How I’ll improve Lib Dem membership – Chandila Fernando

1. Anyone can become a (“registered supporter”) if they are on the electoral register in the UK and sign some form of statement saying they are a supporter of the Liberal Democrats.

2. This data would be centrally collated – although obviously shared with local parties – on a database package that could be deployed for campaigning and fundraising purposes.

3. Once the system had been successfully implemented, which may take some months (at least!) the party’s constitution should be reviewed in order to attempt to enfranchise these supporters into the party’s decision-making process. This might start with consultation and then go on to “open primaries” for PPC selection and even lead ultimately to mass enfranchisement for a partyleadership election.

4. A whole range of issues would need to addressed (length of tenure on supporter list before you get a vote, preventing mass last minute non-LD sign-ups to infiltrate the party, provision for those under the age of 18) etc.

5. The explicit aim of such an exercise would be wider participation and involvement, not “demutualisation” or converting the party into a company.

6. The President of the party wouldn’t, of course, have the authority to impose such a system, but he or she could set a direction of travel. When Charles was elected, there were 82,000 members. When Ming was elected, there were 72,000 members. When Nick was elected, there were 67,000 members. (These totals contrast with 101,00 Liberal members and 58,000 SDP members at the time of merger – or at least those were the totals for ballot papers issued in 1987 and 1988).

This is one of a series of three articles about increasing membership by candidates for the Lib Dem party presidency. You can find Chandila Fernando’s campaign website here.

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This entry was posted in Party Presidency.


  • >A whole range of issues would need to addressed (length of tenure on supporter list before you get a vote, preventing mass last minute non-LD sign-ups to infiltrate the party, provision for those under the age of 18) etc.

    and who would check they are on the electoral register.

    As anyone can sign up on the national website as a member, suporter or helper
    the attractions of choosing a PPC in a no-hope seat must be huge for this to have any but a marginal impact.

  • No 4 does say special provision for under 18’s – although I would have hoped that someone standing for president would have some deatil to go with an idea.

    The point about having electoral registers is far more difficult and expensive.

    Imagine if there actually was a rush of last minute (or even not last minute)rush of people signing up as supporters to rig a PPC selection – great publicity

  • Hywel Morgan 29th Oct '08 - 9:17pm

    “as does happen in America.”

    Gray Davies, the Governor of California before Arnie actually spent his own campaign funds on the Republican primary to ensure that it was won by a candidate easier to defeat.

    In any case as James has pointed out, non-Presidential primaries attract a pretty derisory turnout so this is a pretty inconsequential idea.

    Chandila does however fail to mention that his plans for developing the membership involve giving members (or supporters) less active say in how the party is run:
    “Going forward, I aim to increase the number of people who contribute to discussions (the concept of “registered supporters”) but dramatically reduce the number of key decision makers.”

    So Chandila’s vision of members is people who can discuss matters, but not get involved in taking any of the decisions. Hardly “taking power and using it…”

  • The difference is that trying to influence the outcome of the election for California Governor might seem worthwhile. I don’t think the same can be said for Lib Dem PPC for Coventry North East.

    The reality is that turnout amongst party members in votes for Leader, President and particularly PPC’s are nothing to write home about. The prospect of taking part just isn’t going have people signing up as supporters.

    It may be something to offer when they have signed up, but it really isn’t going to get them to sign up in the first place.

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