Majority of Lib Dem members favour reform of party’s own voting rules

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

56% support reform of party’s internal democracy

This weekend saw the publication of the Lib Dems’ biennial internal elections to the party’s federal committees. Here’s what our survey of party members says about opening up the electorate to the whole membership, and/or allowing all members to vote at the party’s federal conferences.

LDV asked: Currently Lib Dem local parties elect voting representatives annually in proportion to their membership numbers. All party members are eligible to attend and to speak at party federal conferences. Only voting representatives are eligible to vote at conference, however, and to vote in the party’s biennial internal elections to the committees which govern the party, such as the Federal Executive. Some members say this system of local parties electing voting representatives ensures better representation of the geographical spread of Lib Dem membership and prevents ‘power grabs’ by well-organised minority interests. Other members say the party’s democratic processes are too restrictive and should be opened up much further to all party members who wish to take part. What is your view?

    32% – I support the current system of voting representatives as it stands
    6% – I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote in internal party elections, but would allow any and all party members to vote at conference
    23% – I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote at conference, but would allow any and all party members to vote in internal party elections
    27% – I oppose the current system of voting representatives and would allow any and all party members to vote at conference and to vote in internal party elections
    11% – Don’t know

A spread of results with no single option receiving majority support. However, there is near-majority support among our survey of members for opening up the party’s internal elections to all members, with 50% voting for options 3 and 4 above. The proportion which would support allowing any member to vote at conference (33% – options 2 and 4 combined) is roughly equal to the proportion which supports the current system as it stands (32%). In total, 56% of Lib Dem members in our survey favour some reform of the current rules to open up the party’s processes more.

We asked those filling in the survey to say if they are currently a voting representative for the Lib Dems: 45% said they are, with 55% saying they are not. Here’s how the results above look when broken down between each of these two groups:

Current conference repsAll other party members
I support the current system of voting representatives as it stands40%26%
I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote in internal party elections, but would allow any and all party members to vote at conference6%6%
I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote at conference, but would allow any and all party members to vote in internal party elections26%21%
I oppose the current system of voting representatives and would allow any and all party members to vote at conference and to vote in internal party elections22%32%
Don't know6%15%

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s some difference between the two sets of results. The single most preferred system for current voting conference representatives is the existing one; for all other party members it’s fully opening up the party’s internal democracy. However, there’s actually not so much difference in terms of the aggregated results. A total of 54% of current voting representatives favour some reform of the current system, compared with 59% of all other voting members.

There’s some food for thought for our newly re-elected party president Tim Farron, together with the newly elected members of the party’s various governing committees!

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th and 31st October.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * 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.

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    9 Comments

    • The problem with this survey is that the default answer tends to be “Yes, I want more democracy” without pausing to consider whether that is a clever idea. Taken to its logical conclusion it results in the undermining of representative democracy. It is after all “undemocratic”‘that the voting public don’t get to directly elect the Ministers for X, Y and Z, right? Yet, although widely popular politician A might be a shoe-in for any of those Ministerial positions in a direct election to those positions, there may be a very good reason, he never attains them under the current system – namely, his party colleagues consider him to be borderline if not actually crazy. That scenario always needs to be borne in mind when considering questions like the above.

    • Great result!! Go Liberal DEMOCRATS!!

      Now we need to get some serious momentum around the push for reform.

    • What’s depressing is that two-thirds of voting “reps” don’t want the rest of the membership to have a say in party policy.

    • Andrew Tennant 12th Nov '12 - 8:35pm

      It looks like we voting reps that support votes for all members have a challenge on our hands, but it’s a challenge I’m enthusiastic to take on. I know a number of reps are putting together a motion for Spring Conference, so, FCC willing, we’ll get to hear the case.

    • Of course we all want democracy, but it concerns me that
      1. voting in internal elections will mean that people not at conference will only “know” the big names, and maybe those that live in their region, so excellent people who represent us well on internal party committees, that we come across at conference, will not get a look in. There could be other ways of ensuring a better regional balance, but all member votes would do nothing at all to get someone in the NE elected.
      2. Voting for conference motions. 99% of the time I decide how to vote after listening to what people have to say in hte debate! also there is the opportunity to listen to what people have to say at fringe meetings and on any literature handed out, if at conference. There could be ways of some big issues being put to all the membership, but that is different.

    • I hope to be a voting rep (i.e. not just a substitute) and support this as well Andrew.

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