Whoever you are, the Liberal Democrats will stand up for you.

The Liberal Democrats are working hard to tackle the big issues that people are facing across the UK.

✔︎ Ensuring a properly resourced NHS, to provide the highest quality care for our loved ones

✔︎ Fighting to reverse police cuts, to protect our communities from violent crime

✔︎ Protecting our environment. We’ve already done more to fight the climate emergency than any other party

✔︎ Building high-quality, reliable public transport links across the UK

✔︎ Investing in world-class education, to give our children the best start possible in life

We want to see an open, inclusive, outward-looking and optimistic United Kingdom.

That’s who we are. That is what we will be. And that is the future we will build.

If those are your values too, why not join us today?

Taking the ‘Time to Change’ pledge

The first time you go canvassing can feel daunting. For many people, going up to a stranger’s door, knocking, and starting a conversation isn’t something they do every day. They don’t often ask people about how they want things to change, in their neighbourhood or across the country as a whole.

More than 1 in 4 of us will experience depression, anxiety or stress this year. Almost every family will be affected.

But with practice and repetition, what may have initially seemed like an odd thing to do begins to feel natural. And even fun. It turns out that many people like being asked about their opinions, especially by someone who clearly cares, is open to listening and taking them seriously.

As a political party, we help people take the plunge into canvassing with a range of support. We often send you out with a more experienced volunteer, give you a ‘script’ of questions to ask, and for your first time will probably send you to a street that’s supportive and friendly.

We need to do the same with conversations about mental health. More than 1 in 4 of us will experience depression, anxiety or stress this year. Almost every family will be affected. And we know that talking helps.

We want to make it easier for everyone involved with the Liberal Democrats to talk about mental health, and feel ok about doing so.

But for too many of us, it’s hard to know how to have that conversation. It feels different to talking about other kinds of being unwell. We worry that it will be awkward or unwelcome. And we don’t want to make things worse, even if we suspect someone is struggling.

Research shows that asking and having conversations about mental health – openly in the workplace and elsewhere – makes a big difference. That’s why we’re backing the ‘Time to Change’ pledge along with many other like-minded organisations. We want to make it easier for everyone involved with the Liberal Democrats to talk about mental health, and feel ok about doing so.

Over the next year we’ll be championing good mental health in what we do. Some of that will be in our campaigning work, some will be in offering better mental health services in local government, and some will be in our work as an employer, and some in how we support volunteers.

Find out more by visiting the Time to Change website.

Getting our finances right – report back from February board meeting

At our latest meeting, the Federal Board welcomed our newest member, Lisa Smart, who has been elected the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC), taking over from James Gurling. Welcome on board, Lisa!

We also welcomed back to the Board Tony Harris as Registered Treasurer and chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) and Mike German as Federal Treasurer.

Details of the outcome of elections for other key posts around the party are available on the party website. Congratulations to everyone elected and thank you also to everyone else who applied, helping to give us a strong set of names to choose from.

After our January Board meeting agreed the timings and got the ball rolling on key elements for our success this year, such as an independent elections review and our leadership election, the Board concentrated this time in particular on the Federal Party’s budget.

We’re rightly focused on ensuring we improve how we operate on your behalf

To give some context, overall our income in 2020 will be around £6.5 million, which compares with £34 million for the Conservatives and £46 million for Labour in 2018.

After the surge in spending and staffing in the immediate run-up to the general election, the Board agreed that this year we need to return to a long-term sustainable level of staffing and expenditure. This means day-to-day spending matching income from members, donors and grants, with any surplus from last year ring-fenced to allow us to implement recommendations from the independent elections review and for one-off projects focused on transforming our capabilities.

While moving towards balancing of day-to-day spending, between our two Board meetings we’ve also agreed to prioritise certain key areas:

  • Staffing the independent elections review so that it can do the effective job we need;
  • Doubling the Federal Party’s contribution to the May local elections;
  • Enhancing membership recruitment and retention via a project to improve how we look after members and supporters;
  • Creating a new fund to support diversity projects;
  • Supporting the Welsh Party as they gear up for the Senedd elections coming in 2021;.
  • Looking after our staff: for several years, staff pay has been frozen (real-terms pay cuts), which won’t be continued in 2020; and
  • Increasing our long-term income by investing in membership recruitment around the leadership election and in boosting legacy income.

The choice of these priorities is all driven by our overall party strategy, as agreed at conference. We will start the process of reviewing and updating this later this year.

