We need to step up, urgently

I’m the son of immigrants, one parent from Germany, the other from Poland. My own family history is in miniature the troubled history of Europe in the previous two centuries, scarred by the horrors of extremism, despotism and war – and then my parents making a new home together in our country.

It’s why for me our liberal democracy, despite all its many flaws, is so precious. We need to step up to protect against the extremists and populists.

To do that, we need to build a grassroots liberal movement, mobilising those millions who share our values. With such a movement we can continue our successes this year in taking more power – the legal, legitimate way – through campaigning and through winning elections.

Winning elections at every level gives us more of that precious political power to stop Brexit, to protect our planet, to heal the divisions in our society and to meet the needs of our local communities.

That’s why winning is so important – and that’s why I’ve put helping you win at the heart of my pitch to be your next President.

The key task for the next President is to ensure we have the right strategy and the right organisation to win, bigger and better than ever before – in local government, in the London Assembly, in the Welsh and Scottish governments, in Westminster and in future European elections too.

That’s a task well-suited to my record and my skills:

  • Creating with David Howarth the core votes strategy that has underpinned our recovery since 2015
  • Co-author of the party’s handbook for general election agents
  • Successfully championing a new registered supporter scheme, now in place, growing and successful
  • Supporting the group doing the hard graft on important reforms to our disciplinary process, getting an improved, streamlined and independent system in place
  • Working with colleagues to introduce gender-balanced selection rules when the London Assembly was created, ensuring we took positive steps to improve our diversity
  • Always listening to and informing members, running the best-read Liberal Democrat website outside HQ and sending nearly 2 million emails in the last year alone to keep supporters informed about what the party is doing, why it is doing it – and how to get involved in influencing it
  • And many other examples, based on my detailed knowledge and long experience of how the party works

It is, to borrow one of our favourite phrases, a record of action… and a promise of more.

Previous Presidents have varied how they do the job depending on the needs of the time. Right now, we’ve got a brilliant new leader, deputy leader, a growing Parliamentary Party and soon, fingers crossed, a great new generation of MPs too.

So the best use of the role of President isn’t to duplicate their media and public efforts. Rather, it is to support them, getting the strategy and organisation right to give them – and the rest of the party – the very best chances to succeed.

The President definitely needs to be wheeled out in the media to take the flack when things go wrong. I’ve got plenty of experience of surviving trial by media, whether it was Channel 4 grilling me over a Lib Dem minister up on police charges, the early morning rigours of doing Radio 4’s Today programme, getting interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight or surviving the questioning of Andrew Neill on the BBC.

Understanding how to handle a crisis is also what I do professionally, advising everyone from small charities through to large international companies not only on how to get the media strategy right but also how to get all those other key parts of crisis handling right, such as internal communications.

What I can also be is a President who keeps us focused on what will bring long-term success for us in elections at all levels.

Our federal party HQ, understandably, gets drawn in to focusing tightly on the next Westminster general election. But for success we need to think broader – remembering all those other elections and campaigns which matter too – and we need to think longer-term – remembering that there will be general election after the next one too.

That’s what we most need from our next President. A relentless focus on getting our strategy and organisation right to succeed at all levels, tomorrow and in the long-run.

That’s what I can offer. If you elect me, I’ll switch to working part-time and this will be my only role in the party. My task will be a very clear: to help you win.

With your support, we’ll be able to achieve so much more together.

Thank you and best wishes,


P.S. If you agree with this vision for our party and for our next President, please sign up to support my campaign at markpack.org.uk/president.