A review of federal committee elections – your chance to comment

Readers of Lib Dem Voice with good memories might remember, in early February, an article from me about the review of the Federal Committee elections. We put the process on ice over the past couple of months, due to the lockdown and the cancellation of the spring conference, but now we’re getting it going again.

Last year’s elections to the federal party’s committees – the Federal Board, Policy Committee, Conference Committee, International Relations Committee and ALDE council – broke new ground, especially in the efforts to engage as many party members as possible, and also through the management of the process online. It was also a substantial achievement to run it during what turned out to be a general election period, in October and November.

There were, however, also some serious difficulties, including the publishing of some candidates’ manifestos and not others, requiring the election to be paused and some voters to re-cast their votes, and other information required not being provided at all.

The Federal Board therefore decided to establish a small review group, chaired by myself and including others representing staff, voters and candidates. The review group’s tasks are to:

  • Seek views on the conduct of the autumn 2019 committee elections.
  • Consider whether the election regulations, and party HQ’s operating procedures, require any updates in the light of evolving party practices or greater use of electronic technology.
  • Look at how similar internal elections are run in other comparable organisations such as trades unions, charities or NGOs, and whether there any aspects we should learn from.

As part of this process, we’re now running a small consultation process. Last week all candidates in last year’s committee elections, and sample groups of party members who voted and didn’t vote, were emailed with links to short surveys.

Candidates are being asked about their experience of the nomination and manifesto processes, and the Facebook page that was set up to encourage dialogue with voters. Voters are being asked about their experience of the various elements of the election process, and any suggestions for how it could be made easier; and non-voters are being asked about the barriers they perceived that stopped them voting.

We’re not surveying the entire party; there are plenty of other email communications going out at the moment, and we only need a sample of members’ views. But if anyone reading this has strong views on the election process and hasn’t been surveyed, you’re welcome to email me your thoughts at [email protected], by Saturday 23 May. Please note that my group’s remit only extends to the federal committee elections; we’re not looking at the presidential or leadership elections or at the structure and function of the committees themselves.

* Duncan Brack is the Editor of the Journal of Liberal History and a member of the Federal Policy Committee.

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31 Comments

  • Paul Reynolds 11th May '20 - 11:09am

    Two questions. 1. What is the ‘problem’ that the review group is charged with solving ? 2. What was the turnout amongst the 100k+ membersin the federal elections last year ?

  • Laurence Cox 11th May '20 - 3:42pm

    @Paul Reynolds

    The main concern is that, although the Party has made attempts to get more people to vote in these internal elections, we still have a low turnout. You could interpret that as people being satisfied and not wanting change, but the FB wanted to see if we could do better by involving members more effectively.

    On numbers, say about 10% for FB and about 7% for the other committees. These levels are more or less the same as in 2016. Although I have the exact figures, being on Duncan’s group, I think it is up to FB to divulge these as and when they think fit. Someone can always put in a written question for Conference if they really want to know.

    One point I discovered as a result of investigating several other bodies of which I am a member is that having charitable status requires certain constraints on those who are allowed to be trustees (or senior managers) and that in itself changes the election process. In effect, all candidates have to be pre-screened for eligibility as a trustee before they can be put forward.

  • Duncan Brack 11th May '20 - 3:55pm

    Thanks, Paul. To expand slightly on what I wrote originally, the problems were: (1) despatch of the emails with voting instructions should have been staggered but weren’t, with the result that the voting site crashed upon the first day; (2) every candidate’s name should have been linked to their manifesto online, but several of them weren’t (when this was realised, the Returning Officer decided to pause the election and then cancel all the votes cast by then (how many initially voted and then didn’t cast their vote again when the process was reopened is not known); and (3) the candidates’ meeting attendance records should have been published alongside the voting instructions, and weren’t until several days after voting started, and then in inconsistent formats and with incomplete information provided.