We also agreed a raft of updates to how the Board runs its own business, such as our conflicts of interest policy and our standing orders. These sorts of items are rarely top of anyone’s priority list but they’re an important step in ensuring the Board does its work to the standards members rightly should expect of us. If we make decisions badly, it’s members who bear the brunt – and that’s why we’re rightly focused on ensuring we improve how we operate on your behalf.

Our letter to Boris Johnson calling for an end to BBC attacks

Today, Ed Davey and I have written to the Prime Minister, calling for him to reverse plans to scrap the BBC licence fee.

The British Press is by no means without criticism, but at its best, the BBC remains a beacon of independent journalism as well as high-quality entertainment. That’s why Liberal Democrats will fight tooth and nail to save it. Read our letter in full below:

Dear Boris,

We were dismayed to see on Sunday morning your government make yet another attack on the BBC with the reported plans to scrap the TV licence and make the British public pay a TV subscription fee instead.

This was not in your manifesto and appears to be yet another thinly veiled step in your government’s efforts to undermine and thereby dismantle the BBC.

Dominic Cummings has previously described the BBC as the “mortal enemy” of the Conservative Party.

The fact that Ministers are already consulting on plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee from 2022, having so recently dismissed this option in a government review just 5 years ago, is yet more evidence that these plans are not sensible, considered reforms, but a deliberate and sustained attack led by one of your closest advisors, Dominic Cummings.

Mr Cummings has previously described the BBC as the “mortal enemy” of the Conservative Party. Of course, the BBC is not perfect, and all political parties have their gripes with the broadcaster. However, this does not justify the sustained attempts to undermine and hamper the BBC as we see your government doing time and again.

Whatever its faults, the BBC strives to provide impartial journalism and a platform for different views. In depriving them of funds your government is not only obstructing their ability to invest in British talent, but risking putting TV content into the hands of US corporates. The BBC is one of the four most internationally recognised British brands and is incredibly important as an influential tool abroad.

Under the Tories’ plans, the fee for viewing the BBC could at least double compared to the cost of the licence fee.

That is why these announced plans are so alarming. Any civil system will mean a higher cost of collection and will also likely lead to higher evasion rates and higher penalties. These plans will cost the BBC hundreds of millions of pounds and if you pursue the subscription model, the fee for viewing the BBC could at least double compared to the cost of the licence fee. The losers will be the British public.

We believe that the TV licence fee should be set independently so the BBC can be truly independent of politicians of all colours and should be structured so those less able to pay are treated fairly.

The plans you have set out were not in your manifesto and therefore you have no mandate to pursue them. We write in the hope you will consider our concerns and act accordingly in keeping the BBC licence fee.

We look forward to a swift response.

Your sincerely,

Ed Davey and Daisy Cooper

Meet your Election Review Team

Last month, the Chair of the Election Review, Dorothy Thornhill, was announced. Now, we’re pleased to be able to announce the full review team.

They bring a wide range of skills and experience, in the party and outside to the review and will help the Chair ensure the review that is conducted is thorough.

Meet the team:

Carole Ford

I joined in 2015 and since then have stood as a council, Scottish parliament and GE candidate. I am the Scottish spokesperson on Children and Young People, and the national Policy Convener

Rhys Taylor

I’ve been a member of the party since 2008, elected as a councillor in 2017 and have previously been a candidate for Welsh Assembly elections and was a candidate in the December election

Annelou Van Egmond

Responsible for strategy, operations and finance which grew vote share from 2% to over 15% for political party Democrats 66 (The Netherlands) . Since 2017 Vice-President of ALDE, supporting member parties while preparing for their campaigns through training and sharing of good practices & data, and runs a strategic communication company that specialising in spokesmanship for cabinet ministers and CEO’s.

Juergen Maier

Former CEO of Siemens UK. UK Industrialist and Government adviser. NED for the Department of BEIS under Vince Cable’s leadership 2014-16. Strong liberal values and responsible capitalist. Passionate about innovation led frontier industries leading a new prosperity revolution for our regions.

Ben Goodwin

Stood as Broadland PPC in 2019. 17 years in the RAF, a fighter pilot with stints at the top level of the Ministry of Defence and NATO as a military assistant to the most senior military officer in both organisations.

Justin Ash

A long time Liberal Democrat member and financial supporter with wide ranging experience across a number of businesses.

