The English Young Liberals attended the final English Council meeting of the year today, with a full delegation in attendance. Aleisha Stansfield and Oliver Jones-Lyons attended as substitute delegates for Guy Benson and Alex Howarth, whilst William Tench filled the seat vacated by Billy Thomas’s resignation from the Party. They were additionally joined by Young Liberals elected as part of their region.
Ahead of the meeting, English Council voted on the English Council Executive and Federal Board Representatives for 2021. Young Liberals had one of their best ever results, with outgoing EYL Chair Jack Worral, Rebecca Procter and Kian Hearnshaw being elected to the council, Oliver Craven being re-elected as Federal Policy Committee representative and Katharine Macy being elected unopposed as the Federal People and Development Committee representative. They will join William Tench, who will sit as the Young Liberal’s representative on the ECE.
The morning session saw reports from the Officers. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the outgoing Chair of the English Liberal Democrats outlined his achievements in his year’s term before leaving the meeting. Alison Rouse, the incoming chair of the English party then took over.
The major order of business was the ratification of selection rules. Delegates received legal advice about the levels of positive discrimination allowed in light of the composition of the Parliamentary party. Thom Campion spoke in favour of passing the new rules, stating that passing them was essential to ensuring we had candidates in place in target seats so that the party can grow in the next election - especially with the impending repeal of the Fixed Terms Parliament Act. Katharine Macy also spoke in favour, though wishes the rules went further. They welcomed the new diversity requirements, noting that 25% of people are disabled but just a handful of MPs - and none from the Liberal Democrats. They spoke about the hurdles people from underrepresented backgrounds, especially from minority ethnic communities, in just being shortlisted.
The new selection rules ensure that diversity procedures impact all selections, not just potential target seats. First, local parties are allowed to decide whether to include an all-disabled shortlist or a reserved seat on the shortlist for a disabled person. Sadly, this is the only protected characteristic that the legal advice indicated would be allowed. However, additional diversity measures are included: parties must indicate that they have taken sustained attempts to increase diversity and all selections must be advertised to diversity and liberation Specified Associated Organisations and Associated Organisations - including the Young Liberals.
The English Party treasurer then praised the Young Liberals and their place in the future of the party, and thanked Tara Copeland, Jack Worrall and Cat McDougall for their work in negotiating YL’s budget for 2021. Aleisha Stansfield asked about spending priorities for staff members at HQ, an issue she also spoke to incoming-English Chair Alison Rouse about earlier this week. Further praise for YL came from Prue Bray, the Chair of the Regional Parties Committee. The RPC is dealing with historic disciplinary cases, and Kian Hearnshaw has been vital in clearing the backlog.
Oliver Jones-Lyons, attending English Council for the first time, asked Alison Rouse about how English Council can be made more accessible and less opaque - especially in regards to the website. William Tench asked if a diversity briefing given the English Council Executive would be repeated to the 2021 Executive when they take their posts. Finally, Simon Mansfield fed back from the London Regional Executive, noting that many local parties find that the current diversity training insufficient. Young Liberal members were very happy with the quality of Alison’s responses, and look forward to working with her next year.
All Officer reports were accepted, before a debate on Federal Appeal Panel nominations. England appoints three members to the body, which is essentially the ‘supreme court’ of the party. Shortly before the meeting, one of the nominees was withdrawn. Young Liberal Co-Chair Callum Robertson spoke briefly against one of the nominations, but both passed.
After a brief lunch, we moved onto motions and representative reports. A reform motion called for the English Council Executive to write amendments that would abolish the English Council and establish direct elections for the English Council Executive and was proposed by Simon McGrath, YL Co-Chair, Callum Robertson; and YL Honorary President Stuart Wheatcroft. However, this was ruled out-of-order as it was interpreted as a constitutional amendment and had not been circulated to local parties prior to the meeting. However, it was decided that a more comprehensive reform report would be produced for the August 2021 meeting.
English Council then moved onto the other motions. First an amended version of the tithing (the process of councillors giving 10% of their allowance or salary to their local party) motion which was referred back at the August meeting was brought back. The motion was amended to reflect the concerns raised by Katharine Macy and others at the previous meeting about the impact of tithing on councillors facing financial difficulties. After an attempt to suspend standing orders for a further amendment - opposed by Kian Hearnshaw - was defeated, Thom Campion spoke in favour of the motion. He noted that local parties are losing out on potentially thousands of pounds when not tithing. It was then passed overwhelmingly, as was a technical amendment to the membership rules.
Next, representatives to federal bodies gave their reports. William Tench asked the Federal Communications and Elections Committee how the tiering of local parties was decided, and what feedback local parties were allowed to have. Oliver Jones-Lyons then led the Young Liberals response to the Trans Rights Business Motion during Spring Conference. He asked if the Chair had been trained in recognising anti-Trans bigotry and what lessons had been learned. Jennie Rigg, the Federal Conference Committee Rep, assured us that action had been taken, support had been offered to Trans members who might have been affected and that she was technical aide with the specific mandate to seek out Transphobia.
Jack Worrall then presented his final report as English Young Liberal Chair. A question allowed him and Aleisha to expand on our work feeding back policy and campaign feedback to MPs. Jack was then thanked for his two years in the role, and wished luck for this new role as Federal Co-Chair.
With the final meeting of the year, it marks the end of a difficult year for the 2020 English Council. After the tragic passing of the English Treasurer meant the February meeting was cancelled midway through, followed by difficulties adapting following the move online because of the COVID. Thank you to everyone who stepped up as elected or substitute delegates, and has contributed to the Young Liberals being in a much better place than they were at the start of the year. In addition to the Young Liberal English Council delegates, we will have a substantial delegation on the English Council Executive and a number of Young Liberals have been elected as part of their regional delegations.
If this interests you - a number of regions have co-options open for their delegations next year. Young Liberals are an important presence at the English Council, asking questions that wouldn’t otherwise be asked and pushing the party to be better. It is a rewarding way to help the party, and you will be given support by the Young Liberals throughout. Contact [email protected] or your Regional chair to find out more.