Are party consultations with members worth the paper they’re written on? 

At Liberal Democrat autumn conference party members will have the opportunity to debate a Federal Policy Committee policy paper and an accompanying motion laying out an overall vision for the social security system – the first such policy paper on the subject for over a decade. Sadly, however, the contents of the paper and motion are scandalous in their blatant disregard for the views of party members.

As part of the process of writing the policy paper, the working group which wrote it ran a members survey which included a question about which model should be used as the basis for social security.

The options offered were Basic Income, Negative Income Tax (both of which involve providing a basic level of unconditional support as the core of the social security system), the current Universal Credit system or ‘Other’.

In the responses, 56% of people backed Basic Income (BI) or Negative Income Tax (NIT). Just 24% backed the current system while 20% picked ‘Other’.

Yet the policy motion on welfare which will be debated by autumn conference ends with a paragraph completely denouncing Basic Income and Negative Income Tax.

How could the party’s policy paper on welfare end up so at odds with the opinions of members?How could it set out to comprehensively rubbish principles that the majority of survey responders believe in?

I was a member of the working group so I could give you my perspective, for what it would be worth, but I shouldn’t have to. It shouldn’t be my job to explain why a report submitted to the Federal Policy Committee completely rejects the favoured policy of members. Or to explain why it doesn’t even openly acknowledge what the consultation and survey responses said.

Sadly, however, what happened is something which seems to be all too common at the top of the party. Members were asked what they thought and then any replies which disagreed with the majority view of the group writing the paper were discarded on the grounds that the group members surely knew best.

And this is how we have ended up with a policy paper put before conference does not reflect the vision of social security shared by the majority of members who responded to the consultation.

The group members had the option of taking the members vision (a system which provided a basic level of unconditional support to everyone in need) and applying their expertise to produce a blueprint for practical implementation which resolved any concerns with the concept. But the majority chose not to do this.

Instead, it was decided replacing the entire welfare system overnight with a pure BI or NIT scheme could create too many losers and be too disruptive and, therefore any possible version of the two systems had to be terrible so the views of members should be ignored.

Is this really how party policy processes should work? Members being consulted but then ignored if unelected members of a working group decide that they don’t like what members think? And how often does this happen? Will this cavalier approach to members input also be seen with the manifesto consultation and the Your Liberal Britain exercise? Will the consultation responses even be published?

I’ve worked with a small group to write an amendment to correct this motion and make it something Liberal Democrats can proudly support. I will be writing about the amendment in the near future. But in the meantime, members would be justified in asking serious questions of the Federal Policy Committee – and they should have every right to expect real answers.

* George Potter is a councillor in Guildford

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  • Don’t all political parties work that way? With the privately and grammar school educated making the decisions to “help” the rest of us who are too stupid to know what we really need?

    I’m a new member of the Lib Dems and I’m quite disappointed with what I have seen so far. Everything seems to be Labour Lite or Tory Lite. Basic Income is another example – a well known Green Party policy.

    The Lib Dems have so much to offer. Why is so much time spent trying to be a lighter version of something else?

    This document is an excellent case in point. It is overwhelmingly focused on people working for employers. Why not embrace those who share our values – people who choose to create lifestyle businesses that provide for their families but no more. The Tories hate them because they don’t make pots of tax revenue and Labour hate them because they have freedom of choice. But they provide just enough for their families and have a better quality of life.

    If the group had proposed a system that supported this type of economic activity, they might actually have a chance of winning some votes and making life better for people who live in areas with less job opportunities.

    This document mentions them only in passing to say we’ll keep the current policy to support people who decide to start a business. What about the fact that job centre staff get to assess and decide whether they believe the business will be/is viable? That self employment NI contributions don’t actually entitle a self-employed person to unemployment support? That currently the self-employed are not eligible for universal credit?

    It all looks like the Tories support big business, Labour support the people who work for them and the Lib Dems support the status quo that you must be one or the other – because that’s what’s good for you.

  • This information:

    ‘In the responses, 56% of people backed Basic Income (BI) or Negative Income Tax (NIT). Just 24% backed the current system while 20% picked ‘Other’.’

    Could also be expressed as:
    36.5% backed Citizen’s Income. The choice put forward in the policy motion, of the current Universal Credit system, was the second choice with 23.5% support. Negative Income Tax was the third most supported with 20%, the same proportion who picked Other.

