On Friday 25th October, I attended the Yorkshire hustings for the Liberal Democrat presidential election 2019. Both Mark Pack and Christine Jardine were present. Although both offer a radically different vision for the party and for the role of its president, they share a will for major reform.
In Christine’s pitch, she emphasised the need for the party president to act first, as a voice for the membership. Jardine was questioned on whether her existing job as Member of Parliament for Edinburgh West would inhibit her ability to act as the membership’s spokesperson, a question she said was frequent at the regional hustings. To Jardine, a president embedded in the parliamentary party would have a greater influence over the leadership and party policy than any member president. In fact, the electoral experience of having won a seat from the SNP was ideal for the next president as the party looks to grow its elected base.
This led onto another major difference between the two candidates. Whilst Mark Pack emphasised the need for the president to leave matters of policy to the leadership, Christine Jardine argued that policy consultations and recommendations are part of a wider programme of listening to the needs and wishes of members.
With Jardine’s strength being an elected MP, Pack was able to explain what he had done as a campaigner to ensure Liberal Democrat wins on all levels of government.
Before the meeting, I was unsure how I would cast my vote. Ultimately, I left having decided to back Mark Pack for the next three years. Whoever wins has an exciting, yet challenging few years ahead. Some of the major tasks include:
- Effectively engaging new members to ensure higher membership figures translate into a stronger campaign on the ground.
- Expand the party brand beyond Brexit – We must meet the electoral appeal of the green wave and offer a strong sense of national identity based on liberal principles. Without this liberal alternative, the cheap nationalistic sentiment of the Johnson-Conservative brand will prevail and define the discussion points of the next election.
- Shift the party’s focus away from London and embrace the new Liberal Democrat strongholds of rural areas.
- Make regional and federal party conferences more accessible to members and supporters. Ideas include electronic voting and morning/afternoon passes for the leader’s main speech, rally and Q&A
The hustings was full of great energy and cheer.
For campaign websites, please use the links below:
Christine Jardine – https://www.cj4president.org/
Mark Pack – https://president.markpack.org.uk/