Reporting back from English Council’s 17 November meeting

This is a report of the meeting of the Liberal Democrat’s English Council held last Saturday (17th November 2012) at University College London.

The English Council is the governing body of the Liberal Democrats in England and meets twice a year to consider matters of importance to the English Party.

Review of Police and Crime Commissioner elections campaign

The main topic of discussion at this meeting was how the English Party should respond to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

There was general agreement that the way the Party had handled the run up to these elections had been, shall we say, less than ideal. There was also a wide-ranging discussion about who was to blame for the mistakes that were made. While the Chair of the English Council Executive had made clear in his report that the bodies of the English Party should admit to their share of the responsibility, there was particularly pointed criticism of the role of the Federal Executive from members in the meeting.

However, the general feeling, something explicitly expressed by several who spoke, was that the priority was to look forward and learn the lessons of this experience. One point that I heard several people make was that the Party lacks the structures it needs to organise and fight elections that take place across traditional constituency boundaries. There was a strong desire to find ways that could be address this weakness.

The upshot of this is that the business motion from Western Counties region asking for a review of the organisational arrangements made by the party for these elections was passed with only one vote against. So the English Party will now be setting up a working party to carrying out a thorough review and make recommendations for the future.

Other news

The other issues that I had highlighted in my previous post previewing the agenda for this meeting all went as expected.

The financial reports and motions were passed without much disagreement or discussion. The changes to the rules for the advertising of candidate selection that were needed to take account of Party HQ’s decision to close Liberal Democrat News were also agreed.

We also had an excellent keynote speech from Stephen Lloyd the MP for Eastbourne.

Of the three motions proposing amendments to the constitution of the English Party two were passed, the third was deferred for further consultation. This included approval of the amendment that proposed changing the basis on which the membership of the English Council is determined. This means that for next year the membership of the English Council will increase to a fixed size of 150 members. The allocation of those members to the regions and Liberal Youth will be done in proportion to their membership.

You can find out more about the work of the English Party in my previous post What does the English Council do? and in the LDV English Council archive.

 

* Andy Strange is a member of the Lib Dems' English Council. He blogs at Strange Thoughts.

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18 Comments

  • How is candidate selection to be advertised now?

  • Andy Strange 20th Nov '12 - 4:07pm

    Louise, LDV reported on the new arrangement s here.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '12 - 7:34pm

    Is there any point to the english council? Would anyone miss it if it was abolished ?

  • I am very surprised that Andy’s report back makes no mention of the role of the Parliamentary Party in all this. Bearing in mind the views which have come back from polling, and the strong likelihood that nearly 25% of the electorate were opposed to these elected posts, and either spoiled their ballots deliberately, by writing a message of opposition (3%, apparently, including me) or didn’t vote (around 20%), the fact that our parliamentarians either failed to pick this up, or were so concerned to go along with the Tory policy that they did not make their views known. They well knew the strength of view in FE etc, and yet voted in the opposite way. For the English Party apparently, to castigate FE, and not mention as a large player the Parliamentary Party, seems perverse, or perhaps sycophantic. In some areas at least, Parliamentarians also applied pressure to get official candidates selected and nominated. A lot of good it did.

  • @Simon – for the first time I could see some purpose in it. Quite impressed with the new chair who is tackling the issue of MPs (not) tithing and the role the English party takes in cross local party elections. Makes me wonder if problems with the English party in recent years have stemmed from “the man at the top”.

    It needs opening up though

    Tim13 – the Parliamentary party voted through something we didn’t support because it was a concession in the coalition. Now you can argue whether they should have done that or not but in a coalition there will have to be some concessions. The cock-ups were not nailing down some (further) concessions on electoral publicity and deposit levels.

    And were nothing to do with the English party exec/Federal Exec decisions (which were totally unecessary – if local parties wanted to support independents that course of action is always open to them).

