Hello all, welcome to another co-chair update!

Firstly, a brief update on where I’m at and where Liberal Reform is at the moment:

2021 was a great year for us, and I was especially proud of how the Building Communities campaign went. But running it took a lot out of me throughout the year, and all the Autumn Conference drama added a lot of stress in a short shape of time that I didn’t find easy to deal with.

To be totally honest, after the conference ended last September I was suffering pretty badly with burnout. I was both physically and mentally exhausted, starting to doubt myself and the direction in which I’m trying to take LR more, and much of the interest and motivation that led me to take on this role in the first place simply wasn’t there any more.

To further complicate matters: I also lost my full time job in November, and following this I spent 3 months (Dec-Feb) unemployed.

You may think this meant I’d have had more time for LR? But actually it was the opposite! Between all the applications, job interviews and arguing back and forth with the Jobcentre, I actually found myself with much less time and energy than I had before.

And as I’m sure those who have been in that situation can understand, the financial insecurity that comes with having bills to pay and almost no income, coupled with the existential dread of not having much of a purpose on a day to day basis, can be a stressful experience. Those few months definitely took a toll on my mental health, and my bandwidth for LR and for politics in general was at an all time low.

So if you’ve noticed that LR has been a bit quieter for the past few months than we were during most of last year? Then that’s why.

I don’t discuss my personal life very often, partly because it isn’t usually relevant to our work, and partly because this sort of thing isn’t easy to publicly talk about. But I hope you can understand.

Thankfully I’m now back in work as of 2 weeks ago, and at this point enough time has passed and I’ve (just about) recovered from 2021! So I’m pleased to say that I’ve got some exciting plans for the rest of my term as co-chair, that I’m looking forward to sharing those here and over the coming months.

Next, an update on what we’ve been working on lately!

At Spring Conference this coming weekend we’ll be holding a fringe event entitled: “From Target to Delivery: How can Lib Dems build 380k houses per year?”

The aim is to build (pun intended) upon last years housing campaign, and discuss how Liberal Democrat councillors and local champions can make a difference and deliver much needed homes in their areas. We’ve confirmed Tom Morrison, Stephen Robinson and Luisa Porritt as panellists so far, and we’re still working on securing 1 or 2 more.

The event is at http://kaminakapow.com/seamless-crochet-donkey-pattern/?unapproved=9911 1pm on Saturday the 12 http://sunsationalhomeimprovement.com/? th of March, and we look forward to seeing many of you there! If you’re subscribed to our emails you’ll be receiving a reminder shortly (and if not then you can sign up as a supporter here)

Of course our Building Communities motion passed in September which laid the foundations for much of the party’s policy on housing, however the Federal Policy Committee are also working on their own proposals which they plan to present to conference this upcoming September.

An LR delegation including myself met with the FPC working group a couple of weeks ago to listen to what they had to say and offer feedback. We had an amicable discussion with lots of areas of agreement, however sadly a significant gulf remains between us on a few things, most notably on the question of national housing targets. Those involved in the FPC group have made it pretty clear that they aren’t in favour of the 380k target despite it passing at our last conference (and let’s be honest here, they’re also definitely under instruction from the leadership office to throw it out if they can).

But the Liberal Reform position on this is crystal clear. We need to build 380k new homes per year, with at least 150k of those being for affordable/social rent. And I will also out point that, following the passing of our motion and the partial defeat of the wrecking amendment in September, we now have a democratic mandate from the party membership for this policy.

An ambitious national target is absolutely essential in order to tackle the serious housing crisis that our country is experiencing, and we don’t intend to stop campaigning for this anytime soon!

I’m currently working on a written response to their consultation on behalf of LR, which we will also publish for you to read within the next week or so.

The draft proposals can be read here if you wish to study them yourselves. I would also encourage any of our supporters that have the time especially those with experience in the housing field, to respond to the consultation directly, which you can do so by emailing them at: policy.consultations@libdems.org.uk. Deadline for this is the 18th of March.

In terms of other plans for LR this year, it looks likely that housing is going to remain a key issue for us for the foreseeable future? But we’re aren’t a single issue organisation, and we’d also like to branch out and campaign on some other issues as well in 2022.

Free trade and nuclear energy have both been suggested as potential topics, given that the Lib Dems “have room for improvement” in both of these areas (and that’s the most polite way I can describe it!). The ongoing recovery from the pandemic may also present some opportunities for us to go back to LR’s roots a little bit and talk more about the economy? Feel free to let us know if you have any other suggestions!

Also this year, I’d like us to start work on something I suggested when I first took over as co-chair: a new publication! With “Orange Book 2” as the working title (although we’ll almost certainly end up coming up with something catchier than that later)

There have been a few Liberal Democrat related books released over the past couple of years, including a new one coming out soon that Ed himself has been involved in. So we’ll have to be careful about not beating a dead horse! But I still think there is a space for a uniquely Liberal Reform take on some of the biggest policy issues that the Lib Dems should be grappling with.

My current plan is that it’ll be formatted in a similar way to Layla’s Build Back Better pamphlet, with lots of small pieces on a variety of topics grouped into sections, as opposed to longer chapters. This should mean that 1) It’s a bit more digestible for those not accustomed to regularly reading long essays 2) We can include a wider range of topics contributors.

In terms of content obviously the Building Communities proposals will be in there in some form, as will all the classic LR fare like free trade, market economics and civil liberties. We welcome suggestions from you guys on what sort of issues we should cover and who to reach out to as potential authors.

We’d like our members to get directly involved too, so we’re thinking about potentially having open submissions for pieces? A “crowd-scoured” policy book is something that hasn’t really been done before (at least in the Lib Dems)? And I think that approach very much fits with the ethos of our organisation and the party overall.

Our aim is to release this book at/alongside Autumn Conference 2022. More information soon!

That’s it from me for now, thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more housing stuff, probably some coverage of other issues and maybe a new publication…