The English Party welcomes careful, and discreet, participants…

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;

  1. to co-ordinate the activities of the Regional Parties;
  2. with the agreement of a Regional Party to exercise or provide for the exercise of any of the functions of that Regional Party;
  3. to act as a mediator in disputes between Regional Parties or between a Local Party and a Regional Party;
  4. to manage the finances of the Liberal Democrats in England and, as part of that function,
    1. to negotiate financial arrangements with the Federal Party;
    2. to determine the amount of membership income to be remitted to the Regional Parties;
    3. to determine service fees to be paid to Local Parties for recruitment and collection of renewal subscriptions;
    4. to determine the level of grants to SAOs and other bodies in the Party to carry out work in England;
    5. if thought fit, to borrow money for the purposes of the Liberal Democrats in England and give security for borrowings;
    6. if thought fit, to guarantee and give security for borrowings by any Regional or Local Party in England;
    7. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. to receive reports from the Federal Executive and any other such bodies as are appropriate;
  7. to receive reports from the English Candidates Committee, which shall include any revisions to the rules for selection and adoption of candidates;
  8. to discharge other functions of the EC or the Liberal Democrats in England under these Articles;
  9. 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…

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  • Andrew Suffield 8th Jun '10 - 4:02pm

    Does this extra layer of bureaucracy really do anything useful?

  • Antony Hook 8th Jun '10 - 5:40pm

    That’s a lot better than other parties that are run as a dictatorship with all power vested in one person.

  • Ruth Bright 8th Jun '10 - 10:07pm

    Mark – it is great news that the labyrinthine selection rules are being reformed. When I was selected back in 2002
    I think the rules ran to about 50 A4 pages and other than a vague reference to the DDA they did not address equalities’ issues at all. How to do you feel that the new rules will remedy the problems with the old ones?

  • (Ruth has given me another opportunity so I will make use of it) It’s no good fiddling about with the selection rules. We have to transform the shape, look and feel of the party. It has to be more open, more flexible, more welcoming. And one huge step towards that would be to bin all the selection rules and run primaries to choose candidates.

  • George W. Potter 9th Jun '10 - 1:13am

    This is pretty much the first I have heard of the English Council. Then again, given the complete absence other than in name of a local liberal youth branch and the utter failure of the national party to send me my membership card, paperwork or indeed ballots for the Liberal Youth Executive elections (despite repeated attempt by myself to resolve the issue) it’s hardly surprising that ordinary party members have little clue as to how the party bureaucracy works.

  • Abolition of the English Party is long overdue. Sadly the EP has a very effective in-built defence mechanism: it’s meetings are so extraodrinarily dull that even those filled with reforming zeal are ground down into submission :(

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