LY Elects ’13 Interviews: Stuart Wheatcroft

Why did you decide to run?
I decided to run for Convenor because in the few months I have been doing the job I have realised just how much there is to do. Liberal Youth England is a new organisation which is just beginning to find its role in Liberal Youth and the wider party. We need to move away from just being an administrative unit and towards our potential as a campaigning force. I have started that process but the majority of the work remains to be done. I am seeking a mandate for that work.
What will be your number one priority if elected?
My first priority will be to strengthen the role of the regions in Liberal Youth. In the past they have often been treated as a means to implement strategies handed down from on high: I want more regional control of LIberal Youth campaigning. For example, Gold Guard should have a far stronger regional focus. Regional branches also need to be far more involved in the freshers campaign and should have the support they need to provide ongoing support to branches and members throughout their term of office.
What is the one reason people should vote for you?
I have the experience to hit the ground running: I’m already working on making Liberal Youth England into a stronger and more effective organisation, and will continue that process seamlessly if elected. This is particularly important when it comes to relationships with the English Party, which are vital to success in the role.
How do you intend to develop Liberal Youth England beyond being an administrative unit?
The first part of my approach is subtle, and not necessarily outwardly visible. In the past Liberal Youth’s activities in England have been highly centralised. Even over the last few months the Gold Guard project was very much managed from the centre, though latterly the emphasis did shift somewhat, particularly in the case of the Cambridge action day. My first priority is to ensure that Federal officers recognise the huge advantages of working with Liberal Youth England, whether in the form of the Convenor or, probably at least as often, in the form of regional chairs. LYE is better able to develop grassroots connections and also has ties with regional parties. These ties are extremely important at any time but will be particularly so during the European election campaign.
The other side of the coin is that Liberal Youth England itself has to merit its increased role. I will work to bring regional chairs together more than has happened previously: I know from my time as a regional chair how tempting it is to focus on one’s own region and ignore the wider picture.
Liberal Youth England should not take on the same level of independence as Liberal Youth Scotland or IR Cymru – they both have devolution, for one thing – but there is huge potential to make LYE into an effective campaigning organisation rather than just a constitutional anomaly.
What will happen in regions where there isn’t the infrastructure to have that regional control?
Exactly what “regional control” means is a flexible concept. Most regional branches do not currently have a regional Liberal Youth executive, so in most cases greater “regional control” will take the form of proper involvement for regional chairs in decisions about campaigning in their region. This does not always happen at present.
In short, the only way a region cannot take on a greater role in decision making is if it has no regional chair. If that happens, it’s the Convenor’s constitutional responsibility to find someone to cover it until the vacancy can be filled.
What support should regions have and how will you deliver it?
To some extent this question puts the cart before the horse: the support each region needs may be different, and if elected I will expect each regional chair to work closely with me to determine exactly what they need.
There are some major areas of support which are likely to apply to most (if not all) regions. For example, any region which wants to run events is likely to need money. It may be possible to raise some of this within the region, but donating to Liberal Youth England might be more attractive for some potential donors. It would be simple enough to set up a “Friends of Liberal Youth England” campaign, either independently or as part of a Federal fundraising effort. I will look into this as part of a wider review of Liberal Youth England’s (hitherto very limited) relationship with money.
We also need more sharing of ideas and advice between regions and branches, and indeed across the state borders. For example, there is an ongoing question about the best way to provide social opportunities to non-branch members, and in particular those who are under-18. I don’t think anybody has come up with a perfect solution yet but let’s keep trying. Whenever someone does put on an innovative event, I want Liberal Youth to keep a record of as much information about how it was done.
Stuart Wheatcroft is running to be England Convenor. You can find out more him and the other candidates here.
All candidates were invited to be interviewed.
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