    As Laurence observes, we’re also taking the opportunity to consider whether there’s anything that can be done to increase turnout. Realistically, this is never going to be high; the vast bulk of party members will have no idea what these committees are, and will never have heard of any of the candidates. Reading through all the manifestos and voting for all four committees is a very time-consuming process, and it is quite rational for most party members not to bother to do so. In fact I think it is quite impressive that more than 10,000 members voted for the Federal Board this time round! Having said all that, it’s right to consider whether there’s anything else we can do to raise turnout.

  • Do we need these committees, we need a Leader I know that.

  • Paul Reynolds 11th May '20 - 8:27pm

    I am grateful to Duncan and Lawrence for filling in the details. If more than 90% of members didn’t vote, and yet the Party regards the election as wholly legitimate, this could rather leave us open to a little criticism domestically or internationally. (Thanks for the clarification, however, since I was informed that it was around 99% of members who didn’t vote, which I now understand is incorrect). With such a low turnout this key element of the governance system needs more than a little refinement. It is good that the matter is under proper review.

    By the way, Lawrence wrote about the turnout, thus; ‘Although I have the exact figures, being on Duncan’s group, I think it is up to FB to divulge these as and when they think fit’. What might be the Federal Board’s justification for regarding the turnout in internal elections as a secret? Such an approach might also leave us a little vulnerable to criticism.

  • Peter Chambers 11th May '20 - 9:46pm

    I have a problem with people using Facebook for consultations. It is a closed system, not under the Party control. This can be interpreted as slanting the election. I am surprised that the returning officer allowed this for official information. Sadly I am not surprised that someone thought it was a good idea. Please start planning not to use Facebook, or any of the FANGs for anything.

  • Duncan Brack 11th May '20 - 11:12pm

    Paul, thanks again. Actually, the turnout isn’t a secret – you can see the numbers who voted here (https://www.libdems.org.uk/federal-election-results-2019), and party membership was about 110,000 when the election opened. I seem to remember posting rough turnout figures on another LDV post after the results came out. It’s worth remembering that under the old conference rep system pre-2016, never more than about 1,500 people voted (usually less than 1,000); while that was of course a much bigger proportion of the electorate, it was a much smaller proportion of the membership. For all the reasons I list above, we are never going to get large turnouts for these elections – but they probably could be a bit bigger.

    Peter – point well made, thanks very much.

  • Tony Greaves 11th May '20 - 11:48pm

    The reason that the turnout is so low is perhaps that the whole process is based on a number of false assumptions about the nature of representative democracy and accountability. There is little or none of the latter in the process. The problem is that the whole system of internal party democracy is essentially bust, the system is a mater of quite tight control by a relatively few people at the centre (essentially London) and the intermediate institutions of accountability are largely non-existent. (The system of 3-yearly elections just adds to the feebleness of the all this.) So large numbers of people are asked to vote for people they have little or no knowledge of, to sit on bodies which hardly report back and when they pretend to do so it’s mainly propaganda not proper information of issues, debates, the internal politics of it all. So a review like this is pretty pointless because it’s the whole system that need a massive overhaul (some chance of that!) not the mechanics of the electoral processes.

  • Paul Reynolds 12th May '20 - 10:27am

    I tend to agree broadly with Lord Greaves’ comment. This is not a minor administrative & technical issue in one set of internal elections, that with a bit of further HQ tinkering could be slightly better. All the evidence still points to a disfunctional governance structure and procedures, if we are to judge by the tendency of the party, increasingly, to make demonstrably wrong major decisions repeatedly. Most of the party agrees on that, and clearly it is the system rather than all the hardworking unpaid individuals which must take the blame. I don’t wish to be gratuitously critical (I’m no dissident!), but it is unwise and potentially dangerously hypocritical to have the main governance institutions of the party formed through elections in which 90% to 98% of members do not vote. Since the new Constitution was established, if the Party had been doing swimmingly, folks might me more sanguine about the governance of the party, but since things have been rather the reverse Lord Greaves is right about the extent of reform needed.

