NEW PRESIDENT FOR LOCAL LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Welsh Liberal Democrat members from across the 4 Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies gathered in Narberth recently for their Annual General Meeting at the Bloomfield Community Centre in Narberth.

In what has been a disappointing year with the loss of Bill Powell as a Regional Assembly Member for the Mid & West Wales Region and then the Referendum decision to leave the EU, members were upbeat! The spectacular victory at the Richmond Park Parliamentary by-election and the gain of 25 major Council seats in by-elections since 23rd June is evidence, as well as the most recent opinion poll showing the Liberal Democrats at 14%.

A good turnout of members (and apologies by those unable to attend!), were welcomed by Local Party Chair, Andrew Lye, from Johnston, Pembrokeshire, who took over in May, after the Assembly elections.

In his report, Andrew Lye said that membership had increased by 30% over the year. Also, it was being recognised within the Welsh Liberal Democrats that Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire had turned the corner and its presence and involvement was recognised at recent Spring and Autumn Conferences. This has culminated in 7 local party members being elected to Welsh Party Committees (and 1 as representative to a Federal Committee), with effect from 1st January 2017. Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats had had no representation on any committee since it was created in 2014.

Andrew Lye commented that the new intake of members included people who wanted to stand as Welsh Liberal Democrats at the May 2017 County Council Elections. Andrew said, “It’s early days, but it is very refreshing to see people coming forward and wanting to represent their community of the County Councils under the Welsh Liberal Democrat banner. We have struggled in the past and whilst we won’t many candidates in 2017, we will have some new faces. But 2022 will have to be the target in which we can hopefully have more candidates standing for the party. Members are more upbeat than they have been for years and membership growth especially in Carmarthenshire over the last year, offers hope for the future”.

The AGM heard the Treasurer’s report of the accounts given by Bob Kilmister, in which much had been spent on the Assembly elections, but had not seen the results hoped for, but lessons had been learned.

Retiring President, Muir Bird, from Tenby, took control of the meeting to oversee the election of the Chair. Andrew Lye was elected, unopposed. On returning to the Chair, bouquets of flowers materialised and one was given to Muir Bird. In his speech, Andrew thanked Muir for her many years of service and that she would be missed as President and the Executive. In return, Muir gave her thanks to the Executive and wished them well for the future. The second bouquet was for Cllr Pam Edmunds, who was unwell and unable to attend, in recognition of her 25 years service on Llanelli Town Council. The flowers were delivered to Pam, later that day.

In returning to the elections for the 2017 Executive, Jon Burree of Llanelli was proposed, seconded and elected unanimously by members present. Members heard from Andrew Lye of Jon Burree’s record in Llanelli and the Welsh Liberal Democrats, from the late 80’s. Jon and his late brother Nick were active party stalwarts. Nick Burree was a school teacher of History, Government and Politics at St Michael’s School in Llanelli. It was Nick who brought Kirsty Williams into the party and was her mentor in her early years. Kirsty Williams being the Welsh Cabinet Education Secretary since May 2016 and the former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

After the AGM, Honorary President Elect, Jon Burree, said “It came as a complete surprise to be asked to

take on this role. I was told it was in recognition of the past service by Nick and myself, locally and at the Welsh party level. I was also surprised to hear that Party Leader, Mark Williams made reference to the Burree Brothers in his dinner speech at the Autumn Party Conference in Wrexham. I will do my best to help the party locally as I am honoured to have been asked to take on this role”.

Christoph Fischer of Llandeilo was elected Vice Chair and Stuart Warner from Fishguard was re-elected as Secretary and Bob Kilmister, County Councillor for Dinas Cross, near Fishguard was re-elected as Treasurer. Bee Kingshott from Llanelli was elected Membership Secretary.

10 Members were also elected as Ordinary Members of the Executive, which will take over from 1st January 2017.

In what was expected to be an hour long AGM, members were buoyant and enthusiastic throughout the 2 hour meeting.

The meeting ended with Cllr Mark Cole, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Deputy President, speaking on the role of the party in Cardiff, after the May results, and the difficult decisions that had to be taken. He also welcomed the Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire members to the national party committees and that this will see an even closer working. Mark Cole was brought up at Martletwy in Pembrokeshire and he went on to become the youngest Mayor of Cardigan and Ceredigion County Council.

Chair, Andrew Lye said “the last few years have been very difficult in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, but we have built the Local Party. Membership is increasing steadily and people are joining us as they wish to be considered as possible candidates for next year’s Council elections. Many political pundits and especially our opponents have done their best to say that the Liberal Democrats are dead. Well, I am pleased to say that using similar words as Mark Twain is famous for saying “The report of our death is greatly exaggerated.”

“The corner has been turned and we are sure that as the reality of Brexit gets nearer, the Liberal Democrats believe that the British people should have their say on the final Brexit deal in a referendum. Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination. British people have a right to have their say on whether the deal they are offered is the right one for them, their families, their communities and our country”, said Andrew Lye.

Andrew Lye ended by saying “The Government under the Conservatives, seems to be becoming UKIP lite and is taking the UK towards a cliff edge once Article 50 is triggered. And what is the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn proposing? Yes…. What is Labour proposing? They do not seem to know, but they seem to be going along with the Tories.”

The Liberal Democrats remain a proudly pro-European party. Following the referendum, we are setting out clear answers to some of the big questions and what we think should happen next.

“I am proud to Chair the Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats as Brexit draws ever nearer. And I can say that we are happy to welcome new members. You can join at www.libdems.org.uk/join “.

You can also follow/join the Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats on Facebook @: https://www.facebook.com/CarmsAndPembsLibDems/?fref=ts

Featured image: Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire Chair, Andrew Lye (left), congratulating Jon Burree on his election as the new Honorary President. Photo taken in Llanelli.

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