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.

My first LGBT+ History Month as an openly pansexual MP

Earlier this year, I came out as pansexual, becoming the first openly pan MP. This February is of particular significance for me. It is the first LGBT History Month I have openly celebrated as part of the community.

I did not come out to be heralded as a trailblazer. But upon coming out, I realised that my public visibility meant a lot to a lot of people. Many people in the LGBT+ community, especially those who fall under the ‘B’, ‘T’ or ‘+’, don’t feel visible to or accepted by the rest of society. These identities are often treated with suspicion or cynicism because people simply don’t know what they are.

We need to actively engage people in this conversation now. This is why LGBT+ education is so important.

This is where visibility comes in. When I came out, I found myself having to define pansexuality and I believe that the more we speak on the topic, the greater the understanding and acceptance of people who identify as LGBT+. Additionally, by having more elected officials who identify as LGBT+, we shine a light on a community and individuals who often feel hidden.

Increasing sexual diversity in politics and the media has the power to help those people who are afraid of being misunderstood to feel accepted by society. But there is more that needs to be done to teach the world about different identities and sexualities. We need to actively engage people in this conversation now. This is why LGBT+ education is so important.

By teaching children about different kinds of relationships, we remove the gap in knowledge and challenge stereotypes. We stop an LGBT+ teenager feeling there is something wrong with them. We stop them being bullied for who they are attracted to or who they love. We can help to build a world where people are comfortable to be themselves.

By teaching children about different kinds of relationships, we remove the gap in knowledge and challenge stereotypes.

No, LGBT+ education in schools is not a one size fits all solution. It will take time for the education to disperse through society, but by educating children, we can actively improve attitudes.

Homophobia and hate often come from a place of miseducation and lack of interaction. People who don’t meet or learn about the LGBT+ community, are more likely to believe misguided stereotypes about the community and the individuals.

While it is important to look at LGBT history, we must also look to the future. Look to improving visibility, and education for the LGBT+ community. I am excited to celebrate my first LGBT History Month as part of the community and reflect on the achievements we have made. But I keep at the forefront of my mind that there is a lot that we need to do to keep making a difference.

We have a duty to support young people with their mental health

Week in, week out, either at my constituency surgery, in my inbox or just through conversations with friends and acquaintances, I hear yet another tragic story of a child or young person struggling with their mental health. They’re having to battle to get any sort of help.

Inadequate funding under the Conservatives has left Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) close to breaking point

Stories include teenagers self-harming and attempting suicide, being excluded from or staying away from school because their school or they themselves simply cannot cope. Stories include a ten-year-old – yes, a ten-year-old – with a severe mental health disorder. She’s already been waiting four months for her initial assessment and will have to wait months more for treatment.

Too many children are being let down by the system. Access to mental health services for children and young people is appalling. The waiting times are terrible. And the inadequate funding under the Conservatives has left Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) close to breaking point.

Despite three-quarters of all mental health problems being established by the age of 25, the NHS only spends £92 on mental health for every child, compared with £225 for every adult. And the funding for adult mental health services is pretty bad to begin with.

Local councils are also over-stretched and struggling to plug the NHS gaps. That’s why Lib Dem-run Richmond Council has this week launched Richmond Voluntary Fund, inviting residents in the top two council tax bands to make a voluntary donation to the fund to support local mental health charities working hard to support young people with their mental wellbeing.

We face a crisis in child and adolescent mental health services

Today, I pressed gov to be open on how much they spend on them. Pleased to have secured meeting with @DHSCgovuk Minister to discuss my campaign

I will keep pushing for child mental health to be taken seriously pic.twitter.com/OCwvueYGsH

— Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) February 4, 2020

Last year the NHS came up with a Long Term Plan for the next ten years. The plan rightly identified CAMHS as a key priority which will get an increase in funding. However, the funding picture for CAMHS is foggy. It is unclear how much money is reaching children’s mental health services.

The only way we can ensure that CAMHS gets the funding it needs is by knowing how much funding it gets to begin with

I and many others fear that when budgets get tight, money for mental health is squeezed. In an unusual and unprecedented move, the Conservative government has taken the step of writing into law an increase in the NHS budget to ensure it happens. However, if inflation rises higher than projected, especially in the wake of Brexit, the promised cash increases won’t stretch as far as anticipated.

That’s why we need greater transparency on CAMHS funding. Along with other Liberal Democrat MPs, I tabled an amendment this week to the government’s new NHS Funding Bill which would have made it obligatory for government to report annually on levels on CAMHS spending across England. The only way we can ensure that CAMHS gets the funding it needs is by knowing how much funding it gets to begin with. The amendment would have made visible the gap in funding between mental and physical health, ensuring that – in future – the Conservative government has nowhere to hide. Sadly, the Speaker did not select the amendment.