  • Julian Ingram 12th May '20 - 12:48pm

    As is increasingly the case I again agree with Tony Greaves. It’s not a democratic process if you cant get more than a 10% turnout. I suggest we review how our members want to interact with the party and what they expect to delegate to their representatives. This is very different from the past now we have a 6 figure membership predominiantly having joined online in the last 5 years. We are a light year away from any simple ‘frictionless’ form of involvement they expect. As Ian Sanderson correctly points out how can you expect these members to engage in a complex election when you don’t have the knowledge or the time.

  • I crunched some numbers based on the 110,000 membership quoted by Duncan Brack above.

    For the Federal Board, the turnout was 9.85% based on the total number of valid first preference votes. The highest scoring individual got just 704 votes (0.64% of the membership) and only five candidates were supported by more than 0.5% of the electorate.

    In aggregate the successful candidates for the FB were supported by just 6.80% of the membership.

    For the FPC, turnout (again on valid first preference votes) was 6.74%. The highest scoring individual got 0.7%. Only four candidates got more than 300 votes (0.27% of the membership).

    In aggregate the successful candidates for the FPC were supported by 6.74% of the membership.

    I didn’t do the numbers for the FCC.

    In an LDV article of 17th November 2019 on the results Caron Lindsay said, “Correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am the only directly elected member of FB, FPC or FCC who comes from outside England. I know that there are Scottish and Welsh reps but is that something we need to address? In fact, Federal Board is incredibly London-centric. Eight of its fifteen members actually come from London and only April and I could be described as beyond the Home Counties.” I am not aware than anyone has ‘corrected her’ so I assume she is right on that.

    IIRC the turnout for some of the initial Police & Crime Commissioner elections was as low as 17% and was widely derided at the time (including by Lib Dems) as ‘undemocratic’, ‘giving no mandate’ and the like.

    Turnouts in these internal elections are far, far worse.

  • I too am very new to this and indeed had never been a member of a political party until I joined the libdems straight after the referendum.
    I have to agree that there are systemic issues with procedures. On this issue It did take several hours to vote on the first occasion because I barely knew any of the candidates. I felt more worthy than informed at the end of the process, just for sticking with it. So much so that most people I had voted for I could not really remember.
    Therefore to be asked to do it all again as some information was missing was the last straw really. I did redo but very cursorily and didn’t use all my votes by any means.
    Unfortunately many of my encounters with any type of registration with the party have been frought with difficulties. I hoped a new president and leader might change much of that with a fundamental overhaul. Not much yet from the former and we don’t have the latter!

  • Paul Barker 12th May '20 - 1:53pm

    I think a lot of the comments have a completely warped idea of what constitutes Democracy in a Political Party, as though we were a Country. Parties are (relatively) Mass Membership but low participation organisations, comparable in many ways to Charaties or Trades Unions. Charities dont generally have any real Democratic structure at all, if they are internal bodies they are generally staffed by volounteers.

    Unions are usually scrupulously Democratic in structure but with very low rates of involvement, a 10% turnout for a Union President is usually seen as a good result.

    Parties have a much higher level of involvement, 60% for The Leadership is fairly normal but when we get to internal Commitees its a a matter of choosing between a small number of volounteers.
    The number of Active Members is probably 20% at best so to get half of them Voting is pretty good. Its not a question of Elites, essentially the more work you put in, the more influence you get.

    The One Big Thing that would help is if these Elections were staggered throughout The Year rather than arriving in a single, indigestible lump.

  • Duncan Brack 12th May '20 - 4:19pm

    Thanks for all the comments. I should emphasise that the review was set up to examine the reasons for the problems experienced during last year’s committee elections, and to ensure that we don’t go through them again. We’re taking the opportunity to ask people a slightly wider set of questions about the voting process, but it’s not in our remit to review the entire structure of internal democracy in the party. (There may well be a good case for doing that, and I happen to agree with some of the comments above, but it’s not what this review is about.)

    Commenters above have been really good at identifying problems, but very few of you have suggested any solutions! Thanks to Paul Barker for putting forward one. Any more are very welcome, either on this post or direct to me at [email protected].

