Federal Conference Committee report

Photo by Jon BallFederal Conference Committee (FCC) met on Saturday to decide which of the 52 motions submitted by members should be debated when we go to Bournemouth later this year. I’m sure many of you will be scrolling down to the end of this post to find out the good news, but for those who are new to the party or two FCC machinations, I shall quickly explain what FCC does and how it arrived at it’s decision.

The full FCC meets six times a year, three per conference. The first meeting in the cycle is general business, discussing topics such as future venues, stewarding and security needs, design of speakers cards, overall allocation of time between policy/speeches/Q&As, registration rates and so on. Before anyone asks, I should point out that the location of future conferences is a closely guarded secret until officially announced as we don’t want commercial companies block-booking accommodation in advance, as this puts the price up for ordinary members.

The second meeting in the cycle is the one that just took place, which alongside any other business discusses which of the validly submitted motions should end up being debated. This is far from a quick task, as every motion is discussed in some detail with a nominated FCC member reporting back on conversations they have had with relevant parliamentarians, HQ staff and policy contacts to decide if a motion should be taken at all. Some motions are clearly not going to be debated, but around a third to half of motions end up being voted on.

During deliberations this weekend, FCC members did not accept 30 motions for debate. The most common cause of rejection was that a motion covered similar or the same ground as other motions, and it is not uncommon for a vote to be simply “Motion A vs Motion B” with the winner being the motion that will result in the best debate and give the widest scope for amendment. Each motion is also debated entirely on it’s own merits, and whilst the identity of number of members/local parties whose names are on motions will often make little or no difference, a large number of members signing up to a motion (such as the one on Trident) does indicate a strong desire by the party to debate an issue which FCC members will be mindful of.

The results of the meeting are kept confidential for 2 days, which allows time for designated members to get back to submitters to let them know if their motions have been rejected, and if so why. Submitters will have received more detailed feedback than the brief notes here – I have deliberately tried to put motions into various categories to give a flavour of the kind of reasons FCC was considering, rather than to be a precise and accurate set of minutes. “Drafting issues” are generally a mix of technical inaccuracies or a lack of evidence and overall structure/style.

The motions not accepted in round one were: (30 motions, 58% of those submitted)

  • Business, Innovation and Skills
    • Co-operatives (12 Conference Reps) – Does not develop party policy sufficiently
    • Reducing Tax Credits (Camberwell & Peckham Local Party) – Topic has been overtaken by events
  • Communities and Local Government:
    • Grant Funding Inequality (Hereford, North Hereford & South Hereford Local Parties) – Too simple
  • Crime, Justice and Civil Liberties:
    • A Liberal Path to Drug Reform (Hackney Local Party, 21 Conference Reps) – Debated within last two years, Drafting issues
    • Gangmaster Licensing Authority (Barrow and Furness Local Party) – Calls for a review that is already happening
    • Magna Carta today – to no one deny or delay right or justice (LibDem Lawyers) – Alternate motion on same topic was considered to be a better basis for debate & amendment
  • Education and Families:
    • Compulsory Teaching of Citzenship in all Schools (10 Conference Reps) – Invalid submission
  • Energy and Climate Change:
    • FRACKING – the Extraction of shale gas or oil by Hydraulic Fracturing (15 Conference Reps) – Does not develop party policy sufficiently, would not encourage a lively debate.
    • Real-time Electricity Tariffs (ALDES) – Too technical and complex
  • Equalities:
    • Tackling Race Inequality (EMLD) – Debated within last two years, too broad
  • Europe:
    • Winning for Europe (10 Conference Reps) – Alternate motion on same topic was considered to be a better basis for debate & amendment
  • Foreign Affairs and Defence:
    • Re-founding a Liberal Democratic Foreign Policy (12 Conference Reps) – Alternate motions on same topic were considered to be a better basis for debate & amendment
  • Health and Social Care:
    • High Quality Social Care, responsive to patients needs (12 Conference Reps) – Debated within last two years
    • Reviewing the Blood ban – a call to review (LGBT+LD, 31 Conference Reps) – Drafting issues
  • Housing:
    • Affordable Housing in Britain (Bermondsey & Old Southwark Local Party) – Alternate motions on same topic were considered to be a better basis for debate & amendment
    • Eco-Friendly Town Planning and Housebuilding (Amber Valley Local Party) – Alternate motions on same topic were considered to be a better basis for debate & amendment
    • Housing Controls (Camberwell & Peckham Local Party) – Does not take into account national issues
    • Tackling Gazumping (South Central Regional Party, 13 Conference Reps) – Does not take into account national issues
  • International Development:
    • Fairtrade and the Sustainable Development Goals (12 Conference Reps) – Too narrow a focus
  • Political and Constitutional Reform:
    • No compromise on devolution (Calderdale Local Party) – Drafting issues, but FCC believes the topic needs debate and will suggest Federal Policy Committee examine it in more detail
    • Towards a Sustainable Constitutional Settlement for the United Kingdom (Glasgow South Local Party) – Likely to be overtaken by events (Refers to a bill that’s very unlikely to be debated)
  • Treasury:
    • Reducing inequality, tackling high salaries and closing the pay gap (Bermondsey & Old Southwark Local Party) – Overtaken by events, drafting issues
  • Party Business:
    • A Bold Strategy for a Radical Party (59-93 Conference Reps, Calderdale Local Party) – Duplicates consultation work being undertaken by the Federal Executive
    • Bedrock Principles for a Campaigning Party (62 Conference Reps and Calderdale Local Party) – Duplicates consultation work being undertaken by the Federal Executive
    • Standing at all elections (ALDC) – Mandates the impossible
    • Making Liberal Democrat Leadership More Representative (Bermondsey & Old Southwark Local Party) – Duplicates consultation work being undertaken by the Federal Executive
    • Making Liberal Democrat Candidates More Representative (Bermondsey & Old Southwark Local Party) – Duplicates consultation work being undertaken by the Federal Executive
    • Making Proportional Representation for Westminster a Red Line Issue (Newbury Local Party, South Central Region) – Too soon in the electoral cycle to debate this
  • Constitutional Amendments: (Must be accepted if in order)
    • A constitutional amendment to prevent affiliate supporters of the Women’s Equality Party from being automatically suspended, revoked or denied membership of the Liberal Democrat Party (East Kent Coast Local Party) – not in order, drafting issues

