Conference votes for improvements to disciplinary process and votes down Steering Group

The Federal Board report usually goes through fairly uncontroversially. However, there has been a bit of drama at the past two conferences. In Spring important board business relating to the disciplinary process was withdrawn at the last minute after a serious error was discovered.

This delayed desperately needed improvements to the disciplinary process until now. You can find out more about the detail here in the Board report.

Thankfully, those changes, which make the process quicker, less stressful on those using it and on those administering it and clearer, passed easily this afternoon.

Last Summer, the Federal Board started operating in a different way. One of the Thornhill Review’s 78 recommendations was to improve the governance of the party and make the Federal Board smaller. The Board decided to delegate most of its powers to a small, mostly not directly elected people. As a directly elected Federal Board member, I opposed it from the outset. If such a centralising power grab was being done in a council, we would be up in arms about it. I always think it is very important to live our values and I don’t feel that the Steering Group project does that. We are a member led organisation but we concentrated power into too few hands.

When the project was renewed this Summer, the Board agreed to my suggestion that we should put something to this Conference. So a motion was submitted to give it legitimacy but this was not accepted by the Federal Conference Committee.

However, Will Barter, formerly from Cambridge but recently moved to Bromley asked for a separate vote on the part of the Federal Board report relating to the Steering Group. He told Conference:

Ultimately, we are a member-led party and we are proud of that. But we have had a “major change in how the party is run” that has been carried out without the sign-off of members.

This vote now gives us a say. It doesn’t give us the chance to provide the scrutiny that is our right and role as members – to confirm the set-up of the group, or to confirm whether we judge it a success.

But by rejecting the lines in this report that say the pilot will continue, we can take the time to make sure that this is how we want our party to be run. We can pause until we get that chance to confirm the set-up of the steering group, until Mark brings us a constitutional amendment on his “major change”.

Those lines in the Federal Board report were rejected by 101 votes to 93.

The Board was always going to bring proposals for its future structure to Spring Conference to be implemented in time for the federal committee elections this time next year. Until then, the Conference vote presumably means that the Steering Group pilot cannot continue.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “Ultimately, we are a member-led party”.

    Really ? More a case of what those super conference registering enthusiast/activists who can be bothered to attend/register for Conference vote for……… I’d be interested to know what percentage that is of the total membership.

  • Paul Fisher 19th Sep '21 - 8:31pm

    Spot on David Raw!

  • A good question David/Paul. However, it is a much larger number than those who made the power grab in the first place, and that counts for something.

  • Paul Barker 20th Sep '21 - 9:40am

    Perhaps I am too trusting but I don’t see the Steering Group as a “Power Grab”, I see it as an attempt to form a group that is actually small enough to work. The problem is that we are electing too many people to the Federal Board – in my experience 7 or 8 is the maximum number fro an effective body & 5 would be better.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Sep '21 - 11:06am

    @Paul Barker
    Trouble is – what was originally a ‘pilot’ of the steering group concept has gone on for an inordinate length of time – kicked into the long grass?

  • @ David Evans “However, it is a much larger number than those who made the power grab in the first place, and that counts for something”.

    It’s still only about 1%, David…. though I suspect there are a lot less beards and sandals than there used to be.

  • Thanks for this write up Caron. For those interested in seeing my full speech, I’ve placed the words here:

  • Jason Conner 20th Sep '21 - 4:32pm

    Yes if that’s the case why weren’t all members and supporters even consulted on it, not just a narrow caucus who attend a zoom conference. Not all of us do zoom or want to either and there are still people who do not live online.

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