  • I agree with the view of Tony Greaves, Paul Reynolds and others that the system is bust in multiple ways making party governance deeply dysfunctional and, while I take Duncan Brack’s point about the limited remit of the current review, one has to keep the context in mind to answer the more particular question. Specifically, I think many of the problems flow from trying to do the wrong thing.

    Is the FB supposed to be a representative body or, as the name suggests, an executive ‘board’? These are quite different animals and it cannot be both .

    The results linked by Duncan above note that one candidate “was promoted into the list of elected candidates due to gender diversity requirements.” That implies the FB is supposed to be representative. The usual dimension for representation is geography yet its elected members (with just two exceptions) are from London/home counties which implies the opposite.

    If it is an executive body responsible for the effective administration of the party, then it only needs a small membership. There are never more than about five people who actually run any organisation, however big, and no committee should be much larger than 12 in total. That implies a composition analogous to a big company board with the heads of key functions as executive directors supplemented by ‘non-execs’.

    Executive directors would, in practice, have to be London-based. I for one would be happy to see them appointed in the first instance by the Parliamentary party but subject to annual confirmation by Conference of each one separately. And if the party website were not dramatically improved – and soon – then that would be one exec not confirmed!

    The ‘non execs’ could be regionally elected to bring in a local dimension as they wouldn’t have to be London-based.

    There are presumably other ways of achieving the same end but, however it is done, it must be efficient and responsive, staffed by executives selected primarily for competence.

  • Laurence Cox 12th May '20 - 5:35pm

    I don’t find much to disagree with in the comments on our internal elections.

    I had forgotten that the data was on the Party web site already (I rarely look at it, but that’s another matter), and knew of the figures as those provided to Duncan by Greg Foster (he also provided other information which I believe is not public knowledge). So, my apologies for misleading you and others, Paul.

    We really only have two choices: evolution, broadly keep everything as it is but improve the way we do it; or transformation, completely change the internal structure of the Party.

    Some here have called for transformation, but it is not a short-term fix. Because all of these bodies are in the Federal Party Constitution (Articles 8-11 and 15) any change will necessarily take two years. We will need a Consultative Session at Autumn Conference, followed by a working party to go through all the details and ensure that everything is consistent and meets, as far as possible, the wishes of the members as expressed at the Consultative Session and through other means, then a motion to Federal Conference which has to be passed by a 2/3 majority. I don’t think that we should underestimate the complexity involved.

    My own preference would be for one more attempt at evolution and consider transformation if we could not achieve a significant improvement in three years’ time. A significant improvement for me would be not less than 20% voting for FB and corresponding levels for the other committees.

  • Laurence Cox 12th May '20 - 5:38pm

    @Gordon

    Last year we elected 15 members to the Federal Board; the electoral system we use (STV) means that the quota is 1/16 of the total number of votes + 1. So just over 6.25% of votes is all you need to be elected. With non-transferable votes, the quota reduces in later rounds of the count.

    You might say, let’s elect yearly by thirds (5 each year rather than 15 every three years) which would increase the quota to 1/6 of the total number of votes +1. But, if you did that the number elected would fall below 10 and the provisions of Article 2.6 on diversity would not apply. In making one change you would affect a different part of the Constitution. The same would happen if you decided to make the elections regionalised so members would elect representatives from their region, to overcome the London-centric bias. Perhaps you then need to think in terms of there being separate representation for the three under-represented groups in 2.6, but that lays you open to accusations of tokenism.

  • Laurence Cox 12th May '20 - 5:54pm

    @Gordon

    I suggest that you start by looking at Article 9.2.i, the voting members of the Federal Board, and explain how you would reduce this number to 12 or fewer (ideally 7 or fewer as there are also five non-voting members present in 9.2.ii).

  • @Paul Barker. I don’t think it is “warped” to expect that anybody who has power or influence in the party was put in that position by the membership. What is warped is where people on significant committees were placed their by others with influence in the party. I’m loath to use the word Cronyism, but….. !
    Charities, as you say, invariably have no democratic structures and perhaps that is something we need to look at, especially if those particular charities wish to benefit from tax breaks and the largesse of state for their funding.
    My own experience of trade unions has been that if anyone showed a real interest in the internal machinations of the organisations they were invariably encouraged. Not sure political parties do that very well.

