9.30 am on Saturday morning may not be a prime-time slot, but on 9th March there will be more than usual interest in a constitutional amendment tabled to the Lib Dem spring conference.
Why? Because the amendment will make it possible for the Lib Dem federal conference to pass a vote of no confidence in the party leader to trigger an election.
Here‘s the proposed amendment:
‘An election for the Leader shall be called upon a vote of no confidence in the Leader passed by a two-thirds majority at Federal Conference‘ [my emphasis]
Currently, the party conference itself has no role in electing (or defenestrating) the party leader. When it comes to leadership elections we’re a one-member-one-vote party, whereas at party conferences only elected conference representatives can vote.
It is of course possible already for party members to no-con the leader: ‘The receipt by the President of a requisition submitted by at least 75 Local Parties (including for this purpose, the Specified Associated Organisation or Organisations representing youth and/or students) following the decision of a quorate general meeting’ can also trigger a leadership election.
However, the amendment would lower the threshold significantly. If passed, it would require only 10 conference representatives to submit a motion to the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) calling for a no confidence vote. As there are at any one time nearly always at least 10 conference reps wanting a change of leader(!), FCC would be forced for the first time to make decisions about the viability of the leader. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes. Or indeed the leader’s (current or future).
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.