Each year I convene three panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 People on the Left and the Top 100 People on the Right. Each list is published to coincide with the three party conferences. This is the ninth year I’ve been doing this and although I thought that last year’s lists saw an unprecedented degree of change from the previous year, 2016’s are maintaining the momentum. Politics is getting ever more frenetic.

The Liberal Democrats have at least met the challenge I set them in 2015: of remaining relevant enough to warrant their inclusion in this exercise. Although they still seem stuck on 8 to 9 per cent in the polls, the EU referendum result, and Tim Farron’s immediate and instinctive reaction to it, gave them more publicity, another 20,000 or so members and a marked improvement in their local government by-election performance.

After 19 new entries in last year’s Liberal Democrat list, there are 15 new ones, or re-entries, this year. Much of this is due to the firming-up of the leader’s organization – this time last year Farron was a brand new leader, and hadn’t sorted out his office or his advisers. So many of the changes are due to new appointments – notably his widely-respected chief of staff Ben Williams, the highest new entry at number 5 – or to members of his leadership campaign team fading out. A raft of new appointments at party HQ have brought a new energy and professionalism to what was a distinctly battered operation, and the highly competent party president Sal Brinton has overseen an overhaul of the party’s byzantine committee structure.

Still, the Lib Dems lack stars recognizable in the outside world; most of the names here will be familiar only to party activists. Alongside Farron, Nick Clegg – now clawing back a little of the respect he used to have thanks to his expertise on EU matters – and Norman Lamb, plus old warhorses Paddy Ashdown and Vince Cable, are about the only Lib Dems who get any national coverage. There are other good performers, many now in the House of Lords, such as Susan Kramer and Lynne Featherstone, or Scottish leader Willie Rennie or London mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon, but along with the party as a whole, they struggle to be noticed. Welsh leader Kirsty Williams finds herself in the odd, though influential, position of occupying a ministerial post in the Welsh government as part of a coalition between Labour and – herself, as the only surviving Liberal Democrat in the Welsh Assembly.

Labour’s long-drawn-out implosion and UKIP’s disintegration may offer opportunities to the Liberal Democrats over the next twelve months. It’s too early to say they’ve recovered from electoral wipe-out in 2015 – but at least they seem to have hit bottom.

  1. (-) Tim Farron
    Leader of the Liberal Democrats
    One of the more challenging jobs in British politics at the moment. Finding it difficult to get media traction but very popular with the LibDem grassroots. With Labour imploding there are now huge opportunities for the LibDems if Farron can exploit them.

  2. (-) Sal Brinton
    President of the Liberal Democrats
    Brinton has an increasingly high media profile and is a reassuring presence for the LibDem grassroots.

  3. (-1) Nick Clegg
    Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
    With the publication of his new book and his return to the front bench as Europe Spokesman, expect to hear much more from the former Deputy Prime Minister over the next 12 months.

  4. (-1) Norman Lamb
    Health Spokesman
    A quieter year for Lamb, who is increasingly concentrating on mental health policy.

  5. (NEW) Ben Williams
    Chief of Staff to Tim Farron
    Acts as Tim Farron’s eyes and ears and gatekeeper.

  6. (+1) Willie Rennie
    Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
    Avoiding wipeout in the Scottish Parliament elections in May counted as success in LibDem terms. Much of this was due to Rennie’s unexpectedly good performances in the TV debates.

  7. (-1) Kirsty Williams
    Former Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
    She stood down from the leadership in Wales after losing all the LibDem seats in the Welsh Assembly apart from her own. She is now the only LibDem in a position of power, having accepted a place in the Welsh Executive Cabinet.

  8. (+5) Lord Newby
    Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords
    Newby has just been elected LibDem leader in the Lords, having previously acted as chief whip.

  9. (+17) Alastair Carmichael
    Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland
    Carmichael has recovered from being accused of electoral malpractice and has now one of Tim Farron’s inner circle. A wise old owl figure.

  10. (-1) Lynne Featherstone
    Lib Dem Peer & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change
    Popular with activists, a stellar record as a minister on issues like gay marriage and FGM. Kept up her profile with her book on equal marriage, EQUAL EVER AFTER

  11. (+3) Caroline Pidgeon AM
    Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London
    Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she fought an excellent campaign for London mayor even if she didn’t get the result she deserved.

