A word about the deputy leadership

I know all the attention is on the Leadership at the moment, but I think it’s worth considering the Deputy Leadership, particularly as our 8 MPs will be discussing this tomorrow night. My guess is that they just won’t bother electing a deputy at this point before we have a leader. That would certainly be the sensible thing to do. However, I think that we should do something different.

The Deputy Leader is, in fact, “The Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons.” This post is only referred to in passing in Article 9 of the Federal Constitution:

  1. The Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons shall consist of all Members of that House in receipt of the Party’s whip. Its Leader shall be the Leader of the Party elected as provided in Article 10. It shall be entitled to make such regulations (not being inconsistent with this Constitution) as it thinks fit for the conduct of its own proceedings. In particular, these regulations shall make provision for a Chief Whip and, if thought fit, a Deputy Leader of such Parliamentary Party.

I think we should open up the post of Deputy Leader to a much wider pool. Peers, MSPs, AMs, London Assembly Members, MEPs, Mayors and Councillors should be able to stand with the electorate being that whole group of people. There are two reasons for that.

First of all, it makes us less Westminster-centric and shows that we value all the levels of government equally, as ends in themselves.

Secondly, it might well give us a more diverse leadership team. Our Commons party is all-male, all-white and are pretty much all around the same age.

Brake: May 1962

Carmichael: July 1965

Clegg: January 1967

Farron: May 1970

Lamb: September 1957

Mulholland: August 1970

Pugh: June 1948

Williams: March 1966

I have to say I got the shock of my life when I realised that Tom Brake was 53. I had him down as early 40s. All but one of them were born within a 13 year period, and 3 of them within 18 months of each other.

It still breaks my heart, by the way, to be able to find and type that information out so quickly.

Doesn’t it make a whole load of sense to have a Deputy Leader with different experience? I think it probably needs to be someone who is elected at some level, but I’m open to persuasion on that one. It’s a different role to the party president, who is there to advocate for the members. The Deputy Leader role would be another voice representing us in the media. There may be no guarantee of diversity, but at least there’s a chance of it.

If this were to become a reality, then there would need to be a constitutional amendment to that effect.

What do you think? Is it worth pursuing?




* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • One factor to bear in mind is that we will have no backbenchers in the Parliamentary Party. Each one will have to take on some kind of portfolio…

  • Morgan Inwood 11th May '15 - 6:41pm

    Interesting argument and if this is adopted then the entire membership should vote for the Deputy Leader

  • Kevin McNamara 11th May '15 - 6:42pm

    Spot on.

  • amber hartman 11th May '15 - 6:47pm

    Tessa Munt? She and John Hemming worked tirelessly on the CSA Investigation- we have no LD there which deeply concerns me.
    John Hemming has been commended for his honesty and accuracy?
    If an existing ‘title’ is required Caroline Pidgeon as she has proved herself on GLA?

  • Richard Church 11th May '15 - 6:52pm

    Kirsty Williams for Deputy Leader.

  • Totally agree. A party seeking to be known for championing diversity can’t be top heavy with middle class, middle aged white dudes. It just wouldn’t make sense.

  • Daniel Laycock 11th May '15 - 6:56pm

    Totally agree with you on some part Caron. What about former Councillors to Peers? If they wouldn’t be included, that wouldn’t come across as being fair *underline the fairness*. As Norman Lamb has publicly stated he will run for the Leadership and Tim Farron has gained a lot of support to stand as well, if Farron wins, then maybe Norman could be Deputy.

  • Given the essential role that the Peers will play in the years ahead, I would say one from the upper chamber would make sense . It also shares the workload from the Commons, as they will already be spread thin.

  • Go for it. It’s a great idea!

  • paul barker 11th May '15 - 7:04pm

    Sounds like a good idea to me, as to the electorate, its too late to have an all-member vote included with The Leader election & any extra vote would cost £60,000 plus.
    Actually the paragraph quoted from the Constitution doesnt seem to say that a Deputy Leader has to BE an MP, only that the MPs choose who it is. Perhaps they cpould choose a non MP without changing the constitution & thus much sooner ?

  • Caron I agree the principle but would limit it to ELECTED members of the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies and make it a woman only short list. That should start a discussion.

  • Definitely with you on this Caron.

    What are your thoughts on delaying the leadership election until after Conference? There’s a strong thread on here in favour of doing this. I would rather delay until afterwards. Presenting a new leader at the end of the Parliamentary term risks – and I mean risks, not definitely will happen – us turning Conference into a “Look, we’re new now” show and of us not learning everything we should. I remember the Tory ’97 conference which, although hilarious for me to watch, isn’t something I want us to go through.

    Don’t you think we’d be better off using Conference to have the full and open discussion about who and where we are? There can be no better test of who is really up to the job of leading us than to see which of our candidates emerges from Conference best.

  • FOR tuition fees: Brake, Carmichael, Clegg, Lamb

    AGAINST tuition fees: Farron, Mulholland, Pugh, Williams

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th May '15 - 7:31pm

    @James: The debate about where and who we are will continue for a long time – we need to basically re-organise the whole party and that’ll take years, not months. Rightly or wrongly, the media takes a leader seriously and if we don’t have one, we don’t get in the debate about what’s going on in the country. This horrible government is going to do some really horrendous things in fairly short order. We have to oppose them.

