Yes, it’s that time once again when one of the Party’s least visible, yet most important internal bodies, English Council, gathers for the first of its two scheduled meetings in 2010.
On Saturday, July 3rd, 125 or so representatives from the English Regions will gather in central London to hear speeches from the Party President, Ros Scott, and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunnell MP. However, the key business for debate will be the proposed ratification of the new Selection Rules for Parliamentary Candidates, and this will be the only opportunity to debate them before they come into effect.
There is also an opportunity to submit emergency motions – the deadline for normal ones is long gone, I’m afraid – as long as they reach the English Party Administrator by 11 a.m. on Friday, July 2nd.
But just what does English Council do, and what powers does it have? For those of you without a copy of the English Party’s Constitution to hand, and I am surprised by the number of you that don’t, here is the relevant text;
- to co-ordinate the activities of the Regional Parties;
- with the agreement of a Regional Party to exercise or provide for the exercise of any of the functions of that Regional Party;
- to act as a mediator in disputes between Regional Parties or between a Local Party and a Regional Party;
- to manage the finances of the Liberal Democrats in England and, as part of that function,
- to negotiate financial arrangements with the Federal Party;
- to determine the amount of membership income to be remitted to the Regional Parties;
- to determine service fees to be paid to Local Parties for recruitment and collection of renewal subscriptions;
- to determine the level of grants to SAOs and other bodies in the Party to carry out work in England;
- if thought fit, to borrow money for the purposes of the Liberal Democrats in England and give security for borrowings;
- if thought fit, to guarantee and give security for borrowings by any Regional or Local Party in England;
- to raise funds by such means as may be thought fit, but so that no funds may be raised in ways which may conflict with fund-raising by the Federal Party without consultation with the Federal Treasurer;
- to elect the representatives of the Liberal Democrats in England to any committee or other body established by or under the Federal Constitution which includes such representatives or to any Joint State Committee;
- to receive reports from the Federal Executive and any other such bodies as are appropriate;
- to receive reports from the English Candidates Committee, which shall include any revisions to the rules for selection and adoption of candidates;
- to discharge other functions of the EC or the Liberal Democrats in England under these Articles;
- to do anything else which may enable the EC to discharge its functions more effectively.
Reading between the lines, that gives the English Party a surprisingly high level of authority, even if its profile is almost subterranean.
So, how does one get involved? If you were elected as a Regional Representative last year, you’ll know all about this. However, there are often vacancies, and a need for substitutes (as an example, East of England has one vacancy and one unavoidable absentee requiring substitution). So, if you’re interested, get in touch with your Regional Secretary (in the East of England, that would be me) and ask if you can attend in an official capacity. The chances are that he or she will take your hand off at the elbow, as finding substitutes is often difficult.
The meeting starts at 11 a.m., and your travel expenses will be met (excluding the first £10), so it needn’t be expensive. So, why not join me in less than four weeks? There might even be time for a drink afterwards…