  • Simon McGrath 21st Nov '12 - 5:29am

    @Hywel – thanks for your response.
    How much are MPs supposed to tithe ? – they are hardly well paid (to start with

  • Matthew Green 21st Nov '12 - 8:36am

    What is striking about the PCC farrago was just how divided the party was about whether to contest the elections – and that was evident from the EC discussion. Trying to get an organisational structure to resolve that in the timescales required was well nigh impossible. The instinct amongst our members is not to follow the leadership on this type of issue, but to take their own part of the organisation down their own preferred route.

  • 10% is the usually suggested level – though constitutional rules for councillors don’t specify an amount.

    The issue is that it is mandatory for councillors but voluntary for MPs. It was first introduced as an “urgent” step in the Bones report in late 2008. That was join authored by Paul Burstow MP who presumably was aware of the “underpaid” point if that is an issue. Though Paul’s name (last time I checked_ doesn’t appear on any donation reports over that time – nor does Nick Clegg’s. I’ve emailed both of them numerous times over the last 18 months asking for information if this is incorrect with no response (so if either want to comment…..)

    It’s also fairly clear from the party finance reports to conference that not every minister is tithing from their ministerial salary (estimates have dropped in successive budgets)

    “Trying to get an organisational structure to resolve that in the timescales required was well nigh impossible. ”

    Why? My regional party came up with one in about 15 minutes at a regional exec (Meeting with one vote per constituency) – ended up with 3 areas standing, one not.

  • Liberal Neil 21st Nov '12 - 10:54am

    “How much are MPs supposed to tithe ? – they are hardly well paid (to start with”

    Ooh goody, can we have the argument about whether MPs, on two and a half times the average salary, or in other words, two and a half times what the income of a family on benefits will be capped at, counts as well paid again?

  • @Simon – the point is that it was decided that elected representatives at every level who receive an allowance tithe to the party (see the Bones report)

    There is no explicit exemption for Councillors whose Council allowances are their sole income in the English Party rules (though there is a hardship exemption which may apply)

    And if MPs objected so trenchently to this they could have raised this when the Bones report was published (co-written by the Chief Whip!) and ratified by FE in 2008. To the best of my knowledge that never happened.

    And what Neil said.

  • Tony Dawson 21st Nov '12 - 2:38pm

    Yet another meeting where English Council has failed to pass a motion to abolish itself. :-(

  • Tony Dawson 21st Nov '12 - 2:44pm

    @Simon McGrath :

    “I suppsoe there is a difference in that Councillor are normally not dependent for their income on their allowance ( clearly there are exceptions) whereas MPs are.”

    A somewhat sweeping statement. I presume that the reason why Parliament continues to have such a long summer recess is still to permit the vast majority of Honorable Members to repair to their estates to bring in the harvest to swell their magnificent coffers. ;-)

    Only 6 out of 20 (including me) of our group of local councillors have obvious earned income. 7 if you include Lords attendance payments.

    I think only one of the 7 Labour councillors in the Sefton MBC Cabinet has a significant external income source.

  • As members of the Board of Directors of UK Plc, MPs are grossly underpaid.. fact.
    For some Committee or Report to decide that elected people should ‘tithe’ is arrogant in the extreme. If elected the allowance is supposed to relate to the role and doesn’t allow for a donation to your club… or put another way, any allowance I am paid is MY money and no-one else’s, I will decide how to spend it.
    I am still paying off the personal overdraft I ran up when I was PPC in 2010; so if the Party starts to provide financial support and expenses for candidates that is refundable from the allowance if elected.. now that could make some sense. !
    Tithing is just a lazy, opportunist way of avoiding proper fund raising.

  • “I am still paying off the personal overdraft I ran up when I was PPC in 2010; so if the Party starts to provide financial support and expenses for candidates that is refundable from the allowance if elected.. now that could make some sense. !”

    IME the party provided considerable financial support (both direct and indirect) to get MPs elected

  • Liberal Neil 22nd Nov '12 - 2:47pm

    “As members of the Board of Directors UK Plc”

    Is it common for a Board of Directors to have 650 members? Surely the Cabinet, which carries an additional salary, is a nearer analogy?

    And I still don’t understand why 2.5 times the average salary isn’t considered more than enough payment for the role. After all the primary motivation is a wish to serve the public, not to get rich, surely?

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