The Liberal Democrats have long been the party of political amateurs. Of course some of you have now broken down into fits of laughter at the back. Shame on you.

When I say ‘amateur’ I stay true to its French roots; that is, to pursue a vocation purely for the love of it, not for pay and without training, which given it is almost Valentine’s Day seems rather apt.

Conservatives are mostly groomed from birth to run the local village hall, or the country, depending on the aspirations of the parents involved. In Labour, unless you have a sharp suit, red tie and professional media training you’re not given the time of day.

By contrast, there exists a wonderful naivety among the Lib Dem rank and file. Unlike the stage-managed affairs that the other parties call conference, Lib Dem gatherings are membership-led, with policy submitted and debated by ordinary party members, some of them in sandals.

Which is why the launch of a number of Liberal Democrat think tanks and membership groups this month is interesting. Last week we saw the launch of Liberal Left. Last night saw Liberal Reform, a broadly centrist, Orange Book-inspired party pressure group, and later this month we should see the launch of ‘Liberal Insight’ a new, specifically Lib Dem, think tank which join the ranks of the Social Liberal Forum, Liberal Vision and the small ‘l’ think tank Centre Forum.

The Liberal Democrats used to be jokingly referred to as Britain’s biggest think tank. In opposition the ‘grown up’ parties used to steal half-decent policies safe in the knowledge that the media would ignore the howls of protest. Does getting the credit for implementing its policy in government mean that the 24-year-old party has finally reached maturity?

Both Labour and the Conservatives are awash with factions, Demos, Progress, ResPublica, Policy Exchange, to name just a few, vie for their policies and narrative to be used by their party of choice. The point is that before the coalition, the only parties people could be bothered to try and influence were the big two.

Ministers have been crying out for new policy ideas outside the usual avenues. After all, Nick Clegg can only bang on about the increase in income tax allowance and the pupil premium for so long. Waiting around until the party meets in a seaside resort seems a little impractical with the Sunday Politics happening every week.

That said, ministers championing ideas drawn up by competing Liberal groups can occur parallel to an amateur, membership-led process. It should be a welcome development that the party is developing the tools and sharpening up its skill-set to fill the year-round policy gaps that a five-day party conference simply can’t fill. As long as that is what these new groups are doing.

There is a worry that Liberal Left, founded by members who have always advocated stronger ties with Labour and publicly called for the coalition to end, is simply a rally point for those who are less than content with the coalition and that the rapid establishment of Liberal Reform less than a week later is a grassroots counter.

If that is true, if the rationale behind these groups is to prepare the ground for a left v right fight for the party’s soul, it will be an outcome Liberals can ill afford to entertain and the other parties will surely relish.

All the righteous lefty anger in the world isn’t going to bring back voters angry about tuition fees. Clearly stating what the party will do in the future to make Britain a fairer, more socially and economically just place, might just do that and open the door for new supporters as well.

Fresh ideas and a broad debate on policy within a party should always be welcome. These new groups must spend their time coming up with new ideas to keep the Liberal Democrat brand fresh and relevant in government. The media will be looking for signs of civil war. It would be preferable if they didn’t fight one.