Having sorted the debatable motions out, round two is a simple cull based on time available to debate – around 13-14 hours at this conference. The job this time round was easier than for the shorter spring conference, where the manifesto motion further compressed the time available and four rounds of voting were required.

Motions rejected due to lack of time: (5 motions, 10% of those submitted)

  • Business, Innovation and Skills:
    • Embracing the sharing economy (Calderdale Local Party, 34 Conference Reps)
  • Equalities:
    • Tackling BME Inequalities in Public Services (EMLD, 22 Conference Reps)
  • Foreign Affairs and Defence:
    • Defence 2020 – capability, cooperation and compassion (11 Conference Reps)
    • Hong Kong (10 Conference Reps)
  • Health and Social Care:
    • Electronic cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction (Calderdale Local Party, 39 Conference Reps)

And finally, we have the list of motions for Autumn Conference 2015… (17 motions, 33% of those submitted)

  • Cabinet Office:
    • Youth Services (10 Conference Reps)
  • Crime, Justice and Civil Liberties:
    • Creating Safe and Legal Routes for Refugees (19 Conference Reps)
    • Human Rights (Federal Policy Committee)
  • Education and Families:
    • Term Time Family Holiday Rules (12 Conference Reps)
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
    • Urgent action on Air Quality and Health (Camden Local Party)
  • Energy and Climate Change:
    • Securing a Global Treaty on Climate Change: Paris 2015 (19 Conference Reps)
  • Equalities:
    • A Trans and Intersex Health Bill of Rights (LGBT+LD, Calderdale Local Party)
  • Europe:
    • Winning in Europe (Federal Policy Committee)
  • Foreign Affairs and Defence:
    • Scrapping Trident (128 Conference Reps, Calderdale & Liverpool Local Parties)
  • Health and Social Care:
    • Public health (ALDC)
  • Housing:
    • Delivering the Housing Britain Needs (Federal Policy Committee)
  • Treasury:
    • Reducing tax on tourism (11 Local Parties, Welsh State Party)
  • Work and Pensions:
    • No one should be enslaved by poverty (25 Conference Reps)
  • Constitutional Amendments: (Must be taken if in order)
    • Deputy Leader (10 Conference Reps)
    • Trust in the manifesto: restoring the leader’s veto (17 Conference Reps)
    • Proposed Subscription and Levy Motion Autumn 2015 (Federal Finance and Administration Committee – this will probably appear on the agenda under the relevant reports to conference)
    • One Member, One Vote (Federal Executive, with associated Standing Order Amendments)

And for those of you who have read this far, you may be interested in round three… on the 12th of September, the weekend before conference, we go through all of this again with a list of the amendments!