  • @ Chris Cory, “Charities, as you say, invariably have no democratic structures and perhaps that is something we need to look at, especially if those particular charities wish to benefit from tax breaks and the largesse of state for their funding.”

    No, Sir. Charities are accountable to the Charity Commission in England and Wales, and in Scotland to OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator (a non-ministerial office and part of the Scottish Administration following commencement of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005).

    As Chair of a Food Bank in Scotland I know we operate a membership scheme with an AGM where the members receive/vote on the Annual Report and can question and elect the Trustees. We supply copies of accounts and the Annual Report to OSCR, (and to the local Authority who provide us with a grant) as well as to the press. OSCR can visit, inspect and report. Employment contracts are in line with statutory requirements.

    I don’t know what ‘largesse of state’ Mr Cory imagines or refers to. In fact we make up for the lack of state funding – especially after the Coalition’s Welfare Reform Act which saw an exponential growth in food banks.

    I suggest Mr Cory and Mr Barker get out a bit more…… and maybe read the following :

    “[PDF] Equality, human rights and the public service spending cuts: do UK welfare cuts violate the equal right to social security? J Butterworth, J Burton – Equal Rights Review, 2013 – equalrightstrust.org A real term cut of about 33%. Together the cuts to English local government (whose main function is social care) and on welfare benefits (the main focus of which is to reduce poverty) make up 50.8% of all cuts.”

  • Lawrence Cox – Thanks for responding and for the Article references.

    We know for sure the way the Party does things now does not work even if we aren’t quite sure why it doesn’t. ‘One more heave’ is not an option, we must go for transformative change which, as you say, will take a long time so we should start now.

    My earlier comment was intended as ‘blue sky’ thinking about what might be done as a precursor to deciding what should be done. As such, it is not appropriate to pay too much attention to the current constitution as it may dictate arrangements that work on paper but not in practice.

    Of course, constitutions should not be changed lightly but they should not be a straitjacket either. So, given the existential crisis the party is in, changes must be on the table if that is what it takes.

    For comparison I looked up the Conservative constitution. It says the board, “shall be the supreme decision-making body in matters of party organisation and management.” It has just 19 members (20 with secretary), some appointed (e.g. the Chair and one of two deputy chairs are appointed by the leader), four elected by the chairs of Constituency parties, some ex officio as chairs of various organisations (e.g. the elected chairman of the 1922 Committee, the chairman of the Conservative Councillors Association, three MPs elected by the Parliamentary Party) and a couple nominated (e.g. a senior member of the professional staff).

    Judging by its composition it is a representative body with membership chosen to ensure key groups – constituencies, councillors, backbench MPs, the leader – all have balanced representation. Its membership is commendably tight, well under half the size of the LD’s FB.

    Is this input from around the country and from different perspectives a significant contribution to how the Conservative party manages to spot and exploit opportunities (for instance Labour’s former ‘Red Wall’) so effectively? I think it probably is.

    For CH discussion of draft revisions with onward links see:
    https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2017/11/exclusive-draft-new-conservative-party-constitution-revealed.html

  • George Kendall 13th May '20 - 5:13pm

    The big problems with internal elections are that (a) most members have no idea who the candidates are. And, (b) if someone does get elected, most members don;t know how they voted on important issues in the committee.

    Duncan has asked for suggestions, so let me give two.

    To fix (a), we could go for regional elections for these committees. Depending on the size of the regions, with one or two representatives from that region for a committee. Hopefully, members voting in that region would have a better chance of knowing the people standing in their region.

    To fix (b), publish how people voted on the committee. And change the current (unwritten?) rule that these meetings are private. Instead, minute substantive points made on the committee, and publish those minutes.

    I can see a whole host of problems with the above, and I’m sure the published minutes suggestion would be deeply unpopular with committee members. But if we don’t do something like the above, how can committee members be accountable?

