With nominations now closed for the May elections, many thanks to everyone who has put in so much work to getting candidates approved, selected and safely nominated. From a first look at the numbers, we've seen a good increase in our candidate totals in Scotland and Wales, with the numbers broadly the same in England compared with last time.
I'm sure there will be lessons we can learn and share more widely from those areas that have had the most success increasing their candidate numbers, but that can wait until after the elections. For the moment, thank you - and best of luck to all the candidates nominated, their agents and their campaign managers.
One of the oddities of how the media covers local elections is that 'campaign launches' for the national media usually take place weeks (if not months and years!) after our campaigning has actually started.
Which is why the start of April saw a big round of national media coverage for a Liberal Democrat local election campaign launch in England. Our national media push is deliberately focusing on the issues our research shows work best for setting the mood music against which local campaigns can do their magic at the grassroots. Which means a particular emphasis on the dumping of sewage in our rivers, ways to improve our ambulance service and help with the cost of living crisis.
The theme which runs through them all is the idea of a fair deal. Life's been tough for lots of people over the past few years. And it's still tough. But with their trademark decency and strength, the British people are rising to the challenge. Raising families. Caring for others. And playing by the rules. Now more than ever, it's time for a fair deal.
Detailed supporting materials are available in the Campaign Hub to apply our national messages to individual areas.
Six months ago we created a dedicated EEDI working group to work on implementing the action plan that came from our big audit last year. The team is now well established and progress can be found on our updated diversity page. That page includes our strategy and EEDI policy. The details of the plan and the working group itself are also on the website.
There is rather a lot to do, so if you are keen to support improving inclusion within our party please consider volunteering.
Our plans to improve the party's use of data passed an important milestone a couple of weeks ago with much improved synchronisation of data between Lighthouse and Connect.
Automatic synchronising of data is never perfect, so advice is now available for local parties on how to check and improve the data for their areas. Of course, if you've got elections coming up, this may be something to leave until the summer.
We've also started building our new website platform, which will replace a large number of sites across the party, superseding both the existing NationBuilder and Prater Raines systems.
More improvements are also on the way and you can keep up with the latest news via https://tech.libdems.org.uk, which also has an email list sign up if you prefer news that way.
I've mentioned previously our plans to review how the first wave of Parliamentary selections have gone in this Parliament. We're doing such a review much earlier than we usually do (i.e. not waiting for the end of all the selections) so that lessons can be applied more quickly than has been usual.
Everyone is welcome to submit their views to the review. There's an online survey you can use, which is running until 28 April.
We're looking for volunteers for a range of important posts at the moment. In all cases there's no incumbent looking to be reappointed, so now is a great time to think about applying or to encourage others:
If you'd like to find out more about any of the posts before formally applying, by all means get in touch and I'll happily chat or point you at the best people to talk with.
We're also recruiting volunteers for three new policy working groups:
Our next Board meeting will see our Quarter 1 review of how the federal party is performing against our targets for the year. This will include the latest financial figures ahead of starting to think seriously about our 2023 budget, something we need to do mindful of the fact that the next general election could now be as late as January 2025.
We'll also be hearing the latest findings from the party's market research and how it's being used to inform our messaging and media work.
We'll be considering how to implement the new policy of one common register of interests and conflicts of interest policy for federal committees, as agreed by our spring conference.
We'll also be studying two reports related to the complaints system - the investigation into allegations that had been made about a particular incident which we asked Antony Hook to carry out as covered in my November report, and also a review from the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee (FASC) into how the system is operating.
Meanwhile, the latest figures show that the number of live complaints is now down under 100, from a peak of over 325. The long term trend is continuing downwards. In only one of the last eight months has the number of new cases exceeded the number of cases closed.
Our next virtual Federal Board surgery is scheduled for the evening of May 18th. Watch out for more details nearer the time, or if you've got any questions or ideas to share before then, just drop me a note.
As ever, if you have questions on any of this, or other party matters, do get in touch on [email protected].
Do also get in touch if you'd like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body. I'm always keen to do more of these as they're a great way of hearing from the frontline what is and isn't working.