* Zoe O'Connell is Vice Chair of Federal Conference Committee and Vice Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

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  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 14th Jul '15 - 9:05am

    Well done Zoe. Good to have this transparency.

  • Zoe – thanks for doing this; that’s really interesting / helpful and a big step forward in the transparency of the process

  • A Social Liberal 14th Jul '15 - 9:10am

    I would be interested in the decision for revisiting Trident Gareth, given that other motions were discarded because – as with Trident – they had been debated within the last two years.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th Jul '15 - 9:20am

    Is it me or are (with the exception of the Trident motion) all the exciting, interesting and dynamic motions on the rejected heap? – for spurious and procedural reasons. Fracking would have been a good motion to come forward , has featured in the leadership debate but rejected “Does not develop party policy sufficiently, would not encourage a lively debate.”and it feels like the dead hand of internal party machinery is killing proper democratic participation. Note lots of FPC motions made it through. If we are to build on #libdemfightback we need a truly democratic and dynamic party. Full marks for openness though.

  • steve James 14th Jul '15 - 9:22am

    Thanks Zoe, great to see this sort of detail in an easy to understand form.

  • Simon McGrath 14th Jul '15 - 9:22am

    What a pity the motion on e cigarettes wasnt included – particularly given all the work the Welsh LD have been doing.

    And nothing on the economy.

  • Thanks for publishing this, Zoe. Am obviously sad that four of our five from Calderdale fell, especially the Devolution one, because by the time FPC gets around to looking at it we will probably have already been forced into Leeds City region and had an elected mayor foisted on us, despite the fact that several of the towns/cities in the area explicitly rejected them.

    I am also bothered by “Real-time Electricity Tariffs (ALDES) – Too technical and complex” – is that not a bit of a patronising reason to reject a motion?

  • “I supported the e-cigarettes motion which almost made the cut, and would have done had we reduced the number of set piece speeches.”

    Who’s giving the set piece speeches anyway? It’s not like we’ve got that many MPs left. Eurgh. Grandstanding rather than policy making at this point is… Well, I’ll get moderated if I carry on, so I’ll stop.

  • I would hope that a preliminary agenda with the texts of the motions and constitutional amendments will be made available as soon as possible so that we can consider amendments to the motions and give the technical texts of the constitutional amendments the scrutiny they deserve.

  • Nothing on higher education? The Party needs to think through its policy asap, it’s already left it a bit late, it may well take a few years to reach agreement. . The sooner the Party confronts this issue and presents a convincing narrative for the future, the sooner it can start to regain trust.

  • Alisdair McGregor 14th Jul '15 - 10:06am

    That’s the second time the ecigs piece has been knocked back by FCC. When are they going to recognize that the membership want to debate this issue?

    Three Calderdale supported motions on the agenda though (we’re one of the 11 local parties supporting the tourism motion).

  • Alisdair McGregor 14th Jul '15 - 10:08am
  • Lordy. You think they’re hoping we’ll give up?

  • Zoe O'connell 14th Jul '15 - 10:19am

    ECigs very, very nearly made the cut – and yes, there was recognition that it’s been repeatedly submitted before. I think if you keep submitting it, it’ll eventually end up on the agenda.

    Some of the motions will get redrafting slightly (Or more extensively) before publication, so even FCC members and submittors don’t know exactly what the text of the final agenda will be yet!

  • Zoe thank you for both the insight into the why and transparency into the what.

  • Alisdair McGregor 14th Jul '15 - 10:31am

    I have been told by another source that the ecig motion fell by only a single vote.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 10:33am

    Thos report is very useful. It is regrettable that it comes out after the firsdt deadline for discounted booking.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 10:38am

    “Making Proportional Representation for Westminster a Red Line Issue (Newbury Local Party, South Central Region) – Too soon in the electoral cycle to debate this”
    The committee met before the new leader was announced.
    He or they may have faced this issue during the campaign and announced attitude/s.
    Because a lot of campaigning will be needed to overturn voter attitudes this issue should be progressed promptly, perhaps debated at a fringe meeting at autumn conference and decided at spring conference in 2016.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 10:40am

    A short simple motion should be debated if important enough.
    For instance the motion to “Fre John MacCarthy” was accepted, carried and succussefully implemented.

  • Rabi Martins 14th Jul '15 - 11:20am

    Good to see I this level of transparency in the process but I am very disappointed the EMLD motion on Race Eqaulity did not make it into the final list One of the major criticisms of our Part y during the general election campaign was that we talk the talk on Race Equality and Tackling Inequalities in Health, Education, Housing etc but have no polices which address the problems

  • Phyllis

    “Nothing on higher education? The Party needs to think through its policy asap, it’s already left it a bit late, it may well take a few years to reach agreement. . The sooner the Party confronts this issue and presents a convincing narrative for the future, the sooner it can start to regain trust.”

    Wow, I agree with Phyllis. That doesn’t happen too often…

  • Rabi Martins

    Is there a link to what has been submitted but rejected?

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 12:14pm

    Looking forward to seeing the text of “Creating Safe and Legal Routes for Refugees (19 Conference Reps)”.

    Some claims are based on the difficulties and illegalities.
    Imagine a claimant stating, in writing, through his representative, that he escaped from the so-called “Democratic Republic of Congo” . He swam across the Congo river to the Republic of Congo without a boat, despite the risks from infestations of crocodiles, the width of the river and the speed of the water. Both countries are francophone. He wants to be interviewed with an interpreter in French, who is provided, but is not, of course, a former asylum applicant.

    At interview the claimant states that he came from Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC (which has an international airport). Many francophone emigrants go to France or Belgium, so has he done so? If yes, did he claim asylum in this safe country? and with what outcome? If no, why not?

    Credibility is an issue. Even if he has been refused asylum in France and/or Belgium the UK might still accept him if the current circumstances in the country of origin at the time of asylum decision are sufficiently bad. If he is refused and appeals the later conditions at the time of the appeal hearing apply. He might also try judicial review. He might end up in the Supreme Court. Coming from a war-torn country such as Somalia would not be enough under the Adan judgement.

    Safe and legal routes do exist. Some applicants are interviewed abroad by UNHCR and flown in to a safe country which will accept them. The choice of that country might depend partly on family ties.

    Although the asylum system overrides normal immigration controll it should not be used to undermine it, as happened during the early years of the Blair-Brown government, when queues of asylum seekers got longer and longer. We should understand that Greece has a limited ability to pay public servants but has received large numbers of applicants.

  • suzanne fletcher 14th Jul '15 - 1:18pm

    thank you for both the information on process, and the info on which motions were submitted and reasons why not taken. really useful. good to see such a variety submitted too.
    after all these years the first transparent insight into the process. will be remembered at election to FCC time !
    I did wonder if there was an opportunity, before “decision day” for those submitting motions that are similar to be able to talk to submit a joint one if they wish ?

  • Phil Rimmer 14th Jul '15 - 1:55pm

    I do not go to conference and, frankly, I can’t see myself bothering in the near future. Why? Every time I see a perfectly debateable motion rejected, I think about the arse aching set piece speeches that I would have to sit through. Until the party adopts a slash and burn policy towards the set pieces, I shall continue not to waste a large portion of my time that would be wasted at conference.

    As someone else asks, who is giving these set pieces for the next 5 years anyway?

    More debate, less lecturing please.

  • suzanne fletcher 14th Jul '15 - 2:39pm

    you don’t have to sit through any set speeches at all Phil Rimmer. there is the exhibition to go round (lots to find out about and people to chat to) and of course training too.

  • Zoe O'connell 14th Jul '15 - 2:53pm

    If there are topics people would like to see debated (eg Higher Education) but don’t fancy writing the motion themselves, it’s worth lobbying Federal Policy Committee members to see if they’ll take up the baton. FCC doesn’t write motions but FPC does, and they’re usually well written by the time they reach us.

    Where there are multiple motions submitted on a topic it’s usually because there is significant disagreement, so a joint motion is unlikely. FCC selects the one that will result in the best amendments/debate, rather than the one members agree with most. In these cases, we often hope the original motion submitters will be submitting amendments too.

    I don’t have my notes with me, but ignoring the leader the balance of speeches to motions is something like 100 or 120 minutes versus 880 minutes. I know the speeches can FEEL longer at times, and FCC members certainly do express opinions on who should and who should definitely not be invited to speak as a result! Those of us who stand for FCC tend to be in the more-policy-please camp, but we do look at feedback and many conference attendees like the speeches. The more/less speeches balance on conference feedback is about 50:50 right now.

  • Phil Rimmer 14th Jul '15 - 3:02pm

    Suzanne Fletcher: thanks for taking the time to reply, as a conference organiser in the past I sympathise. However, I want conference to debate policy, the set piece speeches and the exhibitions are of almost no interest to me, or to many others I suspect.

    The high point of my political career was winning the Young Liberal raffle at Dundee Assembly. The first prize was staffing the YL stall during the Leaders speech. As a result, I missed Steel’s appallingly misjudged “go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government”. I am still waiting to hear a worthwhile set piece. Surely you can get the required sound bite from a 5 minute speech? Also, just who is going to give them all this year?

  • Phil Rimmer 14th Jul '15 - 3:05pm

    Zoe O’Connell – does your 50:50 include any people like me who have been completely put off conference? Cut the set pieces by 75% and get back to me!

  • Mark Smulian 14th Jul '15 - 5:01pm

    Phil Rimmer: “As a result, I missed Steel’s appallingly misjudged ‘go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government’.”
    Not at Dundee 1985 you didn’t. Steel made this comment at the 1981 assembly immediatley after the Alliance was formed.
    It was considered ripe for parody in the first Liberal Revue in 1984, changed by the late Mark Tavener into: “Go back to your constituencies, bloody well stay there, you appalling bunch of muppets.”

  • Thanks for posting this, Zoe; it’s good to see how the cogs have been turning; this is very much appreciated.

    It’s a shame the defence 2020 motion wasn’t selected; I hope we get a halfway-decent defence debate out of the Trident motion instead. Ditto the sustainable constitutional settlement motion. I’ve been surprised at the general lack of UK constitutional debates at conferences recently, given that it’s one of the core Lib Dem areas. I also distinctly remember a housing debate – at which I spoke! – in the Glasgow conference last year; why was a new housing debate selected despite the two-year rule?

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 14th Jul '15 - 5:19pm

    Thanks for this Zoe – it’s helpful.

    Has any thought been given to publishing the results of the committees votes (i.e. who voted for what)?

    That would be a very useful step because with motions like e-cigs, which seems to have broad cross-party support, it would be useful to know the committee members rejecting it on each of the 5 occasions – otherwise there is no possibility of properly holding individuals to account on future elections.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 14th Jul '15 - 5:21pm

    And I must say some sense of the reasoning would also be nice. Why term time family holiday is more of a priority for the party than (say) e-cigs or the sharing economy is somewhat baffling to me.

  • Martin Land 14th Jul '15 - 5:56pm

    I shall be in Strasbourg then, for the French Liberal Democrat conference. I suspect it will be more interesting.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 6:20pm

    ‘go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government’
    Perhaps David Steel could have been clearer if he had said
    “Go back to your constituencies, select a candidate and get him or her elected”

  • Lester Holloway 14th Jul '15 - 8:31pm

    So EMLDs motion was “debated in the last two years” and “too broad”? On the first point, that not correct. FCC appear to have confused a previous motion on race equality in education and employment with this new motion calling for a new overarching race law to tackle racial inequality across the board. This is not the same thing! Apart from the fact that the previous policy was excluded from our manifesto despite being unanimously endorsed by conference, there is now a need – on the 50th anniversary of the first Race Relations Act – to revisit the whole legislative framework if we want to make progress. Quite different from the previous motion. I think FCC simply misunderstood and made a mistake here.

    As for being too broad, well that’s in the eye of the beholder I guess, but if calling for a legislative framework to tackle race inequality is in itself too broad, that means this party can never have a motion on this vital subject in those terms, ever! To have to break race inequality down into minuscule pieces for LibDems to debate it is really missing a trick, missing the bigger picture, and missing a debate that could shape our whole overall approach to the issue. Very sad.

