Liberal Democrats Overseas Annual Report 2018
Lib Dems Abroad was formed as a subcommittee of the Lib Dems Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) in late 2017 with three local parties – Lib Dems in Europe (formerly Brussels and Europe Lib Dems), Lib Dems in France and Lib Dems Overseas, totalling altogether some 2,000 members living outside the UK.
Lib Dems Overseas (LDO) was activated on 16th February 2018 when its 310 members living in 40 countries outside Europe received an email asking for those interested in working together to be in touch. 28 members from Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, China (Hong Kong), Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the United States responded.
A provisional LDO local party executive was formed from those volunteers filling the six mandatory positions plus two ordinary member positions, typical of a Lib Dem local party.
The results of the first LDO executive elections were announced on 4th July. The nine new executive members from Afghanistan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore (2) and the USA (2) held their first meeting via skype spanning 14 time zones on 18th August with the Brazil country coordinator also attending. LDO was honoured when Lib Dem Party President Baroness Sal Brinton agreed to become its Honorary President. Further elections followed on 9th November with the current board being re-elected with two additional members from the Cayman Islands and Australia. The local party is innovative in being entirely run on internet to ensure contact with members across the world.
Party President Baroness Sal Brinton launched LDO formally alongside its parent organisation Lib Dems Abroad on 16th September at a Lib Dems autumn party conference fringe which was co-hosted with Lib Dems in Europe. Speakers included Catherine Bearder MEP, Deborah Griffiths (Lib Dems Belgium branch Chair), George Cunningham (LDO Chair) and Dr Sue Collard (Sussex University), with FIRC Chair Robert Woodthorpe Browne chairing. The LDO also launched its website: https://www.libdemsoverseas.com/ at the event. A banner was produced with key policy messages specific for Brits living overseas.
MP Wera Hobhouse addressed LDO members via video-conference on 4th October, organised by members in New York and Seoul. Liberal International Secretary-General Gordon Mackay spoke from South Africa by video-conference to a group of Afghan MPs who were interested in learning about how to form a modern political party. Phil Bennion from Liberal International spoke to the same group via skype on another occasion too. Contacts were made with a prominent member of India’s Congress party about furthering liberalism there.
Specific Lib Dem policies addressing Brits living overseas are being formulated for the first time. LDO has produced a draft policy document and put it out for consultation amongst Brits living overseas, asking for comments and further ideas at: https://www.libdemsoverseas.com/policy_consultation LDO expects to present a draft policy paper to the Lib Dem Federal Policy Board for consideration in early 2019 and propose a motion at the 2019 autumn party conference to make this official party policy for the first time. A conventional and social media database has been created and will keep being improved to get the message out. As a consequence, the LDO Chair and LDO Head of Media have been interviewed on Cayman Islands Television so far.
LDO members attended the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) Annual Congress in Madrid, Spain and Liberal International’s Annual Congress in Dakar, Senegal as voting delegates of the UK Lib Dem Party.
LDO was also represented at the People’s Vote March in June and Lib Dems Anti-Brexit Rally in November.
The local party’s constitution was approved by members at its AGM held on 18th November.
I am very grateful for the great enthusiasm, professionalism and dedication displayed by the executive whose diligent work has made all this activity possible. I also take the opportunity of thanking the Lib Dems party president, the Federal International Relations Committee, Lib Dems in Europe and Liberal International for their cooperation in building up our organisation.
Chair, Lib Dems Overseas
18th November 2018