    For that reason, I think that we should elect the leader quickly. Going through a conference without a leader would make us look ridiculous. And I think we are capable of not looking like the Tories in 1997. We are way too honest for that. It wouldn’t work if we tried to pretend we were something we aren’t.

  • Lib Dems have more influence now in the House of Lords than the Commons, surely it makes more sense to draw from that cohort? Also, they are more likely to be in London to do a media round if needs be, access to HQ etc. But obviously Lords don’t get paid so would money be made available to them? Hmmm, maybe I’m over thinking it.

  • It’s a pity that Sal Brinton cannot be Caretaker Leader as the most senior person still in post. The fact that we would then have all-female party leaders except for Cameron, albeit for a short time, would be a bonus 🙂

  • Caron,
    A variation on your table to indicate the schools attended by our MPs.
    Today there are likely to be more Etonians in The Cabinet than we have MPs in The Commons, but our group of 8 have a good spread of educational backgrounds, more in line with the general population. No girls school unfortunately.

    Brake: May 1962:    Lycee International, France

    Carmichael: July 1965:   Islay High School, Aberdeen.

    Clegg: January 1967:   Westminster, in the borough of Westminster

    Farron: May 1970:   Lostock Hall High School, Preston, Lancashire.

    Lamb: September 1957:   George Abbott School, Guildford, Surrey.

    Mulholland: August 1970:   St Ambrose College, Altrincham, Cheshire.

    Pugh: June 1948:   Maidstone Grammar School, Kent.

    Williams: March 1966:   Richard Hale School, Hertford.

  • Anyone up for writing constitutional amendments to that effect? I’m open to it.

  • amber hartman 11th May '15 - 8:01pm

    Mental Health an issue which touched the nation. John Hemming has said be would back Norman. I agree. But that is leader, not deputy.

  • I think we already have a leader in the House of Lords. What we need are strong voices that will be heard because their views already command respect.

    Negative voices for many months have sneered that nobody is listening, missing the irony that they appeared to consider themselves as nobodies. Sadly, we will face a reality in which we are literally ignored. Those who have been swept along by the ‘treacherous LDs’ Labour led propaganda and who advocate a scorched earth approach in which anyone associated with the coalition should be persona non grata condemn the party to being treated by the media as less than an irrelevance. The reality is that it is the voices of experience who will as former ministers get something of a hearing

    Those that think that policies on tuition fees and council house benefits from 2011 will be major issues in 2020 must have exceedingly benign expectations for the new Tory government. Just where do they think the cuts wll fall?

  • Martin

    all the MPs were supporters of the coalition. That will be forgotten eventually

    But if we elect Lamb then every time he goes on Question Time and makes a promise there will be choruses of “what about the pledge?” We just cannot risk that. Any recovery will be snuffed out…

  • Elizabeth Grant 11th May '15 - 9:03pm

    goid idea!

  • Peter Andrews 11th May '15 - 9:24pm

    I would go slightly more limited than Caron’s proposal and open up the position and electorate for it to Peers as well as MPs. Which would give us a much wider and more diverse field of candidates whilst still keeping it a Westminster Politician which I think is needed if we are to use the Deputy Leader as a second media presence (Think how the SNP used Sturgeon for years when she was Deputy SNP Leader not just Salmond to build up her profile and ensure they did not look a one man band)

  • Given that we only have eight MPs left, they could all get titles:
    *Deputy Leader
    *Assistant Deputy Leader
    *Sub-assistant Deputy Leader
    *Adjutant to the sub-assistant Deputy Leader
    *Lieutenant adjutant to the sub-assistant Deputy Leader
    *Ancillary lieutenant adjutant to the sub-assistant Deputy Leader
    *Lord President of the Paperclip Jar

  • I totally agre with opening up the prospects of the deputy leader being from the wider membership.
    What we need to do is to radically rethink how we can resore our liberal values and to do so we need all the help we can. The more people to do that the better!

  • Given we have 8 MPs, do we need a Deputy Leader at all?

    We need a Leader and a (Chief) Whip because of the way the Commons functions, but we don’t need a DL. Making the President the effective DL would make sense (and get around to doing that officially when we can sort the constitution out).

    We also need all the MPs to get out and make some noise, which will mean being parliamentary spokesperson for something, but they should each be asked to come up with and lead an issue-based campaign. Something that can inspire members and supporters across the country, with an MP to lead it and promote it in Parliament.

  • Harry Hayfield 12th May '15 - 12:35pm

    (I can’t remember what my log in details are, but would like to reassure people I am still a member)

    May I ask how far down the chain, nominations could be from (i.e as a community councillor from Wales could someone nominate me?)

  • Sam Charleston 12th May '15 - 1:38pm

    I agree with other comments here about opening this up even wider to all members. Plenty of incredibly talented former MP’s who it would be a crying shame to discount at this point.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th May '15 - 9:26pm

    I agree with Nick Barlow – OMOV-elected regional leaders for regional parties.

    But I would also remove the requirement for the overall federal leader to be an MP, just to be an elected representative. We are in new times, and not being in the HoC didn’t seem to do Sturgeon any harm, and Natalie Bennett’s lack of impact was not linked to not being an MP.

    I would retain an MP group leader in the HoC elected by the MPs though, who would be deputy leader in the HoC when the federal leader was there too.

  • Teena Lashmore 13th May '15 - 10:58pm

    Good article Caron. Great comments.
    How Liberal are we if we maintain this hierarchy for Deputy Leader?
    Afterall, the Greens have a leader who is not a PM!

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