The latest news stories from the Liberal Democrats nationally.


  • Nov 24, 2020:
    • The Government must commit real funding to resettle vulnerable refugees

      We must do all we can to protect people forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution.

      That's why, back in September, all Liberal Democrat MPs wrote to the Chancellor and Home Secretary calling for a new long-term commitment to resettle vulnerable refugees in the UK.

      The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need.

  • Nov 22, 2020:
    • Policy planning 2021

      This week FPC met with an unusually light-looking agenda but we still managed to talk for two and half hours! We received an excellent presentation from Mimi Turner, Director of Strategy, Messaging and Research. Mimi talked us through the scale of the task ahead of us in terms of understanding how the Party fares when voters are asked whether we share their values; whether we'll do what we say; whether we're perceived as wanting to help ordinary people get on in life; and whether they see us as competent and capable.

      Mimi explained that by segmenting voters and targeting certain groups, we are missing the opportunity to speak to millions of voters. From a policy perspective, our role is to develop distinctive policies on the issues that matter most in terms of improving people's lives and that resonate in our target seats. Easy, right?! Well I don't think any of us underestimates the scale of the task head but we're certainly up for it.

      FPC work programme

      FPC members found the presentation very useful as we went on to discuss our current and future work programme in the context of Mimi's analysis and thoughts on future strategy. We have a number of pieces of work underway at the moment - a mixture of pieces looking at the bigger picture, some high profile issues that we've been tasked with looking at, and some specifics where we hope to bring forward some appealing policy proposals:

      Nature of Public Debate - planned for Spring 2021

      Making Utilities Work Better for the Public - planned for Spring 2021

      Federal England - aiming for Spring 2021, with the group working fast since autumn conference

      Natural Resources and the Natural Environment - planned for Autumn 2021

      Liberal Democrat Principles and Values - planned for Autumn 2021

      Universal Basic Income - planned for Autumn 2021

      Carbon Pricing - (a sub-group of the former climate change working group) - planned for Autumn 2021

      Themes Paper - (building on the World After Coronavirus consultation) - planned for Autumn 2021

      The themes paper will act as a pre-manifesto and messaging document but also help us to set out where we need to do further policy development work between 2022 and the next General Election. We agreed that we need to make sure we are planning future pieces of work in good time. One piece of work we have already agreed to undertake is a focus on carers.

      In discussion we agreed that the Principles and Values and themes paper exercises were excellent opportunities for wide engagement with members, including through SAOs/AOs and regional parties. We discussed the need to integrate and intersectional approach to all of our policy work and there is an opportunity to work with other party bodies to achieve this.

      Brexit

      We were joined by Christine Jardine who outlined the current parliamentary work around Brexit. CJ explained that the situation is changing on a daily basis, and although the UK may secure a last minute trade deal with the EU it's likely to be a very "skinny" deal. The current focus is on protecting Britain's interests and holding the government to account. This includes identifying areas where people will be most impacted, including passport queues, supply of medicines, and pet travel. We also discussed how EU Exit may impact the upcoming elections in May, particularly in Scotland where the Conservatives and SNP each argue for being inside one union and out of another.

      Member engagement

      Over the last fortnight FPC members have been attending regional party conferences to run sessions on policy development and the work of the Committee. Feedback from these sessions has been very positive and a number of common questions have come up including how to access the most up to date policy information easily and how to improve communication and coordination between the regions and FPC (and between S/AOs and FPC).

      On the wider issue of member engagement I will be resurrecting our member engagement sub-group, and I reported back on a very positive meeting Jeremy and I had with Bess Mayhew, the new chair of the Federal People Development Committee, to join up our efforts to support members who want to get more involved with policy work.

      We're also looking forward to seeing the results of the current membership survey (which you should have received from Greg Foster). If you've not already responded, please make sure you do - every response will help inform what we do.

  • Nov 21, 2020:
    • Determined Davey and Moving Forwards to 2021 Elections

      November's meeting opened with a discussion with Ed Davey in which he outlined his plans for the Parliamentary Party going forwards. Collectively we deliberated on how to make sure all parts of the party are collaborating effectively and making best use of Ed's overarching strategy.

      The Moving Forward Programme

      The move to joint-fund staff between Federal, State and Regional parties is paying off and we now have full time Campaign Managers/Regional Development Officers working in every Region, working in cooperation with ALDC and a substantial staff team. Our field capacity is as large as it perhaps has ever been at this stage in a Parliament supporting our campaigns teams on the ground.

      In quarter 3 of 2020 we focussed a lot of our work on mapping seats to the Tiering Strategy to ensure we have a shared understanding across the party of where each of our Local Parties sits. This will help us better target the different kinds of resources we have to get the maximum number of Lib Dems elected in forthcoming elections.

