Thursday, 28 June 2012

Once again Lib Dem members are treated as an afterthought

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Today Nick Clegg made a public speech on Lords reform. As the BBC puts it:
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has delivered a speech on Lords reform to an audience of young people from a soapbox in Victoria Gardens.
Now, if you watch the video of the speech it's quite clear that the "young people" in question are fairly bored looking Lib Dem staffers and researchrs as well as a few passing members of the public who were walking past and stopped to watch. It is, quite transparently, a media stunt.

I don't take issue with that though. You need media stunts to get attention for your views and a public speech is a fairly good thing to do even if the audience is mostly people who are only there because it's their job to be there.

What I do take issue with, however, is that the first Lib Dem members knew about it was when it appeared on the BBC website. As one Lib Dem member I know pointed out, they were in the area and would have quite liked to have gone to the speech to listen but had absolutely no idea it was taking place.

See, here's the thing. I'd like to think that, given that we're meant to be a democratic party run by the members, those of us who actually pay our membership subscriptions and actually do the legwork which gets MPs and councillors elected could at least have had an email the day before letting us know about the speech so that we could go and listen to it if we were in the area.

Admittedly most members probably wouldn't have been able to, or wanted to, go to a five minute speech in the middle of London but, given that it's a supposedly public speech, which took place in a public place, and that it would only have taken five minutes to send out an email to the membership, it really would have been nice to at least had the option of attending a public speech by our leader.

This isn't so much a problem in and of itself as the fact that this kind of thing keeps happening. Clegg, for example, is going on a national tour to do townhall question and answer sessions with the public - a very good way of connecting with the electorate. But, once again, Lib Dem members found out about this from the news rather than from Lib Dem HQ.

And Danny Alexander gave a very good speech on Lords Reform and other matters to the Electoral Reform Society conference during the week but, once again, Lib Dem members were only told about it after it had taken place and the only way I knew about it in advance is because I'm a member of the ERS and they did let their members know about it in advance.

To me, this illustrates the way that our current leadership and most of the people working in HQ seem to view the membership as an afterthought - if they even remember that we exist at all.

Time and time again they completely ignore us and even as something as simple as letting us know in advance of public speeches by our leader so that we can attend is something they just can't seem bothered to do.

We now have the optimistic sounding Grassroots to Government website which aims at restoring communication between MPs and members (and who exactly was it who decided to climb into ivory towers and mostly ignore us in the first place?) but, aside from an automated welcome message when I joined, has sent out exactly zero emails to the members who have signed up since. How's that for improving communication?

And, after two years of arm twisting by the wonderful Helen Duffet we are now getting the occasional online Q&A with senior MPs - though these are normally in the middle of the working week where normal people can't participate.

Except that, even with these, though we get plenty of emails in advance, for those members who can't watch online (those who, for example, don't have a broadband internet connection) there's absolutely no way they can participate. One longstanding member politely emailed HQ and asked whether there was any chance that she could come and watch the Q&A in person at HQ but was told she couldn't. I mean, it's not like us members who actually pay for the HQ should be allowed inside it should we?

And this grouchiness from me is without even mentioning the persistent tendency of our MPs to ignore conference, the democratic policy making body of the party, and to assume that any discontent amongst the membership is simply either troublemakers or us failing on our part to properly understand and appreciate the wonderful work that our MPs are doing.

Look, we're meant to be a democratically run, membership-led organisation. So could our HQ please at least have the decency to remember that we exist when our leader is giving a public speech?


  1. Time for Clegg to go. He is treating us, and a lot of the rest of the country like shit. Don't know about a soapbox, think he should be more honest and do it from an Ivory Tower.

  2. Get a grip. If you had an ounce of sense you would know that if Clegg had announced the speech it would have been leaked (intentionally or unitentionally) and consequently it would have have been ruined by hardcore left-wing hecklers.
    Perhaps you should be more modest. As a relatively new Lib Dem member (I'm 20) I have been amazed by the welcome that I have been given by Lib Dem councillors and MPs alike.