  12. (+3) Tom Brake
    Lib Dem Chief Whip
    Brake is popular in the party, if somewhat charismatically challenged. But he herds the LibDem cats well and is trusted.

  13. (+4) Baroness Susan Kramer
    Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesman
    Was seen as a good minister at the Department of Transport and has a good profile in her new economics portfolio. Her public persona belies a wickedly cheeky sense of humour.

  14. (+2) Baroness Kate Parminter
    Lib Dem Deputy Leader in the Lords
    One half of a LibDem power couple (married to Clegg donor/adviser Neil Sherlock) she is a popular member of the LibDem House of Lords leadership team. She also shadows DEFRA.

  15. (RE-ENTRY) Mike German
    Party Treasurer & DWP Spokesman in the House of Lords
    Former leader of the LibDems in the Welsh Assembly, he is said to have become very close to Tim Farron and is also responsible for the money side of the party.

  16. (+3) Sir Vincent Cable
    Former Lib Dem Business Secretary
    Kept up a high media profile in the last twelve months and clearly determined to continue to play a leading role in the promotion of LibDemmery. Still handicapped by his reputation for not being a team player, burnished in the Clegg and Laws books.

  17. (+1) Paddy Ashdown
    Former Lib Dem leader
    Still recovering from the 2015 election shambles he remains an important figure behind the scenes and still maintains a high media profile.

  18. (NEW) Phil Reilly
    Director of Communications for the Liberal Democrats
    All round nice guy, Reilly has made the transition from being one of Nick Clegg’s Press team to taking on the whole comms role for Tim Farron. Devout West Ham fan.

  19. (+12) Tim Gordon
    Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
    Some say he’s more of a Financial Director than a Chief Executive, but whatever he is, he’s doing a great job holding the LibDems’ financial head above water.

  20. (NEW) Shaun Roberts
    Director of Campaigns & Elections

  21. (-1) Duncan Brack
    Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee

  22. (+1) Mark Pack
    Editor, LibDem Newswire

  23. (-1) David Laws
    Former LibDem Schools Minister

  24. (+16) Caron Lindsay
    Co-editor of LibDem Voice

  25. (NEW) Chris White
    Member, Party Executive & Councillor

  26. (+18) James Gurling
    Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee

  27. (NEW) Giles Derrington
    Head, Parliamentary Advisory Unit, Liberal Democrats

  28. (+1) Dorothy Thornhill
    LibDem mayor of Watford, new peer

  29. (-2) Jo Swinson
    Former Business minister

  30. (NEW) Robin Teverson
    LibDem Peer

  31. (-6) Sir Simon Hughes
    Former deputy leader of the Lib Dems

  32. (NEW) Rumi Verjee
    LibDem donor

  33. (+9) Mark Williams
    Lib Dems’ only Welsh MP, vice-chairman of the parliamentary campaigns team

  34. (-13) Catherine Bearder
    Member of the European Parliament

  35. (RE-ENTRY) James McGrory
    Co-Director, Open Britain, former Press Secretary to Nick Clegg

  36. (NEW) Laura Davies
    Director of People, Liberal Democrats

  37. (-1) Menzies Campbell
    Former leader of the LibDems, LibDem peer

  38. (NEW) Tim Pickstone
    Chief Executive, Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

  39. (-31) Greg Mulholland
    Chair of the Parliamentary Campaigns Team

  40. (-1) Jonathan Oates
    Former Director of Communications to Nick Clegg, LibDem peer

  41. (-31) Ben Rich
    Former chief of staff to Tim Farron

  42. (-2) John Pugh
    MP for Southport, Education spokesperson

  43. (NEW) Daisy Cooper
    Parliamentary Candidate, St Albans

  44. (NEW) Prateek Buch
    Federal Policy Committee Member, former Director of the Social Liberal Forum

  45. (NEW) John Leech
    Former Member of Parliament for Manchester, Withington

  46. (+41) Jim Wallace
    Outgoing Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords

  47. (+1) Maajid Nawaz
    Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC

  48. (-2) Sarah Ludford
    LibDem Peer, former MEP

  49. (NEW) Daisy Benson
    Parliamentary Candidate for Yeovil

  50. (-5) Gerald Vernon-Jackson
    Leader of the LibDems on the LGA