      This isn't the place for a full run-down, but the Tiers are roughly:

      Tier 1 = Advanced - local parties that have won their Westminster / devolved government constituency seat or are genuinely challenging to win it in the current cycle.

      Tier 2 = Moving forward - developed local organisations landing second in Westminster / devolved government level OR are challenging for/have control of their local authority looking to entrench and break into being 'advanced'

      Tier 3 = Developing - local parties with their first bridgehead gains at local authority level and working to expand.

      Tier 4 = Start-up - local parties working to get themselves functioning smoothly and growing.

      The next stage of the work will be helping local parties to draw up their local development plans so that they can progress up the tiers. Each and every seat is an opportunity.

      Pacts with opposition parties

      We discussed the use of pacts and agreed that, in our view, the expected starting point is to always field a full slate of candidates and to not make pacts with opposition parties.

      Naturally, though, where there are exceptional circumstances and strong arguments, pacts can be the right thing. This is especially at local level, where of course FCEC's remit does not extend!

      As a committee of experienced campaigners, we would encourage local parties considering such pacts to work closely with their regions, who do have a remit over agreeing such pacts, and make the most of the support and expertise available to them from the party. We are all pulling in one direction - painting the map gold.

    • The Weekly Whip

      Welcome to the Weekly Whip. Your one-stop shop for Lib Dem Parliamentary updates, covering the week that was and the week to come.

      For up to date information from the Lib Dem Whips Office, follow us on Twitter:β€―@LibDemWhips

  • Nov 19, 2020:
    • Let's give coronavirus heroes the right to stay

      Like the rest of our wonderful NHS and care staff, thousands of people from other countries have been on the frontline throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

      Foreign nationals working in the NHS deserve the right to remain in the UK.

      We cannot thank them enough for the brave and tireless work they are doing in such difficult circumstances and under such intense pressure.

  • Nov 18, 2020:
    • Spring Conference 2021

      Federal Conference Committee met for the morning of Saturday 14 the November 2020. The meeting was designed to pick up on issues that arose from the Autumn Conference feedback meeting that took place in October.

      At the feedback meeting, the FCC had decided that Spring Conference would take place online. We will be using the Hopin platform and conference will operate in a very similar manner to Autumn Conference.

      At that last meeting, we decided on the registration rates, and the rates for the exhibition and fringe for party bodies. We finalised some aspects of those rates at the November meeting.

      The conference deadlines are as follows (all of these are at 1pm):

      - Drafting Advice for motions: 17th December 2020

      - Motions Deadline: 6th January 2021

      - Drafting Advice deadline for amendments: 22nd February 2021

      - Amendments and Emergency Motions deadline: 8th March 2021

      - Appeals deadline: 18th March 2021

      - Spring Conference: 19th to 21st March 2021

      At the November meeting, we also dealt with a few issues that concern Hopin. We noted, for example, that there is to be a 'report user' button added for the future.

      Although Autumn conference was a great success overall, there were some areas that worked better than others. The committee considered in detail how it might make the exhibition more attractive, for example. It had formed a working group beforehand to consider proposals. We will look to provide additional information to exhibitors in advance, we will make sure that chairs plug the exhibition, and specific stands within it on a rotation basis, immediately before auditorium breaks. We will look to hold some VIP tours of the exhibition. We will also try and explain in a video what the exhibition is so that attendees can see in advance. We will also only offer medium and large stands in the future. All of that is designed to get better footfall through the exhibition and to make it more attractive.

      In terms of the fringe, the committee decided to extend the session times from 50 minutes to between 60 and 75 minutes in duration. We will also look to provide more and better information in advance to those running fringes to try and eliminate technical difficulties.

      The committee also considered the conference app and documentation. We noted that, for an online conference, it makes no sense to have a separate Agenda, Conference Extra, and Conference Daily. It would be a lot better if they were merged into one document, and that is what we are going to do for Spring Conference. We will publicise an Agenda containing all of the motions that we have selected. That will be available as a printed document, at an extra cost, should people want it. We will then make available a compendious electronic agenda that contains the motions, the amendments, and all of the questions that we select at the later deadlines. We hope that that will provide an easier, and more user-friendly way of navigating through what we are debating. Because that document will overlap the app to a large extent, we will not be making the app available at Spring Conference.

      We also had a discussion about the conference deadlines. We are looking to simplify the way in which items are submitted after the main motion and amendments deadline. We are hoping to introduce a single type form through which people can communicate with the FCC and the chairs and aides of sessions about, for example, procedural motions, late questions, and points of order. We also looked at where our conference attendees came from in the country and how long they had been members for. There were a number of very long-standing members a conference and a number of very new members. There was a particular bias towards local parties that have a track record of electoral success.