    Everyone spins. Conference will decide.

  • George Potter is asking a reasonable question here but we really need more details. How many members responded to the survey ? If less than say, 30% took part then the results are unlikely to reflect the views of the whole membership. Inevitably surveys are self-selecting with those with strong views more likely to respond.
    I like the idea of Negative Income Tax myself but I have no idea if it could work, I havent done the hard thinking that The Working Group presumably have.

  • Participation looks to be in the high 400’s, following the link in the post. Not massive in terms of the whole membership, although not bad for this kind of exercise

  • Bill le Breton 25th Aug '16 - 11:56am

    May I suggest an acid test for gauging how well representatives in working groups respond to the views of members and potential supporters.

    When they write here on LDV to set out their thinking and the thinking of their colleagues on matters such as Working Group reports, how well do they respond to the below the line comments?

    48 hours ago this was posted

    When the editors approve a piece for publication they ask the contributor to keep an eye on comments and respond and engage in debate. Most contributors are very good at this …

    Let’s have a look at how well that acid test has worked on this issue –

    Hum … I suppose the majority on this working group could argue that it is up to Conference to decide.

  • May I declare an interest as someone who has personally taken a judicial review to the High Court on the issue of lack of proper ‘consultation’ and won?

    Most bodies who are required, even by law, to ‘consult’ do not understand the meaning of the word and even more so do not genuinely want to consult. Local Authorities are, in general, probably worse than government departments on this. I doubt whether the central arm of the Liberal Democrats is massively different to any other body of humans in this regard.

    Genuine consultation requires one to say to people:

    “Hey, I’ve identified a bit of a problem and I have these ideas about how to solve it but what do you think both about the problem and my/our proposed solution? I am really keen to hear from you. Have I missed anything significant? Is there anyone else I should be asking? If you have other ideas then we really need to work this out together.”

    Even more important, actually, is the attitude of the ‘consultor’ and most people actually, having done quite a bit of work on a subject and having come up with what they think is a reasonable solution, do not really like the idea of the whole thing being ‘up for grabs’ with the potential to be ‘unpicked’ and go back, if not to square one then certainly to square 3 out of ten.

    Personally, I am still waiting for the Party consultation about who we should put onto the ‘Staying In’ board and what should be their objectives.

  • @Geoffrey I assumed the leadership would have some part in the approval process for a paper before it was released into the public domain?

    There is a definite lack of vision. This whole thread is about whether the Lib Dem members support a policy that, in the public mind, already belongs to another party anyway. Do you really want to go down that road again?

    If we just use the policy of others to define ourselves, particularly Labour and the Tories, then we simply reinforce the idea that there really are only two choices.

    Our policies need to be distinctly us, in the way that UKIP’s policies, for good or ill, were distinctly theirs. People need a vision to get behind; ‘We’re a bit of this and a bit of that’ simply won’t do the job.

    There are also very good reasons for that vision being budget neutral. It is possible to do both.

  • George Potter 25th Aug '16 - 1:14pm

    The problem with claiming it’s up to conference to decide is that I have been informed that FCC is unlikely to accept amendments that significantly contradict the main part of a motion – therefore a policy paper can be tweaked but a core decision in it cannot easily be overturned even by amendment.

    To reply to Dal, both BI and NIT are essentially the same concept – the only distinction is in terms of how the support is delivered. The common feature of both of them is that everyone should be entitled to unconditional support should they need it.

    By contrast, Universal Credit (and the policy paper) are founded on the view that people should only be entitled to support if they need it AND can prove that they’re looking hard enough for work.

  • Peter Bancroft 25th Aug '16 - 1:33pm

    George does raise an interesting issue. On the one hand I think that it’s totally appropriate for a working group to reach whatever conclusions it sees fit – that is the purpose of a working group. The issue is when you combine that to the Federal Conference Committee giving working groups exclusive rights to motions covering their areas and compound it with FCC members openly acting in a factional basis to close down debate of ideas they personally disagree with.

    These institutional arrangements mean that we inevitably end up with quite weak small “c” conservative policies which are often incredibly detailed but neither aligned to any kind of party narrative, nor particularly interesting.

