If you’re a conference representative for the Liberal Democrats in the East of England, you should have received (or be about to receive) the voting pack for members of regional committees. I’m a candidate for Regional Policy Committee, and as we only have a limited space in the manifesto booklet to talk about what we want to achieve on the committee, I wanted to expand on my ideas.
Firstly, I think the regional policy committee has a number of roles it needs to fulfill. Most importantly, it needs to develop distinctive Liberal Democrat policies for the East of England. This region has many issues that are unique that we should be addressing, which I’ll go into more detail on later.
Beyond that, the RPC has to work with local parties in the East to help them develop policies that are relevant and attractive to voters as well as giving them the chance to feed into regional and national party policy. When the RPC works on policy, I want to see it also generate guides to help local parties use that policy in their own areas. This could range from helping groups in control develop plans to helping parties with no councillors develop campaigns that really connect with local people and win them votes.
To my mind, when the RPC is looking at policies, it should be looking at the potential effects of the policy in the short, medium and long term. In the short term, it’s about providing campaigners with key messages on what the Liberal Democrats would do, and quick wins for council groups to push for. In the medium term, it’s about what our council groups, MPs and the Government can do for the East over a term in office, and in the long term it’s about creating an overall vision for a properly Liberal East of England.
The East of England faces specific challenges. For instance, we’re already one of the driest parts of the UK, and climate projections suggest that we’ll be receiving even less rainfall in years to come (though will also suffer greater flooding as that rainfall is likely to come in more concentrated events). We need policies on water supply and security that deal with these facts and show how we can make a difference. Climate change is a real threat to us in the East, and the party needs to be leading on this issue in the region.
Climate change is an over-riding priority for the region, and that needs to affect our policies on other issues, such as how we deal with the need for housing in the region, how we address our transport problems and what proposals we have for the regional economy. Our policies need to show how we’ll create a liberal, dynamic and sustainable East of England.
Finally, I think the members of the RPC should spend time going out to meet with local parties, both to help them draw up their own policies and to feed back their ideas into the regional and national process. I’ve led on policy development for my council group – and our manifestos have regularly won us council seats here in Colchester – and want to use that experience to help others. As much as possible, I’ll work with other parties to help them.
Policy is a vital part of campaigning, and we need to be providing people with positive local, regional and national reasons to vote Liberal Democrat. As a member of the Regional Policy Committee, I’ll work to make that happen.