    1. If that's an issue then why are they publicising his town hall Q&A sessions in advance? Or are you really saying we should be so paranoid that no one, not even our members, ever knows what we are doing?

      I'm 21. So what? Your age doesn't mean anything. And I have to point that there is quite a big difference between being welcomed to the party and between members being involved at the heart of the running of the party - something which is meant to be at the soul of what we are about.

      Finally, if you really think I'm going to be inclined to pay any attention to someone who comments "get a grip" yet doesn't even have the courage to use a pseudonym when leaving a comment then you really need to get a sense of perspective - not to mention some basic manners.

  3. Seriously - WHO cares what Clegg says? Scameron dont care - He just used Clegg toget in power to trash the country, everyperson looks at Clegg as a lapdog. I cant think of one thing that he actually has done that Scameron listened to and it just seems that Scameron does as he pleases and sod the country and the 'Coalition' is just a word as i do not SEE any working together!

    If I were Clegg I would just say - Do another Election I aint playing no more - LOL

  4. For a year that i was a member of the Liberal Democrats i found most of the contact fairly good, i was notified and invited to a curry night with Tim Farron, (i did not go). I received the usual emails from other MPs as to what they were doing and saying. I do think though that the actual way in which they go about getting members involved leaves a lot to be desired, not once was i invited by my local MP to actively knock doors or learn more about the party. Not once did a councilor contact me and never attended or was even invited to any open days.

    I think if Lib Dems are going to try and rejuvinate people and get involved again then they are going to have to be a more open party.
    However George this is what happens when MPs of parties get power, they neglect not only the electorate but the activists and members who support them through all the angst of the public.

    5 Years then they say sorry, we wont do it again, Reform Reform they will shout.

    Sadly i see that Liberal Democrats still think that they will exist after the next election, I have news for you though. David Laws, Danny Alexander and Clegg have along with the Tories destroyed the economic recovery in favour of making the poor and unemployed pay for the deficit caused by the Multi Multi Trillion Bailouts of Financial institutions.

    Shame on all Lib Dems, Welfare Reform Bill is going to destroy peoples lives.

  5. I think the difficulty of this post is assuming in some way that it is Clegg's fault that you have not been informed about things you wanted to know about, and also that things can be improved overnight (indeed things are likely to be worse following the loss of the Short money). From my point of view, small improvements are being made in terms of communication and seeking involvement. Baby steps yet, but getting there (Also I have a certain amount of sympathy with the party not sending out emails for everything - the more they send, the less effective individual ones become. The new idea of sending out a really brief headline email with an invitation to sign up to receive more information on that particular topic is a good thing).

    We also mustn't forget that (a) not all members give their emails to the party; and (b) that not all members are online.

    As for "Anonymous" above, whilst I'm not going to claim it's good practice not to invite you to things, but perhaps the poor councillors in your local area have far too much stuff to do for their constituents and maybe some other things slip. As for the party's continued existence, I think you're far too quick to write it off.

    1. Yes Anthony, Because Nick Clegg and all his Lib Dems are going to be welcomed with open arms by students on collage and uni campuses across the land.

      Smile and Wave.

      PS i was not knocking councilors or MPs when it comes to their work. But if you want to get people involved in the party then those are the first port of call to get new members interested.

  6. I think you're misleading yourself if you think that that many students actually voted for us in the first place (about 30% of 18-24 yr olds backed us in 2010 - and that age-group has the lowest turnout).

    The real damage that tuition fees did to us is going back on the pledge. And that affected us amongst all age groups, including many who don't care about fees (indeed a majority of 18-24 yr olds voted for Lab/Con who support increasing fees). Ironically, new graduates may find things are not as bad as the media has led them to believe. Indeed, the repayment scheme is significantly better than their immediate predecessors had.

    So I'll just 'smile and wave' at people who just don't get it.

  7. Lib Dem Ministers are busy people with things often coming up last minute. Are you suggesting we are giving up to minute updates or advances of their schedules? Think you are being bit harsh in this blog post.


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