      We look forward to seeing you all at Spring Conference!

    • The Tories' climate plans won't undo the damage of the last five years

      Today the Government announced their Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

      Sadly, it fails to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to the UK's progress on climate change over the past five years.

    • Fighting for equality and inclusion for disabled people everywhere

      Disability History Month is an important opportunity to remember how far we have come in the battle for disability rights and equality.

      There is still a long road ahead to ensure equality and inclusion for disabled people.

      It is also a time to honour those who have led the way forward, defied stereotypes and contributed so much to the success of our country.

      8 November marked the the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

      The act made it illegal for employers and service providers to discriminate against someone because they were disabled. This was a key step in advancing disability rights.

      As a society we have come a long way since then, but we cannot afford to become complacent - there is still a long road ahead to ensure equality and inclusion for disabled people everywhere.

      This year's theme is "access" which highlights continued failures to improve accessibility be it in the physical environment, access to information or services.

      We all benefit when everyone can fully participate in our society.

      We must work to challenge this because we all benefit when everyone can fully participate in our society.

      Finally, I want to thank everyone involved in organising this month's events.

      I wish you all the very best for a successful and thought-provoking Disability History Month.

  • Nov 17, 2020:
    • We cannot stand by as thousands are left homeless this winter

      With coronavirus putting the most vulnerable in our communities at risk, we must ensure no one is left behind.

      2020 has seen a sharp rise in rough sleeping. Without a home to stay in, these people are at a higher risk of catching the virus and have no way to self-isolate.

  • Nov 16, 2020:
    • Liberals Must Fight For Trans Rights

      13 November marks the beginning of Trans Awareness Week.

      Started in 1988, this week is for amplifying the voices of trans people, and for advocating an end to the discrimination and prejudice that trans people still face today. The week ends with Trans Day of Remembrance, on 20 November, which honours the memory of the lives of trans people whose lives were lost to violence and bigotry that year.

      For many trans people COVID-19 has only added to the sense of a life on-hold awaiting treatment.

      Throughout the year trans people have faced a number of challenges.

      The coronavirus, which has hung over us all this year, has impacted minorities disproportionately. As LGBT+ LD highlighted back in March, this has been especially true for trans people.

      An overwhelmed NHS has cancelled many, many appointments to deal with COVID-19: access to hormones, therapy and surgery for trans people have all been impacted. In a system where waiting lists can be years-long even without a pandemic, for many trans people COVID-19 has only added to the sense of a life on-hold awaiting treatment.

      And then there has been the bitterly disappointing scrapping of Gender Recognition Act reform. Despite three years of promises and consultations from successive Conservative governments - which in turn whipped up a storm of anti-trans hatred and misinformation - the Government in September gutted its plans to reform the GRA.

      We are calling on Liberal Democrats up and down the country to join us in standing up for the rights and dignity of all trans people.

      The vast majority of respondents to consultations called for self-ID, the removal of the spousal veto, and allowing non-binary people to gain legal recognition. Instead, all we got was a suggestion to take the process online and to offer a slight discount.

      The government's changes do little to protect trans people or their dignity. Gendered Intelligence at the time summed the reforms up well: "reforming a piece of legislation which is fundamentally broken cannot mean slapping a discount sticker on it and expecting great results".

      These two huge policy areas have dominated much of 2020 for LGBT+ activists - but there are many other areas of concern for trans people. For example, recent studies have highlighted how trans people are at once more likely to be highly educated than the average person, but also significantly more likely to be unemployed or live in poverty.

      We have challenges in our own party to remedy, also.

      Our leadership contenders this year were united in their defence of trans rights, which have been embedded in our manifestos for years. We have adopted a formal definition of transphobia, and at Conference this year we passed a motion to make trans and nonbinary members more able to participate in our party. However, the debate at the conference shone a light on the transphobia that still exists in our party. Our party may be at the forefront of the fight for trans rights - but we cannot be complacent with ourselves.

      In spite of the challenges the trans community are facing there is hope.

      That's why we are calling on Liberal Democrats up and down the country to join us in standing up for the rights and dignity of all trans people.

      Trans rights are human rights. Non-binary people are non-binary, trans men are men, and trans women are women. These sentences are not contentious in our party.

      In spite of the challenges the trans community are facing there is hope.

      The recent United States elections-which saw more and more LGB people get elected to congress-also saw LGBT+ rights campaigner and the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, Sarah McBride, become the first State Senator-elect in US history who is openly trans.

      Progress and justice are not inevitable - but they are possible. It is our job, and the job of all liberals, to make it so.

      - LGBT+ Executive