  • Lester Holloway 14th Jul '15 - 8:40pm

    I’m guessing here, but I I’d take a punt on EMLD having the least success of any SAO in getting motions debated at conference. In the last five years there has been one, plus the non-EMLD (but nevertheless strongly supported by) motion from the Race Equality Taskforce (mentioned above). In that time EMLD have had, from memory, around 8 motions rejected. Plus another two here. Why is it so difficult for this SAO? Does any other SAO have this level of failure in the conference motion process?

  • Mark Smullian – cheers, spot on. My brain is clearly shot to pieces! Now I need to work out why I confused those two Assembly’s!

  • suzanne fletcher 14th Jul '15 - 11:49pm

    ‘go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government’
    I was preparing Elm Tree Focus number 1 (with lettraset, glue and scissors) at home for the by election i stood in, when this was preached to me on the TV.
    it electrified me, inspired me, frightened me even !
    mind you it frightened the labour / tory establishment even more when I won, and I nearly passed out at the result.

  • Zoe O'connell 15th Jul '15 - 12:20am

    John – The two-year limit (I shouldn’t really call it a rule) is a guide to stop repeated motions causing the party to either flip-flop on key issues, with Trident being an obvious example, or to repeatedly debating the same issues over and over with little chance of changing policy. It shouldn’t stop the party responding to events and housing has been a very rapidly moving policy area.

    Nick – I suspect that at the moment, we’d also need to publish the full submitted motions and advice received to put the decisions into context and that’s a major change, not just for those currently on the committee. Once committee members start taking some transparency as routine, it should become easier to push for such things.

    We don’t have a lengthy group discussion in round two so we don’t necessarily have a committee view on reasons for rejections at that stage, so if I was to give reasons it would be my personal view. However, quality of motion does play a part rather than just being about the topic.

    Lester – The Equalities Policy paper went through in Autumn 2014. Motions that re-address broader issues that were discussed as part of the policy making process back then are less likely to be accepted.

    I don’t have a list of submitted-but-rejected motions prior to this year when I joined FCC, but the last time LGBT+ had a motion accepted was 5 years ago in Autumn 2010 with Equal Marriage. So if you’re getting one motion every five years, you’re on even pegging with us. (I don’t know how many Liberal Youth have)

    Simon – Yes, make it radical (without being rabid) and with a clear pro/anti-fracking message obvious to those who are not experts in the field and it’s more likely to be accepted.

  • Lester Holloway 15th Jul '15 - 9:05am

    Zoe, please name me just one element of the general Equalities Working Group motion that overlaps with the new EMLD motion that FCC rejected. I can say there isn’t any overlap, they are completely different! Trust me, if I showed anyone in the race equality field the two motions and told them it had already been discussed with the first motion they’d think I was completely mad.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 9:59am

    We must debate Trident because of the recent changes:
    1) the SNP’s importance to results in England based on half of one per cent of Gross Domestic Product and Trident
    2) Leaderships elections in our party, in Labour (and almost in UKIP)
    3) the timing of spending.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 10:25am

    The ALDC is widely respected in this party and know election law on nominations.
    What are they doing “Mandating the impossible”?

  • Matt (Bristol) 15th Jul '15 - 10:46am

    I am only the lowest of the low, but would be very interested to see a copy of the Calderdale devolution motion if someone can point me to it…

  • suzanne fletcher 15th Jul '15 - 12:44pm

    Zoe (who I don’t know, but hope to meet at conference)has done a great job in publishing the article, I’d say 100% approval.
    I’m concerned about her being challenged on decisions made by the whole of FCC, and wonder if there is a way of the sort of questions being put here could be put to the a broader range of people ?

  • Zoe – Thanks for this. Hopefully the other federal committees will soon follow up with equally illuminating reports.

    It would be interesting to see a bar chart showing for each local party etc. how many motions they proposed or supported. On a quick read it looks like Calderdale would lead the pack by a country mile – but how many are really involved to any significant degree? I ask because my suspicion is that the party’s proud boast about members’ participation in policy is somewhat threadbare. We need to consider ways of achieving better participation.

    The other thing that strikes me is that all the motions propose some or other ‘Good Idea’. Leaving aside their particular merits or otherwise the difficulty with this is that they don’t necessarily add up to a coherent strategy – and in practice they don’t. The result is we are entirely unstrategic and are perennially left scrabbling around for scraps in a national debate defined in practice by the Tories who are highly strategic. We win a few minor skirmishes but they win the important battles – and in time the war.

