Deputy Leader Drama

A good deal of this Conference is taken up with debating the party’s Governance Review. Changes are being made to make the party’s structure more accountable, transparent and strategic. This was a key plank of Sal Brinton’s presidential campaign in 2014.

Thankfully, all the constitutional stuff has been split up and is being discussed in smaller slots at the end of each day.

Yesterday afternoon, we debated proposals to elect a Deputy Leader. This came out of a constitutional amendment last year which was referred back to the Governance Review. In the wake of an election result leaving us with eight white make MPs, there seemed to be a desire for a Deputy Leader from an under-represented group.

A subsequent consultation was inconclusive as to whether members wanted a deputy leader elected by the membership or not. Conference was given the opportunity to choose between two options – one for a deputy leader elected by the members on a joint ticket with the leader. The rationale behind that was heavily influenced by watching the relationship between Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson play out.

The other option was simply to codify what had happened last year when Nick resigned – that the deputy leader of the parliamentary party in the House of Commons, or if there isn’t one, the Chief Whip, should share the responsibility of the leadership with the President.

Several speakers really didn’t like the joint ticket aspect of Amendment 1. Tessa Munt spoke against it and the Young Liberals particularly seemed to vote against it.

There was a series of three votes at the end. Conference was first asked to choose which of the two options they preferred. Option 2 clearly won. The drama came when Conference was asked to vote on whether that option should be added to the Constitution. There was a 2/3 majority required and it was unclear whether it had been achieved so we had to have a count.

The result showed that 72% had voted in favour, but it turned out to be a bit of drama that was unexpected.

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Richard Underhill 19th Sep '16 - 1:23pm

    This report is complicated and requires reference to the agenda. What has conference decided? Is there further action needed by another conference? If not, will members be balloted? If so, when?

  • Matt (Bristol) 19th Sep '16 - 1:34pm

    Caron, can you advise whether the Leader continues to be required to be an MP?

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Sep '16 - 2:33pm

    Sorry – maybe I’m being a bit thick, but I can’t work out from either this report or the party’s conference website what has actually been decided! Could you spell it out please? (In other words, what exactly was the winning “Option 2”?)

  • Matt (Bristol) 19th Sep '16 - 3:04pm

    Malcolm, I … think … the decision that is being reported is:

    1) to not have a deputy leader
    2) that in the absence of a leader, the leadership of the federal party be shared between a) the President and b) either i)the deputy leader in the commons or ii) the chief whip in the commons in the absence of i)

    The reason that is given for this is resistance among those present at Conference to the proposal to run Leader and Deputy Leader on a ‘joint ticket’ basis, due to a desire in the drafters of the motion to avoid a situation like unto the war between Watson and Corbyn.

    Not what I was expecting, to be honest.

  • Matt: basically option one (joint ticket) was so badly drafted that even though I have no philosophical objection to it I voted for option two (status quo) because at least it wouldn’t make things worse.

  • Matt (Bristol) 5th Oct '16 - 10:06am

    Ah, just seen this – thankyou.

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