Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Catching up on the Lib Dem blogosphere

A trio of excellent posts from fellow Lib Dem bloggers which I wanted to highlight:

Anders Hanson compares Lib Dem constituency organisers with TV programme Mary Queen of Charity Shops. When I worked in SE Cornwall in 1992, there were many volunteers who had been involved in the successful February 74 campaign and had been doing the same work (by and large excellently) at every campaign since then. The trouble was that campaigning techniques had developed and many of the people around them in 74 had moved on or, unfortunately, were no longer with us. So we needed to reinvigorate the structure with new people and to move to adopt modern techniques at the same time. We weren't successful at the ballot box then but, I like to think, laid the bedrock for success in 97.

Costigan Quist discusses the point of Liberal Youth - following on from a discussion in the Independent and on Lib Dem Voice. From my point of view Liberal Youth has to be a fun campaigning organisation. The Executive have to act to a common plan - agreed at the start of their term of office - which knits together a range of campaigns and activities. Many members will be getting their first taste of politics and, whilst some will only want to discuss policies and philosophy, most are keen to get their teeth into real campaigning. But they often get rebuffed by constituencies or given lots of leafleting and no real say. The move to force every constituency to have a youth rep on their executive was far-sighted, but is often treated in a tokenist way by constituency parties.

The real point of Liberal Youth is to save younger members from feeling isolated.

- They should be co-ordinating campaigning based around by-elections and special campaigns - something they have done reasonably well at times in the past.
- They should be holding training events to develop the hard core activists and organisers of the future - Activate takes a lot of energy but is very effective.
- They should be developing materials for student and young person oriented campaigns and they should be helping young people who want to become PPCs, councillors and so on to develop the skills they need. When I was heavily involved in LDYS (as was) in the early 90s, we would aim to have at least one speaker in every debate at conference. We would help them write speeches and practice them and we would make sure that motions and amendments went in on time representing our views. Yep, we were a thorn in the side of Paddy when we talked about abolishing the monarchy and legalising drugs. But, perhaps more important than the policies themselves, were that we helped people who wanted to be elected politicians to develop the speaking and lobbying skills they would need in the future.

At different times in the past, Liberal Youth and its predecessors have done each of these aspects very well. But they have always failed to get all of them together in a single year and have usually had a comparatively rich year followed by a comparatively fallow one. Budgets, personalities and staff numbers have all contributed but we, as a party, have to remember that we get so much out of Liberal Youth that we cannot cut it adrift or ignore it simply because one particular year is a bit weaker than the previous one.

Finally, Jonathan Fryer discusses why elections might not always be held on Thursdays. The day of election is a historical accident rather than hard and fast. Whilst certain elections must be held on Thursdays by law, this is easy to change and certainly not a good reason to stick with Thursdays if another day would be better. For most of us, being able to vote at the weekend is a good thing. But the problem of Sunday observance and the Sabbath means that neither weekend day is ideal for the whole country - and voting on both days would raise administration costs massively. To my mind, the question should not be 'Why do we vote on Thursdays?' It should be 'Why not?'

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