    What can be done to change this?

  • Zoe O'connell 15th Jul '15 - 10:21pm

    Suzanne – Motion submitters will have received more detailed guidance than my brief comments. There is also the ability for voting reps to ask questions of the FCC report to conference – although most “why didn’t you include X” comments are likely to end up being simply “because we’d have had to cut something else” . I don’t think at this stage FCC would want to answer questions on specific motions that were rejected, partially to save embarrassment by the submitters – some are clearly not of a debatable standard, and they were not submitted in the expectation that unsuccessful motions would be made public.

    Andy – I think it will be interesting to see how people campaign for FCC when it comes up for reelection again next year, and I think this sort of thing will play a part. I would expect that greater transparency and publicity into the workings of the committee will mean more candidates.

    Gordon – Yes, we see some local parties names popping up repeatedly, but I think that’s a result of being well organised at a local level and having an exec able to approve policy in time, as they’re not all from the same individual and don’t necessarily originate within the party that ends up submitting it. It’s harder to tell with the “X Conference Reps” motions as FCC don’t get given the names, but I suspect that it’s a hard core of a hundred to two hundred party members involved in most of them.

    Strategic policy is the job of the Federal Policy Committee, so if you think we’re losing direction they’re the folk to lobby.

  • Kevin McNamara 16th Jul '15 - 9:55am

    @Jennie – if it was Trident, it’d have been on the agenda. You just need to submit things that are hobbyhorses of FCC members. It seems to be how it works now.

  • Gordon: in Calderdale we have a policy working group, which is open to all members, attended by many members, and meets regularly. The exec devolved power to policy working group to decide policy mainly to streamline exec meetings because they were becoming three hour arguments over policy and none of the actual exec stuff was getting done. An unforeseen and happy consequence of this is that policy working group is far more popular than exec; also both groups get far more done seperately than they did when policy was interfering with exec function.

    It’s a structure I heartily recommend to other local parties, although that would perforce see an end to our dominance of the agenda at conference… 😉

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 16th Jul '15 - 12:30pm

    Thanks Zoe.

    As you mentioned quality, can you say why the trident motion was thought to be of sufficient quality not only to be debated but to get 90 minutes to do so?

    It seems to me to be one of the worst quality motions I have ever seen (regardless of one’s view of the issue).


  • Joshua Dixon 16th Jul '15 - 3:47pm

    Nick, I assume there will be sufficient re-drafting, no?

  • Zoe – Thanks for that response. Regarding the breadth and depth of participation here are some doodles from the back of my envelope.

    On a very quick count (i.e. not necessarily very accurate) I made it that 15 local parties had submitted motions. I don’t know how many local parties there are but if it’s, say, 500 then that’s LP participation rate of only 3%.

    How many individuals are involved in each of these local parties? That probably varies by LP and perhaps also by issue but 10 would be a lowish estimate (a sensibly-sized committee or comparable with the numbers of conference reps responsible for most of the motions they submitted. I suspect 100 would be the upper bound; that’s more than the number of conference reps that came together for any single motion. The average? Say, 20.

    That means that those contributing to policy via local parties is approximately 15 x 20 = 300. On top of this another 200 or so individuals contributed as conference reps so, ignoring the double counting which must exist, that gets us to perhaps 500 individuals. That doesn’t include motions sponsored other than through local parties but again, I suspect these largely originate from the same ‘hard core’.

    That 500 estimate is less than 1% of the membership which, despite the enormous margin of error in my doodling, is deeply unsatisfactory.

  • Zoe – regarding the strategic dimension I get that strategic policy is the responsibility of the FPC. What I don’t understand is how their views dovetail with your work on the FCC. In deciding to accept or reject motions the FCC is automatically making – at some level – strategic decisions unless there a strategic overview from the FPC is applied – and if it is I missed it.

    Jennie – Well done Calderdale! Unfortunately (!) your pre-eminence in policy motions suggests the model hasn’t been widely adopted, if at all.

    The present structure was put in place at the time of the merger. Since then, the Internet has triggered disruptive innovation in multiple disciplines – but not Lib Dem policy-making – so, as I’ve said before, I think it has to change. An early priority for the new leader perhaps.

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