    Nobody seems to know how much policy the party has “on the books” at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were well over 100 pages, of which I’m not sure any is particularly useful to us.

  • There really is no point is there. This thread has confirmed what I suspected. Political parties only really want money from their members and useful idiots who will go out and walk the streets to get old, private and grammar school educated white men elected to the club. This whole business of ‘getting involved in the debate’ just turns us into busy fools.

    I’m going to cancel my membership and just vote for whatever party offers my family the best deal – as for most other people that will probably mean: first, a Blair type Labour Party, second, a One Nation Tory party and if nothing else is available, any other Tory party. There is no other realistic choice.

  • George Potter 25th Aug '16 - 1:47pm

    Lyn Newman, I’d suggest waiting until after conference to decide on your membership. I’m optimistic that party members will put right the appallingly insipid centrism of FPC working groups at conference. If I’m right then we should have a policy that is actually fit for purpose. If I’m wrong then I doubt you’ll be the only one questioning whether there’s any point in remaining a member.

  • paul barker 25th Aug '16 - 2:09pm

    @ Lyn Newman. At the moment neither of your first two choices actually exists. The Libdem Recovery is still in its very early stages, if I were you I would at least wait till next May, things are changing fast.
    On topic, a membership survey where 99% dont reply is much worse than useless, its actually misleading.
    I dont agree that Basic Income & Negative Income Tax amount to the same thing. The former runs the risk of allowing people to fritter their lives away while the latter encourages us to get involved & follow our dreams.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Aug '16 - 2:11pm


    As someone in my later forties , with a background of putting principle before group think, I , after much wrestling , still believe this party I have in more recent years , on and off been committed to , is the right one . Believe me there are times , especially when I see versions of Liberalism that seem like bleeding heart only ,or socialism lite , or libertarianism not so lite , that I wonder!

    So too, and lately , with the leadership seemingly not aware that the referendum has actually happened and delivered a result , and that it reflects a feeling , I wonder if the reason some have been keen to remove the little word , Democrats , from our name , flirt with considering the removal of it because they do not believe in it!

    Then , someone like you , no , in fact , you yourself , join our party and make such a worthwhile contribution and I think , stick with it , of me and of you , Lyn , so well done !

    George rightly seems cross! However , as I alluded to before on this thread above , and no one , commented on , we shall never get basic income without Brexit ! Read my comments as to why ! The working group are not lacking in awareness of the sorts of things I mention, they may be lacking a democratic awareness , though !I shall have to take the word of George on that as I do not know .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Aug '16 - 2:22pm

    P.S. Lyn

    The well done , was written before I read your latest comment , meaning stay with us , no Lyn , I genuinely do not believe this party only has the attitude alluded to in you comments later ,there are superb members , and the phiosophy at its best , is the best !

  • Taking a generous interpretation to the situation, I would point out there are two competing issues here, what the long term vision of what would like to be achieved and the short term approach as to what would be implemented immediately while the groundwork is put in place for the bigger changes.

    I would favour NIT for welfare and a Land Value Tax (along with quite a few changes to the tax system) as well but I think both of these would be policies to be phased in over quite a period of years (particularly tax changes). I’m not sure how well the current approach to policy making fits with the need to offer the long term vision and the short term “what do I need to know right now” for the voters.

    The more I hear about the internal workings the more I think there needs to be some alternative approach on the internal workings of the LibDems, I’m not sure it is producing what is needed and must be hell to work through for those involved.

  • George Potter 25th Aug '16 - 2:50pm

    A survey of a sample isn’t necessarily retirement but it’s a useful indicator. Otherwise what’s the point in doing them?

    Lorenzo, there are ways in which you can do basic income while staying in the EU – for instance by including a residency requirement of X years before someone is eligible to claim just as long as that retirement applies just as much to UK nationals as rEU nationals.

  • “Members were asked what they thought and then any replies which disagreed with the majority view of the group writing the paper were discarded on the grounds that the group members surely knew best.”

    Isn’t the preferred liberal route to this problem, to just keep asking members their views, again and again, until they get the answer right.? That said,…I suppose it could be that LibDem members are just too uneducated, too easily swayed, and generally too ill-informed, to make the best choice.? 🙂

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Aug '16 - 2:56pm

    I read this whole thing as a sign of how internally traumatised we still are by coalition, and still torn between those who want us to offer a slightly-less-Tory version of the Coalition’s policies, and those who have (various, competing) visions of liberalism (mainly, but not exclusively, from the pre-coalition era).