  • @David Raw. There are, I understand, something like 190,000 charities in the UK. Clearly they are not a homogenous bunch, if I erroneously gave that impression I apologise, but I don’t think I did.
    I said that many charities are undemocratic, to which you replied that they were all answerable to the Charity Commissioners. I can’t see the relevance of your observation, given that the law makes no requirement that charities have democratic structures.
    I am glad to hear that the charity you head up does have a membership and that those members can elect trustees. I just can’t believe that you didn’t know that most charities DON’T do things that way.
    Similarly, you say you don’t know what state largesse I refer to ? Well there’s the £10k a local town council in my part of the world gives to a literary festival, or the £8500 my local parish council gives to a community centre, the £5k to a local youth group. In each case one of the trustees happens to be, or have close connections with, a councilor. I ask everyone to look at your local town/parish council annual accounts and see how much of your money is given in grants to local charities, charities who have little cash because they are poorly run and have failed to engage with the local communities they claim to serve.
    And you say I need to get out more !

  • Laurence Cox 14th May '20 - 4:16pm

    @Gordon

    Thank you for your reasoned response. I note, though, that your ‘business-like’ Conservatives still have a committee more than 150% of the size that you consider should be the maximum (12) and they are not a federalist party like ourselves. If we want to change the membership of our Federal Board, I think that we need to ask ourselves some questions:

    1) How important is diversity to us? As far as I can see the Tories make no requirements regarding diversity. Article 2.6 of our constitution provides for guaranteed places for under-represented groups whenever 10 or more are elected: ethnic minorities, disabled and sexual orientations. Do we want to send the message that we don’t consider under-representation important?

    2) Do we really need to elect more members to the Federal Board by the general membership (Article 9.2.i (h)) than the total number of voting members in the categories 9.2.i (a)-(g). After all, the entire membership has already elected both the Party President and the Party Leader, so they should count towards this quota, not against it. Subject to a satisfactory approach to deal with the diversity issue, I could see us reducing the directly-elected number from the existing 15 to, say, 5.

    It is also difficult to see why there is both a principal councillor representative (voting) and a local government representative (non-voting) Articles 9.2.i (f) and 9.2.2 (e).

    I think that it might be practical to reduce the size of the Federal Board from its current level to below 30 while maintaining our federal approach; what I don’t think is practical to to get it as small as 12 even excluding the non-voting members.

  • Lawrence Cox – Thanks again for a thoughtful response.

    In my first comment of this series I suggested 12 should be the maximum size of an executive committee (which the name ‘Federal Board’ arguably points towards) but it doesn’t apply for a representative body which is what both LD and Tory versions are clearly intended to be.

    That said, ‘organisational obesity’ is a widespread and under-recognized problem that is as limiting as its biological analogue – it makes movement difficult and laborious for example. So, smaller, tighter, nimbler is better. (I am convinced bureaucratic bloat is a HUGE problem in government).

    In this case the secret is surely to identify the groups (I see each as a separate constituency) who should be represented based on a good understanding of what we want the FB as a whole to achieve. I will come back to that later (LDV word limits!).

    On diversity, I wonder how important this really is or has the world moved on? As you say, the Tories have no requirements, yet they have had two female leaders before we managed one and they have long had a racially diverse Parliamentary party despite being notoriously… well, conservative! Also, the dimensions of diversity spelled out in Article 2.6 are strangely narrow – ethnic, gender and gender identity. What about the traditional political dimensions of geography and class?

    The LD Constitution dates from the 1980s, a time when the Thatcher government was using dog whistle politics – e.g. around Section 28 – to buttress its appeal to its base so it must have seemed natural to write it in as a differentiator but I don’t see it doing that any longer.

  • Article 9.1 spells out that, ‘[The FB] shall be responsible for directing, coordinating and overseeing the implementation of the Party’s strategy’

    That is admirably clear, but those have never been LD strengths. We must improve by using the best talent – especially for campaigns (often the subject of complaints on LDV). If better campaigns add just 2%, that is lots more MPs.

