I'm a classical policy wonk - that's to say I've spend much of my career in professional policy roles - mostly from a civil society perspective, so I believe I have something useful to bring to the FPC table.
I've worked for MPs & NGOs and served on several party policy working groups from the ageing society, to equalities, justice and consumer affairs, proposed motions at Conference and been active in party groups such a SLF as an Exec member, the Lib Dem Lawyers Association, and Centreforum (as Company Secretary). Mostly I've worked in the charities and legal sectors and held different roles in advice, disabilities and mental health charities including Mind and Citizens Advice, and have written countless policy and research reports. Occasionally my work has been effective in changing government policy nationally, including achieving regulation of predatory Claims management companies and aggressive bailiffs, extending protection against disability discrimination, and improved funding for community advice and legal aid services - an issue which I'm known for campaigning on.
In the Party I've been involved in the drafting of around 10 motions since 2010, most recently the Welfare Reform Motion. My policy focus. and how I came both to the Party and to social liberalism, is through "rights based" liberalism which is a tradition that I fear we are at risk of forgetting - ie recognition and promotion of human and civil rights - including socio economic rfights - as the underpinning of everything that we as political liberals should champion. But my liberalism isn't just dry theoretical stuff, because I'm also a campaigner - including standing as PPC in Castle Point, Putney, and next year in Suffolk Coastal.
In my Manifesto I've set out 4 priorities for what I would like to focus on and achieve if I get elected to FPC:
1. Map the Gaps: Too often gaps emerge in our body of policy work and papers. Eg on Welfare we have not had a working group or comprehensive work commissioned for some years, and likewise other areas such as civil justice, and the structure, finance and responsibilities of local government. I would like to see more of the motions passed at Conference followed up with dedicated work. Gaps lead to confused or contradictory messages.
2. Engage Civil Society, expertise and evidence: It may be heresy, but us party/political hacks don’t always know best! We need to listen more to what NGOs and Charities say, and to academics studying policy and socio-economic data. The best Policy Working Groups do this well, but there is a lack of consistent approach. We should make better use of our SAOs and professional groups in the Party - I reject the simplistic mantra that engaging professional knowledge puts producer above consumer interests; we need to draw on practical operational and systems expertise, and avoid relying on theoretical propositions.
3. Consult and Liaise: Consultation help gets policy right, even if the process gets boring. The Party should not be bounced into policy positions that have not been tested - so we should engage our PPCs, Council Groups and grassroots leaders in stress testing new ideas before they are presented as fait accompli to Conference. FPC should liaise with Frontbench spokesmen & parliamentary backbench groups to ensure they do the same.
4. Put Social Justice first: Our Constitution says we exist to tackle poverty, ignorance and conformity.
Our Party is not a free market think-tank, so where tensions arise between the practical needs of social justice and cohesion, and the doctrines of pure free market economics, I will always prioritise social justice. Justice is what sets us free, and should always remain the cornerstone of Liberalism.