    I hear what Psi says about the need to think through the choices between ‘amended present’ and ‘glorious future’ scenarios. Obviously we can’t propose root-and-branch reform in every single area of policy. So there is a question of priority. What are our priorities?

    However, (as an semi-outsider in that I don’t know the policy process really very well) it seems a bit unlike us, with our amazing ability to prevaricate and kick things in to the long grass, to have a group that it actually trying to decide definitively _against_ doing something without creating either a fudge or promising further investigation…

  • Jenny Barnes 25th Aug '16 - 3:26pm

    Budget neutral? Why? We’re around zero interest rates, thinking about negative. What does that tell you? It tells me that it makes sense to invest in anything that givea a positive return, and if private capital won,t(and it won’t). That investment has to be m ade by the state. Just print the money, we’re not in the euro. If government won’t run a deficit, private invdividuals have to get into debt to balance the economy. Whether you spehpnd it on useful infrastructure or basic income really doesn’t matter. The motivation thing turna out not to be a problem, but you won’t get people to do some of the really horrible jobs unless the pay goes up. Basic income gives everyone the ability ti say no to exploitation.

  • I think all working groups, when writing their policy paper, should publish the survey responses, that is the % support for various options. Any group which chooses to not do so should be treat with extra caution when members read their report.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Aug '16 - 4:01pm

    I like the way the Tories set policy. I don’t like the idea of policies getting into the manifesto that the leader is against. I feel safe with some “experts” at the top deciding things and if I disagree I know who to hold to account.

    To which some will think or say “why don’t you just join the Tories” and the answer is I couldn’t do it because I have friends and family who are teachers and nurses and I think of unaccompanied child refugees and the Tories make things worse for these people, even if I think they are in my interests. People would think less of me.

  • Adam Corlett 25th Aug '16 - 5:05pm

    I was another member of this working group. I think there are 2 questions: 1) Are other members’ views listened to? 2) Should the working group necessarily go with what the majority of survey respondents say?

    On the 1st, I think the answer’s yes. I think the consultation process could be improved, but on this topic at least the group was/is well aware that there are a lot of people who’d like to see a basic income policy (and many of us had similar views when we joined the group).

    But on the 2nd question, I’d argue that this shouldn’t be the end of the story. I hope people will bear in mind that the group heard from a great many external speakers – people who work for charities, welfare experts, academics, basic income advocates, reps from other countries, job centre staff, Lib Dem councillors, and more. We did a lot of reading and – as a broad range of Lib Dems – spent a great many evenings debating. All of this led most of the group to believe that a basis income is not the right answer, though I think many of the underlying concerns about conditionality, generosity and work incentives are reflected in other policies. The group really did understand that basic income is popular among many Lib Dems, but despite this was persuaded against it over the course of many months.

    I don’t agree that the point of a working group should be to take a poll, be bound by that and then “produce a blueprint for practical implementation”. The Brexit vote – dare I say it – may be a cautionary tale about how well that approach works, particularly when discussing really complex topics where it’s not clear what “Brexit” or “Basic Income” means when you actually have to go beyond the sexy name and make the massive trade-offs that lie beneath the surface.

    Working groups have to make their case through policy papers, FPC and Conference – and we probably need to do more to explain some of the many reasons why we concluded strongly against Basic Income. But if these groups aren’t able to come to conclusions that don’t completely agree with the consultation responses, then what is the point of also listening to those other inputs such as charities and others with external expertise, or of forming a working group to discuss these big questions at all? Finally, I’d note that 3 of the 42 pages of the policy paper (7%) are devoted to explaining the group’s conclusion on this, and I’m sure these arguments will be set out again at Conference at least. Thanks!

  • Rightsaidfredfan 25th Aug '16 - 6:10pm

    @lyn “everything seems to be Labour Lite or Tory Lite. Basic Income is another example – a well known Green Party policy.”

    Of course it does. Look at the lib dems record in government, they have governed Scotland in coalition with labour several times and most recently governed in coalition with the conservatives nationally. After a coalition with the Tories they fought the general election on being moderate and in the centre between the other two.