    So, I agree with your point about the large number of voting members in 9.2.i (h) but would go even further.

    I propose FB should comprise: (a) the leader, (b) council leaders past & present, (c) backbench MPs, (d) Peers, (e) Local parties, (f) others. These represent the key perspectives that must come together for electoral success. Each should be a separate ‘bucket’ for electoral purposes.

    Taking each in turn:
    1. Leader: This does not need to be the leader in person. It could be a nominee (especially if in government). The leader needs the ‘heft’ from appointing a few members – e.g. the Chair, a SPAD and another.
    2. Council leaders: The LD’s greatest resource of practical campaign experience. Current ones may be too busy; past ones would have ‘elder statesman’ standing and name recognition. Their political nous is proven.
    3. Backbench MPs: ‘backbench’ because, no average, they have more independence. With a tiny Parliamentary party ‘backbench’ hardly exists so, looking forward to better days, some formula – e.g. ‘all MPs unless there are >100, then elected by backbenchers only’.
    4. Peers: Many want to abolish the HoL but it is a key part of the legislative process for now.
    5. Local parties: Each chair to have one vote – but if they are wise, they will consult their committee first.
    6. Others: One of the professional staff (or alternate) chosen by them. One is enough and would provide a formal channel – e.g. “I am asked to inform you that [some issue] is causing concern”.
    7. Ordinary members from London region: Why?

    There don’t need to be many in each group, maximum, say, four, so the list could finish around 20. Crucially, candidates would be well known (by reputation at least) to their respective electorates so choices would be well informed.

  • Article 9.1 spells out that, ‘[The FB] shall be responsible for directing, coordinating and overseeing the implementation of the Party’s strategy’

    That is admirably clear, but those have never been LD strengths. We must improve by using the best talent – especially for campaigns (often the subject of complaints on LDV). If better campaigns add just 2%, that is lots more MPs.

    So, I agree with your point about the large number of voting members in 9.2.i (h) but would go even further.

    I propose FB should comprise: (a) the leader, (b) council leaders past & present, (c) backbench MPs, (d) Peers, (e) Local parties, (f) others. These represent the key perspectives that must come together for electoral success. Each should be a separate ‘bucket’ for electoral purposes.

    Taking each in turn:
    1. Leader: This does not need to be the leader in person. It could be a nominee (especially if in government). The leader needs the ‘heft’ from appointing a few members – e.g. the Chair, a SPAD and another.
    2. Council leaders: The LD’s greatest resource of practical campaign experience. Current ones may be too busy; past ones would have ‘elder statesman’ standing and name recognition. Their political nous is proven.
    3. Backbench MPs: ‘backbench’ because, no average, they have more independence. With a tiny Parliamentary party ‘backbench’ hardly exists so, looking forward to better days, some formula – e.g. ‘all MPs unless there are >100, then elected by backbenchers only’.
    4. Peers: Many want to abolish the HoL but it is a key part of the legislative process for now.
    5. Local parties: Each chair to have one vote – but if they are wise, they will consult their committee first.
    6. Others: One of the professional staff (or alternate) chosen by them. One is enough and would provide a formal channel – e.g. “I am asked to inform you that [some issue] is causing concern”.
    7. Ordinary members from London region: Why?

    There don’t need to be many in each group, maximum, say, four, so the list could finish around 20. Crucially, candidates would be well known (by reputation at least) to their respective electorates so choices would be well informed.

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    Male prisoners who have been convicted a raping another male are jailed in men’s prisons. Female prisoners who have raped another female are jailed in women...
  • Ian Miles
    Hear hear, Graham! I joined LDs in 2016 (then living in Oxon) & am proud to have done my bit as a footslogger for the excellent Layla Moran. But as Britain ...
  • George Thomas
    To be fair to the Brexit idea, it might still have been a success (or at least not as bad) if someone else had been in charge and worldwide circumstances hadn't...
  • Tim Rogers
    Interesting map. One of the least bregretful is Penrith and Borders which is a constituency where we topped the poll in last year's election. Cornwall is split ...