The SLF reached out to each of the Presidential candidates with the same set of questions. The answers below are from Daisy Cooper.

Q1) Please give three examples of where you have supported SLF

1. Advocated SLF ideas. As a member of the Federal Executive, I advocated the recommendations of the SLF publication entitled ‘Party policy-making in Coalition - a review’ during a consultation with the FE by Danny Alexander on 'lessons from the coalition'. I suggested that Ministers should consult more widely with policy experts within the party - and elected representatives (Mayors, councillors) at all levels before agreeing to compromises that conflict with existing party policy. (More specifically I suggested asking for a small sum of money from the JRRT to do a case study on how Steve Webb had done this on pension reforms.)

Aside from this, I also:

Asked who in the 'negotiation group' would be specifically responsible for assessing the impact of any future Coalition policies/compromises on local government, given that Andrew Stunell had informally held that brief before. 

Suggested that a future Coalition document include a ‘no surprises’ clause or something similar. The goal behind this is to minimise the risk of a larger Party manipulating the legislative timetable to push through unpopular policy with little scrutiny - eg the NHS bill. 

Suggested an 'alert system' mechanism be created so that the announcement of parliamentary agendas/white papers etc be circulated to SAOs/AOs. My understanding is that whilst some SAOs are aware of pertinent legislation, they are sometimes alerted too late. 

2. Identified potential funding streams for SLF. In 2012, I analysed all of the various organisations that had sponsored fringe events or exhibition stalls at Conferences on topics of interest to the SLF from 2010, with a view to approaching them for donations, contributions-in-kind or about partnering on an event. As well as making donations to SLF, I've also attended SLF dinners and have shaken a bucket at the end of a fringe event! 

3. Voted for SLF colleagues in internal elections. Having joined the SLF shortly after its inception, in 2012, I voted for a number of SLF colleagues for all Federal Committees. 

Q2) Did you support SLF's campaigns at Conferences such as those on the NHS Bill and on the economy? 

Yes - I supported both. 

Q3) What are the values of the Liberal Democrats in 2015? Are these being communicated clearly enough?

This is how I describe the values of our Party:

We believe and trust in the power and potential of every individual to be whomever and whatever they want to be. We want to tear down the barriers in your way and we want to give you the tools and knowledge you need. It’s about freedom and we believe that to be truly free every person must be free from the shackles of poverty, ignorance and conformity. 

Individuals and communities must also be free from the crushing concentration of power in any institution wherever it exists – in the state, the media, in corporations or elsewhere; individuals should have the power to take the decisions that affect their lives. 

Our vision of society is built on a ‘holy trinity’ of individual freedom, social justice and repatriating powers back to people and communities. 

Labour believe in the power of the state, the Tories believe in the power of the markets, we believe and trust in the power of every individual to know what’s best – every individual like you. 

No, I don't think our values are being communicated anywhere near clearly enough. I've been very vocal in my opposition to the 'split the difference' approach. I would like to see us integrate the language of personal freedom, social justice and repatriating powers into our messages on our achievements in government. For example:  

In government, Liberal Democrats have given individuals the freedom to decide how to spend more of their money by increasing the point at which low and middle earners start paying tax.

By giving schools a pupil premium to help kids from the lowest income families, we’ve pulled down some of the barriers to children getting a good education. 

And in all our efforts in government to break up the banks, reform the House of Lords and curtail the monopoly of the big energy companies, we seek to wrest power out of the hands of the few for the benefit and use of all. 

Liberal Democrats are committed to breaking up the fortresses of the rich, the powerful and the privileged and to fighting for a society in which individuals can take that power back and use it.

Q4) How does the party need to reform?

The party needs to reform in three areas, and I’ve written blogs on each one.

After the scandals, we need to create processes that are fit for purpose. As President, I would want to work with colleagues to flesh out some ideas for consideration by Conference. These could include: 

A "responsibility to act" for all elected officials, office holders and staff, and “on opportunity to report” any low-level instances of unacceptable behaviour. This would shift the burden away from the recipients of unacceptable behaviour (who often don’t want to make a formal complaint until a situation has escalated), onto all Party members who would know that unacceptable behaviour could be reported. That way, we incentivise members to watch their behaviour, and we have a system in place to identify and tackle unacceptable behaviour as and when it occurs, and before it escalates.    

Introduce accountability into the complaints procedure by creating a ‘Head of HR’ type post, with the necessary HR qualifications, and who would have responsibility for making recommendations on disciplinary cases (to the Chief Whip or FE sub-group as appropriate) and would be accountable through the CEO to the FE as a whole. 

Establish an HR accreditation or qualification for local party officers wanting to take on the portfolio of a 'pastoral care officer'. Candidates would of course need specialist vetting.  

You can read the full blog here 

We need to focus on Accountability – the missing ingredient in our internal democracy.  

There is a complete mismatch between the Federal Executive’s mandate to ‘direct coordinate and implement’ the work of the Federal Party, and its levers for doing so (which are almost non-existent). There is currently no ‘whole party strategy’ against which FE can monitor progress, but there should be. FE appoints the CEO but does not have the power to manage her/his performance – it should. The CEO her or himself must have the power to take decisions for which s/he can be held accountable.

There are no criteria against which FE members are elected. We could consider introducing a system in which FE candidates run for election for one or more portfolios – such as membership, campaigns or governance – in order that they can demonstrate their suitability for scrutinising these areas (currently members choose the basis upon which they want to run for FE pursuing their own interest, not necessarily what the party needs).

Regional executives must be freed up from party administration, so they can focus on finding candidates and building campaigning machines.

And then there is the governance tension between the FE and the English Party: it is the English Party that is responsible for managing finances, mediating in disputes, determining grants to Party associations and borrowing money, yet members expect FE – through its elected members – to be accountable for these vital decisions. Responsibilities, powers and accountability must be aligned if our party bodies are to be effective.

You can read the full blog here 


Re-build and re-launch with an inclusive Leadership Scheme. 

After May, we must launch an ambitious national scheme to recruit members in such numbers that we will within 20 years wipe out all ‘black-holes’, be as diverse as the UK, and re-build our local government base and membership from community level up. An inclusive Leadership Scheme could potentially help solve three inter-related challenges:

the structural problem of an ageing membership,

the fact that we are often too quick to encourage talented members to stand for election as councillors or PPCs and, if they don’t succeed, they can become disheartened and burnt out (and that we appear to value less the contribution they can make in different ways), and

we now have a lot of younger members of staff who have buckets of enthusiasm but may not understand the challenges of non-target seats ‘on the ground’.

As President, I would want to launch an ambitious scheme to engage with new people and communities across the UK. We would promote ourselves as the natural home for anyone who wants to transform his or her community or change the world. We should embrace new people, and be an incubator for new ideas.

You can read the full blog here: 

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