    The lib dems have governed as a moderate largely status quo party. That doesn’t mean they have achieved nothing, it just means they haven’t ever done anything radical in office. Because they are moderates not radicals.

    This is entirely consistent with their voters. Most lib dem voters are voters that have come about as a result of their squeeze strategy where they bombard an area where they previously came second with the message that X (X could be Tory or labour) can’t win here so vote lib dem as the moderate option between the two to keep one of the other two out. It often worked in places where the vote was distributed three ways.

    Look at the party’s strategy. The parties strategy is clearly to gain a few more of those three way moderate seats and wait for a hung parliament in order to extract certain key policies (PR is the latest policy but no other party would agree to change the voting system without giving the people the final say in a referendum) in exchange for a coalition. If there is any real regret in the party for the coalition it is regret for not extracting more concessions, not for being in government with the conservatives themselves.

    As for political debate and discussion, I think most people do it because they enjoy it. Not because it will come to anything. In political parties as in companies, governments and most organisations a tiny handful of people make all the important decisions. The discussion on here is just talk and opinion. Opinions are the cheapest thing in the world, everyone has one and is willing to give it away for free to anyone who will have it. But some people enjoy it.

  • John Roffey 25th Aug '16 - 7:10pm

    Although many good points have been made – is it too simple to suggest that – although the Party has changed its leader – one who seems primarily of the left, – it is still in the hands of those who shifted its focus from the Charles Kennedy ‘left- of-centre’ to NC’s [or his advisors] ‘right-of-centre’.

    Motive? If Theresa May should encounter difficulties implementing the Cameron/Osborne Tory manifesto – because of a band of rebels – eight L/D MP”S votes might still provide enough for some kind of coalition in the time before the 2020 GE?

  • John Roffey 25th Aug '16 - 7:12pm

    An addendum to the above:

    Is it time for the Party members to create their own form of ‘Momentum’?

  • @rightsaidfredfan Ahh, I think you might have nailed it there. I want there to be a brief glint of hope that there might be relationship between the effort I expend and the outcome.

    Getting to vote on a paper at a conference, especially when the process for creating that paper is so restricted, all of the decisions have been made and substantial amendments are prohibited doesn’t seem like a productive use of my time.

    These issues don’t seem to be restricted to this paper. My special interest is education, so it was only natural that, on receiving my new member’s pack, I would apply to join the LDEA. Before I could even send the cheque, I received an email informing me that they had been prevented from presenting their conference motion as it might restrict the working group. The Chair of the LDEA doesn’t even seem to be on the working group. I’ve mainly worked for charities so interest groups, boards, etc is not new to me. That a pre-existing recognised special interest group, and particularly the Chair, isn’t leading the development of education policy seems truly bizarre to me.

    Back to the not for profit world for me, methinks, so I can see a smile on someone’s face and know that, even if only for a small time, something I did actually made a difference.

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Aug '16 - 8:49pm

    Floating Voter – that comment is so offensive I am reporting it.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Aug '16 - 8:51pm

    Floating Voter: This is unworthy.
    Lyn Newman: Did Paddy Ashdown look at this when he was leader?

  • Thanks to those of you who brought that appalling comment to my attention. It certainly did not meet the requirement of our comments policy to be polite and has been removed.

  • It seems I missed something that I am glad to have missed!

    Off topic, but courteous – I just came back to say a big thank you to @Rightsaidfredfan and everyone else that I’ve enjoyed conversations with over the last couple of weeks.

    @Rightsaidfredfan You’ve really helped me realise where I belong within and can best serve the ideals of the liberals.

    It is much easier to test small “radical” new ideas in the not for profit sector and, once they exist, and are proven to work, they are not so radical. Thank you for sharing your knowledge; it has given me something very valuable.

    I hope conference goes well for all those taking part and that any tensions can be overcome.

  • Peter Davies 25th Aug '16 - 10:28pm

    The problem is not that the working groups do their job badly. It’s the wrong job. We shouldn’t have groups of experts selecting one option and putting it to the members. They should be finding all the options and setting them out as choices for conference.

  • George Potter 26th Aug '16 - 7:37am

    I think Peter Davies has hit the nail on the head.

    There’s nothing wrong with a working group considering the evidence and coming to a majority opinion – what’s wrong is when that opinion is the only one presented to members without any meaningful choice.

