Leadership election postponed

The Federal Board met remotely yesterday and agreed to postpone the election for the Leader of the party until next year. The party’s President, Mark Pack,  issued this statement:

Not only are we going through what could become the country’s biggest crisis since 1945, but we’re also entering a very new world that will persist once the immediate crisis is over.

I’m proud of what we have achieved so far by championing NHS workers and pressing the Government on issues such as offering a better deal to the self-employed.

Throughout our history, we have always put the national interest first.

Our Federal Board has decided that we will not have a leadership election until May 2021, so that we can focus on dealing with the coronavirus crisis. 

We know that coronavirus will have many implications for our society, public services, economy and day-to-day lives.

It will also have important implications for how we operate as a political party. In particular, even when current lockdown restrictions are relaxed, we still be living in a world where for months, if not years, to come it is possible lockdowns will have to be reintroduced at short notice.

That risk will hang over us all until we have a vaccine or effective and widespread treatment.

The Board therefore also started to address how the work of the Lib Dem HQ operation needs to adjust.

But it isn’t only the Board and the party centrally which needs to adjust to this new reality.

It’s a new reality that will require every part of the party to adjust too. If you are involved in running any other part of the party and have not yet started thinking this through, I hope you and your colleagues can start soon.

We also finished the appointments to the Party Bodies Review Group, with Steffan Aquarone, Flo Clucas and Bess Mayhew joining Tim Pickstone.

Amongst its roles is to undertake a strategic review of party bodies, the way they operate and how they interrelate with the rest of our organisation. Though, of course, this work will not be at the forefront of minds at the moment, this is going to be an important piece of work to ensure we build a broad and healthy movement to fight for our values.

This means that Ed Davey MP and Mark Pack will continue as joint acting leaders until the election next year.

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36 Comments

  • Fundamentally disagree with this decision. If the current crisis has revealed anything it it is that communication and new forms of engagement are possible. Over this Summer we should be electing a new democratically elected leader to head the party in the run up to a huge round of elections next year and to start preparing for future elections. Labour will in a few days have a new leader – we in contrast are risking becoming more marginalised by the media.

  • John Marriott 27th Mar '20 - 8:16am

    Pity, in some ways that they won’t postpone ‘the other one’. And then, perhaps not. If I were Johnson, I reckon I would rather have Keir Starmer backing me than old JC.

  • David Warren 27th Mar '20 - 10:00am

    I fundamentally disagree with this decision.

    The election could and should place using online methods. It would be relatively straightforward to have hustings that way.

    We shouldn’t be postponing our democracy.

  • @ David Warren Of course it’s frustrating, David, and as a ‘vulnerable person’ having to self isolate for medical reasons I share that frustration. But on the contrary, limiting an election to just those with online communications is even more undermining of party democracy.

    It’s time everybody calmed down, exercised a bit of common sense, and focused and behaved in a way that gets us through this awful business. The party will get more credit by doing that than by posturing, making overblown statements and behaving in a self indulgent way.

  • Why couldn’t the Federal Board simply have postponed making a decision for two months and then in late May decide whether there could possibly be a late Summer election or an Autumn (possibly late Autumn) election. Why rule out that option now?

    As for the idea that an election will exclude some people why not consider a postal election (with candidate manifesto details included) and proper use of modern technology?

    Finally, in terms of democracy can we be told how members of the Federal Board actually voted on this issue?

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Mar '20 - 10:53am

    I agree with David Raw in his posting at 10:35

  • This week the Campaign for Real cancelled its Members’ Weekend and announced its methods for electing members to its National Executive after carefully looking at the constitutional requirements. Nothing was done online. Every member with a postal address was put in the picture. Manifestos will come with ballot papers. I am not advocating an exact replication of their methods but I cannot see how careful planning for a different way of doing a leadership election has to conflict with “dealing with the virus”.
    We are throwing away the advantage of quietly getting on with an internal election that hardly anyone outside the party would notice – hardly against the national interest!
    Hopefully we shall discover how the proposal came to the Board. It was a bit odd having the views of a Member of Parliament surfacing just a few days before the announcement from the President.

