The Liberal Democrats are a democratic party to the core, and your voting representatives have returned a set of committees which will ensure that members’ voices are heard at all levels of the party.
However, I look at the results as someone who is a member of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, a democracy activist who is actively working with the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy to bring about democratic reform in the nation and generally as someone who takes the word “Democrat” in the party’s name very seriously. I cannot help but think that Mr Gordon’s statement is slightly over-egging our democratic credentials when it comes to our internal elections.
If the Tories or Labour were to hold elections where the only people who could vote were a cabal of men and women in smoke-filled rooms we’d be outraged and decry them for being undemocratic. Yet if we replace the smokefilled rooms for the conference hall, and the shady cabal with federal conference representatives, we have a perfect description of the internal elections for the Liberal Democrats.
In times past when the party was struggling for money, or it was difficult for us to hold elections, it made sense that we should limit the electorate to the most zealous and faithful for logistical reasons. But times have changed and so too must our internal elections. It is not right that I as a Federal Conference Representative have a say on who governs our party whilst other members do not. There are many in my constituency who might be able to make a better informed choice on many issues that Federal Conference Reps deal with, yet by the virtue of me being keen and able to give a good speech at an AGM, I was elected as a representative. And from that I am able to influence the direction of the party.
Why should we ensure that everyone gets a say? Just look at the people who have been elected to the committees. -vA small group of people drawn from an unrepresentative sample of the party (Conference Reps) who only had to lobby the same unrepresentative sample of the party to get elected.
That’s not democracy. It’s a joke.
If we want to live up to Tim Gordon’s claim to be democratic to our core then the road to take is simple. One member One Vote. Only that way can we ensure that the election is fair. Only that way can we stop groups like Liberal Reform and the Social Liberal Forum putting up slates of candidates to influence the direction of the party based on what they think the party membership wants. If we want to do what the party membership wants, then why don’t we just ask them?
One member. One Vote. It really is that simple.
* Steven Haynes is a democracy activist who operatesblogs at Democracy at Some Point the UK’s first podcast dedicated to democratic reform and is currently the Membership Development Officer for Northfield Liberal Democrats.