We have a duty to ensure that no young person struggling with their mental health is left without support. Liberal Democrats are the party of mental health and we will continue to work to ensure everyone gets the help they need, when they need it.

Celebrating LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month is a welcome opportunity to celebrate the activism, strength and the spirit of the entire LGBT+ community. This is the time to look back at the key moments in the struggle for equal rights and to reflect on how we can build a more just world for everyone.

This month we celebrate iconic LGBT+ pioneers and strengthen our efforts to give meaningful attention to LGBT history.

Introducing the amendment that led to the repeal of Section 28 remains one of my proudest moments in parliament

In the UK, LGBT History Month falls in February to coincide the repealing of Section 28 in England and Wales. Introducing the amendment that led to the repeal of that abhorrent act remains one of my proudest moments in parliament.

We have made great strides in advancing equality over the last few decades. From the equalisation of the age of consent to the introduction of the Alan Turing Law, there is much to celebrate. And recently I was thrilled to see Northern Ireland join a growing list of countries who have legalised same-sex marriage.

But for all the progress that has been made, there is still undoubtedly more to be done. Increases in hate crimes, worrying levels of transphobia in mainstream media and disparities in social and health care provisions are proof that the battle for equality is far from over.

As a Party, we have been unequivocal in our support for equality and we will continue to fight until everyone is able to live without fear of hate or discrimination.

Thank you to everyone involved in organising this year’s celebrations and I wish you all an enjoyable month ahead. 🏳‍🌈

What we’ve done together

For the last four years, the Liberal Democrats have proudly fought to stop Brexit.

I am immensely proud of everything we did. We stood up for our values. We campaigned so hard. But I also accept that at 11pm tonight, we will no longer be members of the European Union.

Our European story is not over. Tomorrow our fight continues, to make sure Britain has the closest possible relationship with our allies in Europe.

Today, I want to take stock of everything we did achieve in our fight to stop Brexit.

When the results of the European referendum were announced on that sad day in June 2016, we knew that something must be done. Our leader at the time, Tim Farron, did not wait to say that we deserved a vote on the final Brexit deal.

We were a lone voice at first. But more and more people joined our cause, to call for a People’s Vote on the final deal.

Our membership surged to the highest numbers in our party’s history.

We backed the cross-party People’s Vote campaign. Its rallies attracted hundreds of thousands of people, making them the biggest marches since the protests against the Iraq war.

Our MPs worked across parties in the Commons and the Lords to inflict more than 30 defeats on the Conservative government’s Brexit bills.

We stopped a catastrophic no deal and we stopped the government charging EU citizens to apply to stay in the UK.

Last year, we went into the European elections with an unapologetic message on Brexit.

I’m so proud of that campaign. We fought unashamedly for our liberal, progressive values, and we made a strong case for why the UK should continue to be members of the EU.

We beat both Labour and the Conservatives – something we had not done since 1910! – , and we went from 1 to 16 Members of the European Parliament.

Our MEPs may have only been in Brussels for six months, but they’ve achieved so much and flown the flag for British European values.

To Catherine, Caroline, Antony, Barbara, Bill, Chris, Dinesh, Irina, Jane, Judith, Louisa, Lucy, Martin, Phil, Shaffaq and Shelia, thank you. You are all superstars.

In the following months, eight courageous MPs left the safety of a large political party to stand with us, and stand up for our place in the EU.

To Chuka, Angela, Luciana, Sam, Heidi, Sarah, Philip and Antoinette – thank you. You will all go down in Liberal Democrat history.

Brexit was never just about Europe. It was about who we are. Who we aspire to be. What we want our country to become.

And in between all that, we won by-elections in Brecon and Radnorshire and Shetland, and we also saw our best ever local election results, gaining over 700 seats and taking control of 11 councils around the country last Spring.

Through all those successes one thing was constant: we couldn’t have done it without you.

So the biggest thank you of all must go to you. Our members have been tirelessly fighting to stop Brexit, and you made all of this possible.

And you give me hope for the future.

Brexit was never just about Europe. It was about who we are. Who we aspire to be. What we want our country to become.

So let’s be part of shaping that future together.

In the coming months, our party will be making big decisions on what comes next. We will pick our next leader, launch new campaigns and set out what we want Britain’s new relationship with Europe to look like.

You’ve been a core part of our party’s story and success, and I want you with us, as our party makes these important choices for our future.

Will you join the Liberal Democrats today?