    For instance, the working group was told we had to stick within the 2015 fiscal envelope designed by George Osborne when it came to welfare policy – yet I’m sure that there are many members who’d like the option to vote for spending more on welfare in order to provide a decent safety net, even if this might mean increasing taxation.

  • Gemma Roulston 26th Aug '16 - 12:31pm

    I was sad to see that the policy paper was aimed at continuing the pressure on disabled people and carers to work.
    What about those who can’t work, or don’t want to because they have fluctuating conditions? What about those who are carers and disabled? There’s one bit which I didn’t understand.
    Were LDDA fully consulted on the working group and their thoughts?
    I am a bit uncomfortable with LAs doing the assessments, as there may well be variations across the country.
    What would happen if you failed an assessment for social care, and then the same person assesses you for benefits.
    I am glad that we want to revert back to 50m and not 20

  • James Baillie 26th Aug '16 - 12:54pm

    What I really don’t understand is why this apparently watertight case against CI and NIT wasn’t reflected in the policy paper properly. I’m yet to hear even the semblance of a sensible case made against them – we’re told that they’re too expensive but also that this is with reference to a frankly utterly pointless and arbitrary fiscal envelope. That is literally the sum total of the case as presented, and as such is deeply inadequate.

  • Laurence Cox 26th Aug '16 - 3:05pm

    If anyone seriously wants to propose Basic Income as Lib Dem party policy, then they have to explain to the Party how they will pay for it. It is no good just having a consultation where you ask people to tick a box to choose between Basic Income, Negative Income Tax, Universal Credit, or ‘other’ unless you give them the information to make a meaningful choice. We can all ask for a unicorn; providing one is another matter.

    The Green Party’s consultation document on Basic Income, which did not become a manifesto pledge in 2015, is very clear: files/Basic Income Consultation Paper.pdf

    (see paragraph 34 on page 11)

    Paying everyone a Basic Income at the level of JSA, and pensioners at current State Pension levels, with protection for single parents etc, will require an extra £159 billion in tax per year (after savings). Now, we would make different decistions from the Greens about how to raise that tax but it still has to be raised. So my question to those who advocate Basic Income is: show us how you would pay for it. It is no good saying “the members preferred it in a consultation, but it is up to the experts to find a way of delivering it”; that is exactly line that the Brexiteers took, and the day after the Referendum rowed back on all their pledges – they couldn’t even agree between themselves what was deliverable and how to do it.

  • Simon Banks 26th Aug '16 - 6:41pm

    I want to respond to the comments on consultations in general, not the specific social security issue. I’m told the party has no rules on the conduct of consultations. This would not be acceptable in a public sector body or a large-to-medium-size voluntary organisation. Many of these have adopted sensible rules on fair consultations in local Compacts (voluntary-statutory sector agreements). It’s about time the Liberal Democrats did the same. For example, that the subject-matter and parameters of the consultation should be clear (broken by that strange “consultation” on “party communications” after the 2014 election disasters); that representatives of people and organisations directly affected should be directly contacted and consulted (broken by the OMOV consultation in respect of local parties); that responses should be fairly summarised for the decision-making body and people responding should be told as fully as possible what had happened and why (broken by nearly all party consultations). It is not enough that if you can find your way through the non-intuitive party website, somewhere some information may be buried under a heading few would guess.

    By the way, there is a similar lack of basic rules on the handling of complaints. If the Liberal Democrats were a local organisation, they could go to their local CVS and get good advice on improving all this.

  • Peter Davies 26th Aug '16 - 8:47pm

    @Lawrence Cox.
    It is a problem that however sensible a scheme you put forward, someone will pretend you are putting forward the Green Party scheme. They care so little about economics that they have not even added up their own scheme properly. Pensioners already have a scheme similar to Basic Income but the Greens are proposing a massive increase in their income. Most working age people who are not already on benefits get personal tax and NI allowances worth about £3000. (just more than the JSA for each member of a couple or a single young person). The Greens figures only include benefits replaced not allowances. They also include a whole number of changes that are not necessary parts of an NIT system.