David Howarth

joined the party in the 1970s, became a councillor, leader of the council, MP, and Electoral Commissioner, and is, professionally, Professor of Law and Public Policy at Cambridge

Roderick Lynch

I came to the party in 2004 out of admiration of the work of Jonathon Hunt & Simon Hughes MP were doing in the London Borough of Southwark. Stood for Council elections in 2010. Nationally recognised Entrepreneur Businessman and Non Exec. Been a local activist and donor. Chair of LDCRE fighting race inequality & diversity. LIB Dem FASC auditor. BAME Liberal to the core

Sara Bedford

A member and activist since student days 35 years ago, I have held posts at all levels of the party. I ‘m now the Leader of Three Rivers District Council and a ‘home and away’ campaigner

Steve Jolly

I joined the party (eventually) in 1998 and since then have had a myriad of roles, from deliverer, to branch chair to Head of National Campaigns for the Federal Party. Whilst I have been a paid staffer over the years, I’m now very much a volunteer activist

Helena Cole

I grew up in a Lib Dem household delivering my first Focus at 4, stood for Parliament in 2000 and am currently the Chair of FASC. Outside politics I am Finance Director in the defence industry with 20 years experience in accountancy.

Andrew Stunell

Gained a seat on 3 different councils, ran ALDC for 8 years, candidate in 8 general elections, winning 4, and in 2019 did posters, leaflets and door-knocking in a target seat. Election geek from the analogue age

Shaffaq Mohammed

Shaffaq Mohammed – Former PPC, Leader of the Lib Dem’s on Sheffield City Council, Councillor for Ecclesall ward in Sheffield Hallam. Qualified Youth Worker in Sheffield, helping young people into education and employment in some of the most deprived areas of the city. Former Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber 2019-2020

Dorothy Thornhill

I have been Party member since 1987, became Cllr, elected mayor, peer but have always regarded myself as a campaigner and not a party insider!

Elizabeth Desmond

I am relatively new to politics having joined the party in 2016. In my day job, I am a business person and Deputy CEO of a global investment management business. Since joining, I have supported the HQ fundraising effort and campaigned locally for my PPC in the last two elections.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

That’s the saying I live my life by, because taking action is the only way to change things in this world, and bugger me this world needs some change.

That saying has led me to a lot of places. I joined the party, started delivering leaflets, knocked on doors, stood for council and stood for parliament because I needed to act.

Last week I received a call at home. I’d been fighting for a blue disabled parking badge for a local man with a hidden disability. He’d filled in all the forms, the reply came back, “Sorry, computer says no…” He’d complained, the reply still came back, “Sorry the computer still says no.” Then something that happens up and down our country happened to him. Someone pushed a Liberal Democrat leaflet through his door. In Pantone 1235c on the back in 3cm high letters he read ‘How can we help you?’ He jotted down his details and his problem. A fortnight later he has his pass. He told me it will be life changing. His wife was in tears.

This isn’t unique.

This is what we, all of us, do.

This is why we should be proud.

This is liberalism in the real world and it’s what makes us special.

For 30 years we Liberal Democrats have had the best manifesto but won too few seats. For 30 years we’ve been right on the big issues of the day. For 30 years we’ve worked and we won’t stop now but it is time we made a change…

The last General Election was a failure. For those successes we claim we must also claim our failures. So if you like me want to make a change it’s time to take the next step in our journey.

For me that means a new role as Chair of FCEC (Federal Communications and Elections Committee). It’s the party committee that oversees campaigns and communications and its primary goal is to get more Liberal Democrats elected.

I can hear your sarcasm from here, “a committee, that’ll solve it”. Maybe you’re right. But maybe you’re not. You see I know that we have an army of committed brilliant members and volunteers. I know we have a talented staff team too. I know we’re right to fight for what we believe in and deliver it every day to our communities. I know that you can win, but you need the tools to help your team.

We have fewer than 80 days to local election polling day, I want you to be out every week like I will be on the doorstep, fighting to win and getting more Liberal Democrats elected.

Lisa Smart is a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Stockport, Parliamentary Candidate for Hazel Grove and the newly elected Chair of FCEC.

The spring conference motions – explained

Is a full programme of training, events, networking and parties not enough for you? At spring conference this year we have a huge package of policy motions, which all members have the chance to debate, amend and vote on. Here’s a quick run-down for you! And if you haven’t yet, book your place right here:

Book now →

F4 – Hong Kong

This motion introduces new party policy on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. It calls for:

  • Extending of the right to abode to all British National (Overseas) citizens
  • The government to use its relationship with China to persuade Beijing to not end the protests through military force
  • An indefinite suspension of export licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong.

