The Radical Association has been founded out a sense of frustration at the state of the Liberal Democrats and a genuine fear that the party will fail to miss a once in a generation opportunity to define a unique role in British politics. We exist to enable members to work together to reshape the Liberal Democrats to be the radical, distinctive, pro-European and liberal movement which we know it can be.
A unique opportunity being missed
Almost uniquely in British politics at the moment, the Liberal Democrats are blessed by being a united party which has recently seen a surge in membership and with a potential core vote of people who are outward looking, pro-European, left of centre and pro-environment yet who find no party willing to speak up for their values. Mark Pack and David Howarth have done excellent work on describing this potential core vote for the Liberal Democrats which can be read here.
However, the question facing the Liberal Democrats is whether the party can reach out to this potential core vote and persuade them that their natural home is with the Liberal Democrats. And the sad fact is that, at present, the answer appears to be 'no'.
We have recently seen confused messaging as to whether the party stands for staying in the EU, for accepting the referendum result but also for staying in the single market or for something else entirely. And this is part of a more general problem at a national level.
There is a lack of a distinctive core theme of messages which tell people what the party is fundamentally about. There is a lack of strategic direction or joined up communication. Above all the party too often seems to be lagging behind the times both in terms of campaigning methods and messages. Rather than leading, the party is too often left to play catch-up.
When we look at the party at a local level the situation in many places is not much better: Local party websites that are rarely updated with ageing designs. Moribund campaigning organisations. Local party executives dominated by people who are hostile to innovation. Campaigning techniques which revolve around delivering the same old leaflets complaining about dog mess, potholes and dustbins.
None of these are insurmountable problems but they are made worse by party structures which are difficult to understand, lack transparency and which seem to often be dominated by an establishment which is unwilling to listen to ordinary party members, let alone let them have a say in the party's direction.
Talent and energy being frustrated
We have many thousands of eager, energetic members (many of them new to the party) who are keen to get stuck in and make the party the effective force that we all know it can be. Members who want the party to make the most of this opportunity to speak unashamedly to and for those who remain pro-immigration, pro-European, who want a just society and a fair economy that works for everyone.
But too often the way the party runs gets in the way of that and frustrates members who try to get involved.
Whether it be policy making, campaigning or the party's overall party message it is sadly common to find a lack of transparency and unnecessary obstacles which prevent members from having their say and influencing key decisions.
The solution to this problem lies in organisation. Liberal Democrat members believe the party needs a radical, distinctive and pro-EU identity need to work together at all levels of the party to make this happen.
We need to work together to shape party policy so it offers a coherent and distinctive vision for our country's future - starting with fighting for the UK to stay in the EU. We need to campaign to elect like-minded members to key party committees so they're able to guide the party in the right strategic direction and put party members back in the driving seat. We need to modernise the party's campaigning infrastructure from top to bottom and make it easier for members, especially those from under represented backgrounds, to not just become involved in campaigning but to lead it.
Above all we need to mobilise to transform the Liberal Democrats into the mass political movement we know it can be. A movement that offers a clear vision of a prosperous future for Britain where no one is left behind and where prosperity, internationalism, freedom and social justice walk hand-in-hand.
This is the vision with the Radical Association has been set up to fight for. Our mission is to provide the structure necessary for members who share our vision to work together to make it a reality.
If you share our vision then we need you to join us by signing up to our mailing list and liking our facebook page as the first step to getting involved in our campaign to make sure the Liberal Democrats offer the radical, distinctive and pro-European alternative which this country desperately needs.