Conference proposal to reform the role of party Vice-President

During our Spring Conference, this Friday (19th March, 2021), I hope you’ll join the evening debate on my Motion, F9, which seeks some reforms to my role as Party Vice President.

The role was created as a result of The Alderdice Review which called for a senior party figure to be given the authority to further the party’s work on diversity and, specifically, in relation to ethnic minority communities.

The Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality championed this call and, together with the then Party President, Sal Brinton and the Federal Board, ensured that it came to fruition.

I was first elected to this role in 2019 and was elected again in 2020. The electorate was the Federal Board. One of the major reforms to my role is my call for it to be elected by the wider party membership.

I have 4 reasons for proposing this:

1. It is congruent with the election of other senior party roles
2. It raises awareness of the role
3. It gives the office holder a clear mandate
4. It is more democratic

If you would like to find out more about what I do, which, this week, has included briefing the Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities cluster meeting of our Parliamentarians on digital equality, writing letters of reference for Queen’s Honours nominees and running a project called ‘What’s it Like to be Disabled in Britain in 2021?’, then please follow me on Twitter at @isabelleparasra

I’m keen to hear your views on this and look forward to the debate at Spring Conference.

In the meantime, here’s a video explaining more.

* Isabelle Parasram is the Vice President of the Liberal Democrats.

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18 Comments

  • Lloyd Harris 16th Mar '21 - 3:41pm

    I agree the the VP should be directly elected.
    However we need to resolve the issue that the more well known a person is the greater chance of being elected and very little account is made of whether someone can work in a team or their ability.
    So some additional reforms I think are needed across the board to level up the playing field so fame alone isn’t the main determining factor as to who gets elected.

  • Hartlepool hey remember 2004. We had that in the bag until the otherwise excellent candidate made an unfortunate statement. Anyone else remember campaigning there?
    Question do we contest this by election, there seems little or nothing in it for us, except a lost deposit. I favour we pass, if its held on local election day our absence will not be noticed.

  • Richard Underhill.. 17th Mar '21 - 8:00am

    Those thinking about whether the United Kingdom should remain United should be careful to say that the former SNP leader was not proven which is not the same as not guilty

  • Richard Underhill.. 17th Mar '21 - 8:27am

    17th Mar ’21 – 8:00am
    Tory MP David Davis has used parliamentary privilege in the Commons to intervene in the SNP spat. The BBC commented that everybody who listened to a full days hearing about who is telling the truth will have made up their minds about the SNP leader or her predecessor. Two motions of no confidence in the SNP deputy leader are also relevant. Oh what a tangled web we weave !!!

  • @ Richard Underhill. “Those thinking about whether the United Kingdom should remain United should be careful to say that the former SNP leader was not proven which is not the same as not guilty”.

    Please get your facts right and be careful to avoid innuendo. Salmond was found not guilty on 12 charges, not proven on one charge and one was withdrawn by the crown.

    Whether Scotland should be independent or not is a totally separate issue.

  • Laurence Cox 17th Mar '21 - 11:16am

    I agree with Isabelle’s proposals and with Lloyd’s reservation.

    In particular, I agree with replacing BaME (which puts the emphasis on the visible ethnic minority communities) with ‘ethnic minorities’ as groups like the Roma, gypsies and Irish Travellers are also ethnic minorities and are easily overlooked. We need to ensure that we do not discriminate against those whose culture is based around travelling.

  • “visible ethnic minority communities”. To be honest, I’ve not noticed any invisible ethnic minorities recently.

  • Jewish? Romany? David. Submitted something to the Alderdice Review on the latter. Not even an acknowledgement.

    The recent case of Pontins’ discrimination against Irish travellers by surname comes to mind.

  • Point taken, Ruth.

  • Ruth Bright 17th Mar '21 - 2:52pm

    By the way David, Pontins were a bit dim in their policy of discrimination against gypsies. We seemed to be able to smuggle my old Dad in there for the occasional holiday in the eighties. Perhaps they did not realise that people of Romany heritage can also have English surnames! (With apologies to Isabelle for the digression).

  • @ Ruth It’s not just Pontins, Ruth. It’s Warley Liberal Democrat Councillors in Essex. Has anybody referred this to national level or taken any action on this ?

    Warley Lib Dem Councillors website : 3 Nov 2019 — “Warley’s Liberal Democrat councillors have called on Brentwood Borough Council to use all the legal powers at its disposal to get the Travellers to leave the site at Five Acre Farm in Warley.

    Your Liberal Democrat County and Borough councillors for Warley share residents anger and frustration over the traveller incursion on the Five Acre Farm site near Bird Lane. We welcome the fact that the Borough Council is now working to resolve the situation and acknowledge the undertaking given by the Leader of Council to see the process through. Whilst we are keen to actively work cross party on this issue, please be assured that as your elected representatives we will be monitoring the situation closely and holding the officers and the administration to account on your behalf. We have seen a very similar Traveller incursion in Blackmore drag on for many years and we don’t want the same thing happening in Warley……. County Councillor David Kendal………………………….”.

    It seems that some Lib Dem Council Groups are less liberal than others when it comes to vote chasing and ‘community’ politics’.

  • Ruth Bright 17th Mar '21 - 5:36pm

    Depressing.

  • @ Ruth Bright… and it’s not just Warley, Ruth.

    It’s Lib Dems in Test Valley, Islington, Bedford & Luton. I hope Isabelle Parasram will sort them if it hasn’t been done already. The Lib Dems won’t convince anybody if they don’t sort themselves out…… and that includes events of a few years ago (similar to that now so much discussed in the news.