Read the full motion here

F6 – Children’s Social Care

(England only)

This motion updates party policy on children’s social care. It calls for:

  • Extra funding for children’s social care
  • Higher priority for looked-after children in the education system
  • More care places for children who need it
  • A new scheme to help older looked-after children find accommodation to transfer into when they are ready to live independently
  • The government to review allowances and pay for foster carers
  • An exploration into whether an allowance scheme for kinship carers (who look after children of their relatives) should be set up
  • A national workforce strategy for social workers and children’s home managers

Read the full motion here

F8 – Electoral Reform

This motion updates party policy on electoral reform. It calls for:

  • The use of Single Transferable Vote as the voting system for all Parliamentary elections and English local elections
  • The voting age to be lowered to 16
  • The rights of EU citizens to stand and vote in local elections to be protected, and extended to general elections when they’ve lived here for 5+ years
  • The use of Alternative Vote for elections to single positions like directly-elected mayors in England
  • The scrapping of voter ID law plans
  • A legal requirement for local authorities to inform citizens of the steps required to be successfully registered to vote. This includes a far greater effort to register under-represented groups

Read the full motion here

F13 – Supporting The Trans and Non-Binary Communities within the Liberal Democrats

This is a business motion (one that deals with how the party works internally). It seeks to improve accessibility to Liberal Democrat events for trans and non-binary people and protect their rights by:

  • Requiring Lib Dem HQ and all conference venues (Federal and Regional) to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom
  • The option to have your preferred pronouns on your conference pass
  • The option to include your preferred pronouns on speaker’s cards
  • Training for presenters at party events on how to avoid unnecessarily gendered language

Read the full motion here

F16 – Welcoming Child Refugees

This motion calls on the Government to fulfil its existing obligations to provide sanctuary to child refugees, as well as to:

  • Extend family reunion rights so child refugees in the UK can sponsor family members to join them
  • Provide specialist legal advice for all child asylum seekers
  • Resettle 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from elsewhere in Europe over the next 10 years

Read the full motion here

F17 – Student Mental Health Charter

(England only)

This motion calls on the Government to legislate for universities to ensure a strong provision of mental health support for students by:

  • Developing a Student Mental Health Charter for universities in consultation with students, universities and mental health charities
  • Including in the Charter guaranteed access to quality mental health support and the recording and reporting of waiting times
  • Ensuring all universities have the aim to reach zero suicide

Read the full motion here

Not all your recycling is actually being recycled

When a person puts their empty plastic bottle in a recycling bin, they understandably assume it gets recycled.

When I was the Cabinet member for the environment on Rochdale council, and when we sent our paper and cardboard to be recycled, we knew it had new lives as cardboard inserts to kitchen roll.

The plastic bag tax introduced by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government was hugely successful, but it was only ever intended to be the first step.

However, this is not always the case.

Far too often our waste, including recyclable items, are sold to private contractors who can incinerate or export waste to unregulated facilities.

We’ve all become aware of the devastating effect that plastic pollution is having on our oceans.

This isn’t the fault of our cash-strapped councils, who need to balance good waste management with ever-decreasing funding from the government.

The plastic bag tax introduced by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government was hugely successful, but it was only ever intended to be the first step. Across the country people are making a real effort to reduce their waste – they want to recycle properly and stop polluting our environment. We need to have a clear way of tracking waste to make sure that rubbish does not end up in our ocean.

This country needs the government to put greater investment into recycling infrastructure so that more of our waste can be recycled, without the need to export or burn it.

We also need policies which prioritise waste prevention – the end game of all sustainable waste management strategies.

Whilst the Tories talk the talk about protecting the environment, I do not think they will take the urgent action necessary to tackle the climate emergency. Achieving a zero-waste economy is crucial to transitioning to net-zero carbon emissions.

This Tory government needs to take the climate emergency seriously – and that includes action to achieve a zero-waste economy.

One key change I want to see is for greater transparency around what happens to our waste. Each of us should be able to find out exactly what happens to the stuff we put in our bins.

When the Environment Bill returns to parliament, I will be tabling an amendment which would mean Local Authorities must trace and publish the end destination of all their waste.

This will be an important change to the law – ensuring that waste is not ending up dumped in rivers.

Many of our fantastic Liberal Democrat councils already publish what they do with their waste and where it ends up. I want this to be standard practice across the country.

