Federal Board reformed in “peak Lib Dem” debate

Chair Duncan Brack remarked late yesterday evening as he opened the debate on reforming the party’s Federal Board, we had reached “peak Lib Dem” as before us we had 4 options, constitutional amendments, standing order amendments, 3 requests for a reference back and 7 votes.

The Federal Board put forward those 4 options – 3 for reform, 1 to keep roughly the same arrangements in response to the Thornhill Review’s criticism of party governance in the 2019 General Election.

The option passed was to have a slimmed down board of 16 people who are:

The President, who shall act as its Chair;

B. The Leader;

C. The Chair of the English Party, the Convenor of the Scottish Party and the President of the Welsh Party;

D. The Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities;

E. Three people who shall be party members elected by all members of the Party except that persons who, at the date of the close of nominations for election under this paragraph, are members of Parliamentary Parties set out in Article 17 shall not be eligible to be candidates for election under this paragraph. Casual vacancies amongst this group shall be filled in accordance with the election regulations;

F. A Vice-Chair of the Federal Policy Committee;

G. The Chairs of the Federal Conference Committee, the Federal Communications and Elections Committee, the Federal Finance and Resources Committee and the Federal People Development Committee;

H. The Chair of the Young Liberals; and

I. A principal local authority councillor, elected Mayor or Police and Crime Commissioner, elected by the principal local authority councillors, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners of the Party.

This is controversial as it reduces the number of directly elected members of the Board from 15 to just 3.

A request for a reference back made by Board Member Simon McGrath, who criticised the plans here was defeated by a handful of votes.

Conference chose the option to create a Federal Council to scrutinise the work o the Board. Amendments were passed to give it some teeth – eg the ability to call in and overturn some Board decisions. The Federal Council will be made up of:

Conference agrees from the date of the declaration of the results in the committee elections in 2022 to replace Article 9.2 as above in Option 1 and in addition to add the following:

9.9 There shall be a Federal Council which shall consist of the following voting members:

A. Twenty-one people who shall be party members elected by all members of the Party except that persons who, at the date of the close of nominations for election under this paragraph, are members of Parliamentary Parties set out in Article 17 shall not be eligible to be candidates for election under this paragraph. Casual vacancies amongst this group shall be filled in accordance with the election regulations;

B. Three members from each State Party, elected according to their own procedures;

C. Three principal local authority councillors, elected Mayors or Police and Crime Commissioners, elected by the principal local authority councillors, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners of the Party;

D. Three members of the Young Liberals, elected according to their own procedures;

E. Three representatives of the Parliamentary Group as set out in Article 17.5; and

F. The Chair of the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee.

9.10 The Chair of the Federal Council shall be elected by its members.

9.11 Members of the Federal Board may attend and speak at meetings of the Federal Council but may not be voting members of the Federal Council.

9.12 The Council shall be responsible for scrutinising the work of the Federal Board, including ensuring that decisions are being taken in line with the party strategy as voted for by Conference, and may require a response on any issue from the Board.

9.13 The Council shall be considered to be a Committee of the Federal Party for the purposes of Articles 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 8.2, 8.5, 8.8 and 8.9.

Conference also agrees to in Article 6.5 of the Constitution, insert ‘Federal Council’ before ‘and Federal Conference Committee’.

There were some surprising opponents of the plans. Alistair Carmichael supported a reference back to enable an option calling for a board consisting of a majority of elected members to be brought to Conference in Autumn. Prue Bray supported option 3 as the least worst on offer but said that she would welcome a reference back.

Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper proposed the plans, saying that they would lead to better decision making. She described her time on the previous Federal Executive during the coalition years, saying that it was too big and unwieldy to offer any decent scrutiny of the leadership.

These new measures will be implemented this Autumn when Federal elections for committees and the President take place.

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This entry was posted in News and Party policy and internal matters.
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3 Comments

  • Lloyd Harris 12th Mar '22 - 9:48am

    Knowing us we will do another report after the next general election saying the Federal Board needs reform and we go though this all over again.

    But I do agree with others who spoke that we need root and branch reform of our entire governance from regional, state and federal level. It keeps getting pushed off as too difficult or not the right time.

  • I’m not entirely convinced this Council will have enough to do to justify its existence. We seem to have replaced a board which wasn’t making the decisions with a council which can’t make the decisions.

    I have no great desire for another round of constitutional tinkering, but I wonder if next time round we might consider whether committees are really the most perfect expression of democracy, and also whether we might make do with fewer of them.

  • Laurence Cox 12th Mar '22 - 2:32pm

    It should also be mentioned that Option 3 (Federal Council to scrutinise Federal Board decisions) was the only one that allowed the diversity rules to be applied to the directly-elected members, as Option 2 had only 9 directly-elected members, one short of the 10 needed for the diversity rules to apply.

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