A new year, a new committee and a new chair. However this first meeting of the English Lib Dem Executive will be a surprisingly short one. First, with many of the other party bodies having taken a rest over Christmas and the New Year, and even more so this year given the membership of most regional and federal committees having only just been elected, it’s been a fairly quiet time. Secondly though, and more significantly from an English Lib Dem point of view, this meeting of the English Executive is being condensed in to the first half of the day so that the English Review Group, which is considering how the party should be structured in England, can meet in the afternoon. I explained the process of the English Review Group in my report on December’s English Council and so I won’t run through it again, but essentially this get together today will be a facilitated discussion that will come up with a set of options that will be put to the members for discussion over the coming months and which will then be turned in to some more concrete options in time for the next English Council in June. The membership of the English Review Group (of which I am one) is one person from each English region and amongst this membership are a range of opinions on how things are best structured in the future from complete abolition to a variation on the current structure. I don’t think there’s anyone however who believes things should remain exactly as they are. It should be an interesting discussion.
One decision that will also be made at this first meeting of the English Executive is the membership of the English party’s sub-committees and the election of some of its other officers. I will provide a full list of these in the comments below this post after the meeting. That will also allow me to post the names of the new regional chairs as a few of these have changed this year and I don’t know the names of them all yet and all regional chairs are ex officio members of the English Executive.
Here, however, are a few (perhaps a few too many) bullet points from the reports that have come to today’s English Executive meeting:
- The party’s new Federal Board (which has replaced the Federal Executive) has had an away day to develop the party’s strategy. If you want to influence how the party is run over the next three years then there’s probably never been a better time to do it.
- Tim Farron has stated an aim to have 100,000 party members (at the end of 2016 the membership in England was 70,579 – the highest for well over a decade following floods of new members after the General Election, EU Referendum and Trump’s election). Recruiting and retaining these members will need significant support from regional parties, especially in the less active local parties. The party’s recent success with digital communications in by-elections has shown how much more the party can do on this front in other levels of the party although direct human contact is still vital.
- Compliance with election and political funding laws and with party membership rules is becoming increasingly complex and although many of the more difficult cases are handled at state level and by Federal party staff, regions are increasingly needed to give a lot of support to the process. The Electoral Commission fine was discussed in some detail by the Federal Board, although I’m not able to share any further details.
- The party has appointed regional spokespeople on Brexit. Whilst the individuals appointed have been largely welcomed, there has been some unhappiness that the first most regional parties knew of it was when they were mentioned in an article on Lib Dem Voice. A personal aside from me – I remain convinced that most of the problems or upset in the party come from people simply not talking to each other about something.
- The Federal Board has a number of vacancies to fill. More details here.
- The budget for the party’s G8 scheme which helps give financial support for campaigning at a local level has been given a one-off increase this year given the scale of next year’s English county and Scottish and Welsh local elections. Most of the money is being targeted at gains. In recent years G8 has also helped subsidise the excellent (I can say that now without being biased) Kickstart training weekends organised by ALDC, and this year the September weekend will be moved to July to give people even more of a head start for their 2018 and 2019 elections.
- The English Candidates’ Committee (ECC) would like regions to make available via regional newsletters etc. more information on the candidates process and how it will proceed once the current snap General Election candidates cease to be candidates in May. In particular there remains a need for more returning officers, assessors, facilitators and candidates themselves. Regions will also have a very busy 2017 considering areas such as the party’s diversity requirements and how this relates to specific seats, candidate compacts and boundary changes.
- ECC is considering how decisions on a snap General Election are communicated in the future. This time around a decision to put in candidates was made at Federal level which then had to be implemented by the state and regional parties, but there was considerable upset in some areas on how this was done.
- ECC is also grappling with the issue of how the party handles the seat where the Speaker is an MP as by convention this isn’t fought by the main parties (some people would like a rule that the party never stands in that seat, whereas others think it should be contested), how candidates get updated information on party policy and whether there should be a representative of party candidates who live abroad as others are co-ordinated either by their state or regional party which doesn’t apply to overseas members.
- Federal Policy Committee (FPC) has adopted standing orders for the first time and will also now be doing a regular report back on its activities following each meeting.
- FPC recently considered the proposals to have emerged from the party’s Nuclear Weapons Policy Working Group, and these will be going to Spring Conference. It is also creating a new group on Immigration and Identity. There will also be a motion going to conference on faith schools which it is felt to be a significant enough issue on its own to not be subsumed in to any policy papers on education in general.
- There is a proposal to this meeting of the English Executive that there should be a newsletter to members in England to include regional reports, candidate news, a financial update and simple information from the party within England.
Finally, I try and write these posts in as comprehensive and timely a fashion as possible and update anything I’ve said in them or that emerged at the meeting via the comments section below. Sometimes however life gets in the way of this and even though these posts can at times feel far too lengthy I’m happy to give more detail where I know it if I’m contacted directly (there’s a contact form on this blog). Where I don’t know an answer then I can put party members in touch with someone who does. Don’t forget there’s also a section on the members’ section of the Liberal Democrat website that includes reports and notes from party meetings at Federal and English level.