Over the last few weeks, I have had conversations with Liberal Democrat council leaders and have been impressed to hear about the plans they’ve laid out to transition their councils to net-zero.

This Tory government needs to take the climate emergency seriously – and that includes action to achieve a zero-waste economy.

Transparency in where our waste ends up is only one step but combined with real investment from the government in recycling infrastructure, we could put an end to the dumping of plastics in rivers and oceans.

Losing a parent can be devastating

When my dad died, my mum was left with three boys under the age of ten. At age four, I remember her going to pick up her widow’s pension every other week. It was a lifeline for her and for us. It helped her adjust, and to take good care of my brothers and I.

For any family, losing a parent can be devastating not just emotionally, but financially too. My family weren’t particularly poor, but I still don’t know what we’d have done without that support.

Bereavement Support Payments are supposed to help families adjust to life after the tragedy of losing a parent.

From my own experience, and from working with my constituents and nationwide bereavement charities, I know how overwhelming it can be to suddenly find yourself a single parent. You have sole responsibility of putting food on the table and paying for childcare while dealing with your own grief. Add to this the needs of grieving children, such as specialist counselling, and an overwhelming financial burden is placed on families needing breathing room to heal.

.@EdwardJDavey secures Boris Johnson’s commitment to look into the injustice surrounding Bereavement Support Payments, where grieving children are not entitled to support if their parents are unmarried. #PMQspic.twitter.com/8yBNJIgKUz

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) February 12, 2020

Bereavement Support Payments are supposed to help families adjust to life after the tragedy of losing a parent. Yet for 2,000 families a year, the law says they aren’t entitled to this support, because the parents weren’t married.

With cohabiting couples being the fastest growing family type in the UK, how many more children need to suffer before the Government takes action?

Last week the High Court ruled that the difference in Bereavement Support Payments between married and cohabiting couples is a breach of children’s human rights. In 2018, the Supreme Court made a similar ruling.

Today, I asked the Prime Minister to make sure that all grieving children are supported, whether their parents were married or not.

Enough is enough. Today, I asked the Prime Minister to legislate to respond to both rulings, and make sure that all grieving children are supported, whether their parents were married or not.

I am pleased that Boris Johnson has agreed to look into the issue, and I hope that his Government will legislate to make sure that no child is left without the support they need.

My campaigning priorities

The tiniest of silver linings in that of the Tory majority and the near enough certainty that this Parliament will sit for at least the next four years, is that we now have time to be strategic. We have time to plan.

The fact that our leadership race will not take place until the summer also allows us time to pause, reflect, and consider what we need going forward.

How do we reconnect with the voters and who will be the right person to do that for us?

We have had some spectacularly good leaders, but the next will also have to be someone special to break the cycle in which we find ourselves trapped.

They will need Tim’s ability to hold and inspire a crowd.

The current law on assisted dying offers no dignity, choice or compassion to those in the final stage of their life.

Jo’s steely determination and vision.

But most of all they will need something of that particular gift which both Paddy and Charles had in spades. Empathy.

That indefinable ability to connect with people on a level that says: “I understand, I know, I appreciate what you are going through and I’ll do my damnedest to fix it”.

Over the next few months we will have the time and space for that leader to emerge.

In the meantime I will concentrate on three progressive, liberal campaigns that will make a real difference to peoples’ lives.

This first is to push for a change in the law on assisted dying.

The current law offers no dignity, choice or compassion to those in the final stage of their life. It also criminalises family members who support their loved one’s wishes.

We often pride ourselves on how far have come as a liberal, progressive society that treats everyone with compassion and equality. But, at the end of their lives, we’re letting them down.

The prescription of medicinal cannabis is legal but many sufferers of pain are still not getting easy access to the relief they need.

Then there is cannabis.

The prescription of medicinal cannabis is legal. It was hard won, but the law remains so overly rigid and ambiguous that many sufferers of pain are still not getting easy access to the relief they need.

The only way to properly solve this is to introduce a legal, regulated market for cannabis.

This would also protect young people, free up precious police time by breaking the grip of criminal gangs and raise an estimated £1.5bn, which could be used to treat addiction and fight crime.

A common sense, grown up and evidence-based policy that would radically change the lives of thousands of people.

Just like changing the law to allow asylum seekers the right to work while waiting for their applications to be processed.

A simple change in the law would help the economy and, more importantly, allow people who have risked everything the opportunity contribute fully to our society, and give them the dignity they deserve.

They are liberal, radical and what we need.