Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
1 April 2020

Liberal Democrats put “nearly half” of party staff on coronavirus leave

The Conservative government will effectively subsidise the wages of an opposition party. 

By Patrick Maguire

The Liberal Democrats have put nearly half of their workforce on furlough in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior sources confirmed that staff across several departments at the party’s Great George Street headquarters in Westminster have been given an extended leave of absence on 80 per cent of their usual pay under the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s job retention scheme.

The move means that the government will effectively subsidise one of the opposition parties for the duration of the crisis. Those furloughed include policy advisers and campaign staff. A senior official confirmed that “approaching half” of those employed directly by the federal party would be affected. A number of local parties are also furloughing staff.

Some Liberal Democrats are decidedly uneasy about the news, warning that it undermines the party’s ability to effectively scrutinise a government with near-untrammelled power at a time when parliament cannot function normally. Others claim it raises questions over the Lib Dems’ finances. Under former leader Jo Swinson, the party raised £11m for its 2019 general election campaign, but while increasing their share of the vote, the Lib Dems finished with one fewer MPs (11) after high-profile defectors from Labour and the Conservatives fell far short in ambitious target seats.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy