I was amazed to be told that the Federal Board has decided to run the internal elections for the Presidency and Party committees this Autumn. Yes, I know that they are due BUT I also know that they will be taking place when there are far more important things to do. There may just be some issues like stopping Brexit; welcoming new MPs to our Party and fighting a General Election that should take precedence.
Had it been left to me I would have taken the opportunity to tell the Conference in Bournemouth that the Party would be postponing the elections until January and, I would expect, getting a rousing standing ovation from our front-line troops for doing so.
But perhaps it is because decisions like this keep getting taken that I want to stand to become the Party President in the first place. I first became interested in standing when our LGA Lib Dem Executive was told in March last year that the Party was proposing to send out three emails to the membership before the May elections all about Brexit campaigning and not one about local elections. Don’t get me wrong I believe that Brexit is important. As far back as 1975 I chaired the Liverpool ‘yes’ team in the EEC referendum of that year. Elections are even more important. Unless we get elected to councils and parliaments, we are a talking shop, a debating society.
The elections last year began the very public process of raising in people’s minds the full potential of the Lib Dems. The 175 gains and subsequent headlines led to repeated successes in council by-elections. That lead to this year’s huge gains in this year’s round, the election of Jane Dodds and the defection to us of 5 MPs including our own Luciana Berger MP in Liverpool Wavertree.
That’s the way I think that we can grow. We built our Party in the past street by street, community by community, ward by ward and then to parliamentary success. That’s the Lib Dem way and it’s the right way. Parliamentary successes caused by defections or Brexit will be short-term unless underpinned by a phalanx of Councillors and strong community action.
For 52 years I have been a front-line worker for the Party. For 37 of those years I have been a Liverpool Councillor. At times I have represented some of the most deprived communities in the UK. Now I represent a wealthier ward which includes the most famous Lane in the World! I lead the Lib Dem opposition on the council where we are clawing our way back to power against an increasing cult-like extremist Labour Party.
That has not stopped me doing things globally or nationally. For 10 years I was the UK representative on the World body for local government UCLG. For 8 years I was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government at the LGA. I now lead on health & social care at the LGA and regularly attend sessions of all sorts in both Houses of Parliament.
I believe that we need to change the way we do things nationally:
- We need to change the way we relate to our members. We need to give them real news and information not just endlessly appeal for cash (Yes, I do know that we are short of money!)
- We need to link our policy making processes to our campaigning processes. We have large numbers of excellent policies which never see the light of day either in our leaflets or by way of being used in conversations with specialist local and national bodies.
- The excellent work of our Councillors and Lib Dem controlled councils is rarely publicly recognised or used in social or other media.
- We spend money on performing back office operations from an expensive central London property on wage levels that would be good if we paid them to none-London based staff but are poor for London prices.
- We need to become a much more disciplined ‘fighting force’ for liberalism which involves far more of our members and registered supporters than we currently do in our campaigning.
I will, of course, be available at Conference to discuss these or any other ideas with you. I won’t be spending lots of money on a campaign. I won’t be showering members with messages at a time when they will be concentrating on more urgent priorities. I will however, be keeping people in touch with what’s happening and my views at my new Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/Kemp4President/, my blog which is www.richardkemp.wordpress.com and my Twitter account @cllrkemp. It would help me greatly if you liked this Facebook site and retweeted my relevant tweets.