CLD Chair's Report November 2020

November 23, 2020 1:43 AM
By Dr Yeow Poon

Dr Yeow PoonThe year 2020 has been challenging for the Lib Dem Party. We did not perform well during the General Election in December 2019. We lost our leader and had to wait until September for a new leader to be elected. It has also been a challenging year for the country due to the inadequate response by the UK Government in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, as we approach the end of the year, we still do not have a Brexit deal with the European Union.

Chinese, East and Southeast Asian businesses were the first to be affected when the public became aware of Covid-19 in January, together with a rise of racism and hate crime against people of Chinese, East and Southeast Asian heritage. Two CLD members joined with others to form Covid-19 Anti-Racism Group (CARG). We also expressed solidarity with a statement on the BlackLivesMatter movement and established a relationship with the Lib Dem Black Lives Action Committee. CLD members have also raised concerns around the lack of colonial history in the curriculum and children malnutrition in the UK.

Internationally, we have been concerned with events in Hong Kong and conducted a survey. A motion on Hong Kong's Future by Alistair Carmichael MP was passed during the Autumn Conference. Two CLD Exec members spoke in favour of the motion but also pointed out that the motion did not acknowledged historical issues and that some of the language used is narrow and biased. More broadly, we have also been engaged with the debates around China's rise and global impact. We are concerned that the rhetoric of a Cold War with China is causing a rise in Sinophobia, which feeds into racism against Chinese, East and Southeast Asian people in the UK.

Overall, in 2020, I feel that we spent too much time on international issues and not enough on domestic UK issues. As we think ahead to 2021, it would be useful to remind ourselves that 'CLD was formed to promote closer links between the Party and the Chinese Community in the UK' with the following aims:
• Identify the needs and aspirations of the Chinese living in the United Kingdom
• Help the Liberal Democrat Party formulate policies and strategies which address those needs and aspirations
• Campaign and organise literature on behalf of the Party that more effectively reaches this minority group
• Encourage more members from this minority group to become politically engaged and/or to stand for public office.

The Lib Dem Party as a whole suffers from a poor brand image. Analysis by the Party since the last election highlighted that only 10% of voters stated that 'Lib Dems share my values' (2019) and only 16% stated that 'Lib Dems represent my views' (2018). Worse, only 15% perceived that 'Lib Dems want to help ordinary people get on in life' (2019). As these statistics are for the population as a whole, we can only speculate what Chinese, East and Southeast Asian people think of the Lib Dem Party and what their real concerns are.

Going forward into 2021, we ought to pay more attention to domestic UK politics as stated in our aims. We need to get a better understating of the values and needs of the Chinese, East and Southeast Asian communities and consider how CLD can best support the main Party in reaching out to them. We also need to encourage CLD members to be more active in local parties/regional bodies and enable CLD members to stand for public office.

Lastly, a big thank you for members of the 2020 CLD Executive for your time and efforts, as well as all CLD members who helped in election campaigns, wrote articles and took part in other Lib Dem activities. We welcome Ed Davey who became our Patron in 2020 and look forward to working with him and his team.