is being forwarded so there is no problem with using old materials that have the Great George Street address.)

Congratulations to…

Callum Robertston has been elected by the Federal Board to be a voting member of the Liberal International Executive, filling the vacancy left after Jonathan Fryer passed away. Lisa-Maria Bornemann has been elected to the Federal Board following a recount of the votes after Anita Lower passed away earlier this year. Lisa-Maria was previously an English Party representative on the Board, so she will be replaced in that role by the English Party.