  • Lyn Newman made some excellent points in this discussion that I mostly agree with, except cancelling the membership for the moment. We can’t even elect a woman leader when the Tories are on their second female PM and Scotland and Northern Ireland have female First Ministers. We fully participate in the Lords with people clearly so in love with their titles they make sure you know it when talking to the mere mortals, whilst preaching its abolition. We make promises we renege on at the first opportunity. And our leadership makes up policy without consulting the membership or when they do consult, ignoring it. But most organisations from your local cricket club to charities to political parties are run by small cliques sometimes operating unfettered and sometimes in a battle with a competing clique. So this doesn’t surprise me.

    I’d rather wait a bit, see what happens, but right now we don’t seem to want to come up with real practical answers to the stuff people are really worried about and this review looks like going nowhere – if the remit was budget neutral why consult on options that are not. If/when Labour split and one side elects an electable leader with principles we’re in deep trouble.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Aug '16 - 12:15am

    Stevan Rose

    As often , I like your stance , but the thing about Labour splitting , if they do , that is when the progressive alliance that Andrew George advocated on here , must happen .
    There shall be no split unless the centre and centre left of Labour think they can ally with us , otherwise they would never get off the ground , or be trounced if they do. It is SDP 2 , but with no figures so far of the calibre of even one of the four brave figures of the Gang that formed one of our predecessor parties.

  • Stevan Rose 27th Aug '16 - 2:26am


    I always hate to disagree with such a polite gentleman but I’m sure that the anti-Corbynistas have no interest in a party with an 8% poll rating. They will be 180 ruthless survivalists and the official Opposition. We would be swallowed whole without a burp. If I were them I would use the Co-operative Party structure which already exists to organise around. I’m in two minds. Umunna, Alan Johnson, Jarvis, Beckett, Benn, Harriet Harman would be a tempting electoral proposition, but the tedious Eagle sisters and Owen Smith, and shameless opportunists like Ivan Lewis and Andy Burnham, kind of cancel them out. I can see a post -election agreement for supply and confidence in exchange for EU membership and voting reform but nothing in advance.

  • Steve Treveth 28th Aug '16 - 2:55pm

    Perhaps all organisations are somewhere on a continuum between the poles of democracy and oligarchy. (Even dictators have helpers.) It might be helpful and/or useful if LD members gave their perceptions of where our party is on this continuum and where they would like it to be.
    Perhaps it might help if “Information Papers” were produced which gave information presented by experts and imports, aka members so that there could be a degree of visible commonality about the assumptions/premises from which consultations start.
    Some “if this then that” inputs might be interesting and/or useful as well as encouraging use to look more widely and even boldly.
    Thank you for the raising of a important matter and the consequent conversation!

  • Laurence Cox 30th Aug '16 - 1:59pm

    @Peter Davies. The Green Party scheme is just a convenient one to cite, because it has been more throughly worked out. If you don’t like it, then try the Citizen’s Income Trust
    ( proposals. The whole point is that Basic Income has to be set at a level that replaces some benefits otherwise it adds to the administrative costs. It is no good saying that most working age people get £3k in tax and NI allowances, when you have to earn at least £11k to get that. Go to the IFS web site and put in an £11k salary and you will find that you are above 19% of the population. It is these people, who are on low-paid, part-time jobs who need Basic Income and why you cannot simply set it at such a low level that a single person cannot survive on it.

    I would also like to know whether your comment means that you oppose a Citizen’s Pension, which has been Lib Dem Party policy since 2004.

  • I’m late to this after being away.

    Geoff Crocker’s first point is spot on. The current Lib Dem approach to policy-making is neither democratic or participative but rather subject, as he says, to all sorts of “hidden manoeuvring”. What happened to transparency?

    Does anyone know of any reasonably successful Lib Dem group in local government that makes policy this way – namely by making it the responsibility of obscure groups, the result of whose deliberations is then put to the AGM for ritual vote by members (the overwhelming majority of whom have no knowledge of either the subject nor the context), at which point it becomes binding on the elected councillors, even when circumstances change partway through the year?

    Policy-making should be unambiguously the responsibility of the relevant spokesperson subject to the coordination of the party leader. By all means let them chose advisors commission studies etc. as funding and staffing allow. Rising stars would then have to cultivate the ability to chose advisors wisely, a key skill for rulers since the dawn of time and one that Ethelred the Unready was famously bad at – as was Clegg more recently.

    But above all make spokespeople responsible for their policy choices as in successful political parties. That would be democratic.

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