    1.Test Valley Borough Council, Hampshire Chronicle, 11 September, 2020.
    “Councillors voted in favour of the motion, which was seconded by Liberal Democrat member, councillor Alan Dowden. Cllr Dowden added, “I am happy to second this motion to council because the act of trespass is a civil offence, and fails to allow quick and effective action when dealing with an unauthorised encampment”.

    2. Islington : The Guardian 11 Sep 2009, “On the Lib Dems’ Highbury East website, the article beneath the caravan site – a generic image – claimed the idea showed “lunacy is never far from the surface in Islington’s Labour party” and invited readers to vote online on whether Travellers and Gypsies should be allowed on Highbury Fields. In a Lib Dem newspaper the theme was taken up, claiming that the “idea” shows what a disaster a Labour-run council would be”.

    3. Bedford, “Protection of Council Land from Unauthorised Encampments …
    bedfordlibdems.org.uk › article › protection-of-council… 7 Feb 2008 — Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats have welcomed the Council’s approval of its proposal for more protection of open space from unauthorised”. …

    4. Luton : “Liberal Democrat councillors claim victory in battle with Council over…. “ http://www.lutonlibdems.org.uk › 2013/09 › liberal-democrat…Councillor David Franks says he and his Liberal Democrat colleagues on the ………. into their bad old ways of taking ages to move on illegally camped travellers”.

  • Laurence Cox 17th Mar '21 - 7:04pm

    @David Raw

    Before you start criticising other Liberal Democrat councillors, you should really check your facts. Essex County Council have sites throughout the County for Gypsies and Travellers: https://www.essex.gov.uk/gypsies-travellers

    I believe that we should reinstate the legal requirement for all County Councils and Unitary Authorities to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers that the Tories removed in 1994, but what we have here is an unauthorised occupation of Green Belt land, not an approved site. No-one is above the Law.

  • @ Laurence Cox. “you should really check your facts.” Can you specify anything in the cases I cite as incorrect, Mr Cox ? If you can, please do.

    And… are you denying how most “residents” will interpret the phraseology used ?

    Is there any mention at all in the web sites quoted to support “the legal requirement for all County Councils and Unitary Authorities to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers”.

  • Laurence Cox 18th Mar '21 - 10:10am

    @David Raw

    As usual, you didn’t bother to read what I wrote before replying. The Tories abolished the requirement in 1994, which is why you don’t see it on the web site I cited. Councils can still provide sites under Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, but this is voluntary, not compulsory, and many Councils have stopped doing this since 1994. Essex is an exception.

    When I was a Councillor back in the 1990s, Harrow had a registered Travellers site in the North-East of the Borough. This seems to have been closed since (there wasn’t any publicity) and we are now suffering regular incursions by Travellers into public spaces in the Borough. Only by first reinstating the legal requirement on Councils to provide Travellers’ sites, which would then allow regional development plans to specify the number of pitches that each local authority has to provide (exactly equivalent to Councils’ existing planning responsibility to approve a mininum number of housing units), will we be able to deal properly with the occupation of unauthorised sites.

  • @ Laurence Cox You don’t know whether or not I read what you posted, Mr Cox, so that’s just a specious assertion…….. but if you wish to defend what happened in Test Valley, Islington, Bedford & Luton that’s up to you.

    As a five times elected former Councillor I have memories of ‘informal’ (so called off the record) comments made by various Councillors of all parties about Travellers.

    I’d be more impressed if you gave some examples of Liberal Democrat Councillors following the lead of my old friend Eric Lubbock when he initiated the Caravan Sites Act 1968 as a Private member’s bill. It mandated that councils assess and provide for the needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people passing through their boroughs, in order to provide unused land for them to camp on. 324 sites were created in all, but many councils “delayed, minimized or completely avoided provision of the sites for Gypsies in England.” That, by the way, was the Act repealed by the John Major’s Conservative government in 1994

  • It would be a mistake to have the VP elected by the wider party membership instead of by the Federal Board as at present.

    That’s because, with respect to the VP role, the membership is NOT a ‘demos’, that is an informed and engaged electorate with a strong interest in the successful candidate’s performance in the job and independent information on their performance – i.e., media.

    Very, very few of the wider membership have any reason to invest the time or effort to determine which might be the better candidate in a contested election or to monitor their performance in office. The few exceptions are likely to be those in and around party HQ who interact on a regular basis. And even if some did, there is no effective media to provide an independent channel of communication.

    So, if the role was directly elected, I suspect that turnout would be as derisory as it is for the Federal committees of which Duncan Brack wrote (in an LDV comment), “On the turnout point, it is never likely to be more than about 5-10% for these elections. The great majority of party members will have no idea who any of the candidates are or what the committees they’re standing for do.”

    Hence, I would much prefer that the VP post be elected by the Federal Board because they DO constitute a demos – they are in a position to know the job, the candidates, the performance of the successful one and so on and re-elect them or not as the case may be.

    Meanwhile, the party could usefully consider how it is that the Tories, famously described as the “Nasty Party” with much justification (and by a future leader no less!) are riding high in the polls despite having just done a deal that has massively damaged many lives and even whole industries like fishing.

    The answer, I suggest, lies largely in the fact that LDs still hold to ideas about party governance that date to the era when, as the joke had it, the whole Parliamentary party could share a Mini to get to conference. That did make a powerful demos! The trouble is those ideas don’t scale up, so the party has perforce scaled down!

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