  • David Becket 27th Mar '20 - 11:52am

    This is a bad decision as we lack leadership
    Joint Acting Leaders should only be used for short term emergencies, as they do not provide leadership.
    This country needs leadership, and we have put ourselves into a position where we cannot provide it.
    If an election is out of the question appoint Ed as Leader for a fixed period. Let the MPs elect the deputy. Job done and we can get on with the real work.

  • William Wallace 27th Mar '20 - 12:35pm

    I strongly agree with David Becket. This crisis may well reshape British politics in ways that we can’t yet anticipate. We want our voice to come out as clearly as possible in these circumstances. Ed Davey will now be our leader for the next 12 months: so let’s call him that, stress that this is a limited-term appointment, and encourage others in the parliamentary party to work closely with him as a team – which will give party members the opportunity to assess their quality before we return to a leadership contest.

  • Meral Hussein-Ece 27th Mar '20 - 1:15pm

    I agree that postponing the internal leadership election was necessary, but postponing for over a year is a bad decision. This must be reviewed by the end of the Summer.

  • Jonathan Hunt 27th Mar '20 - 1:15pm

    I would support a short delay in electing a leader. But 18 months as a rudderless group (as it would be by May 2021) would make the party appear a joke. especially after the disastrous decision to support a December general election and the ridiculous claims by the last leader.

    I have every confidence in Ed as leader, but believe he must enjoy the authority of being chosen by our members to achieve the widespread respect he needs and deserves to do the job.

    By all means give him the short-term post William Wallace suggests, but if the crisis continues into the summer, then we have to turn to technology for hustings, etc.

    It is a defining part of our democratic existence that policies are decided by members in conference. It would be wrong for policy to be left to just 11 MPs in such testing and difficult times.
    Our members are never short of ideas. Let us have the confidence to hear how we can
    decide these practical matters.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Mar '20 - 1:29pm

    The party’s Constitution states that a vacancy for leader must be filled within a year.
    Only Conference can change the Constitution.
    We cannot currently hold Conference, so the Constitution cannot be changed.
    This decision is therefore clearly unconstitutional.
    Does anyone have any idea what the next steps should be to get this reversed?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Mar '20 - 1:30pm

    Isn’t my idea of the other possible contestants, stepping down in favour of Ed, more appropriate, then any choice of deputy by them, is a wide choice .

    I reckon we should keep Ed until he resigns, because he, as with Keir Starmer, has enough of that needed now, we have an excellent President, but he is not an mp, something the party did not like, when Vince put it forward.

  • I am disappointed that the election is postponed for that long but , having looked at some of the studies and projections for the coronavirus, it seems highly likely that the autumn would not be a good time to start the process as there may be a resurgence of the virus as self-isolation is reduced. I am sure the Board considered the points raised in coming to this decision. but they may wish to review the matter from time to time in the light of changing circumstances.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Mar '20 - 1:34pm

    Another thing, we should air this ore, views put in a decent and considered manner, though, not the spoilt brat manner one or two here go for in talk of their desire want or a new leader, the other thread recently saw that and it was not necessary.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Mar '20 - 1:35pm

    Apologies, typing errors as too fast, you get the gist, keep it pleasant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Colin Paine 27th Mar '20 - 3:55pm

    Ed Davey will do fine for me.

  • I concur with the consensus, that a 14 month delay seems excessive and that to be without a clear leader puts us at a disadvantage. Catherine’s point about the dubious constitutional validity of the decision does make one wonder who is running the show. Perhaps someone from the FB could raise their head above the parapet and give us poor old bloody infantry a little reassurance ?

  • Genuine question here:

    Of all the current members for who we don’t have email addresses, what proportion of those does the party estimate would attend a hustings event in person?

    It must be a only a few hundred. Out of 100,000 members. 50% or so of our members have joined post 2015 the bulk of which came via the web during impromtu sessions in 2015, 2016 and so on.

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Mar '20 - 4:17pm

    I think the news about the Party Bodies Review group is equally important to the Leadership issue. So many of us have bemoaned the lack of policy direction and at the moment we seem to have 2 groups – policy and conference- which have a role to play in policy making but no one (except possibly the leader) giving a steer as to what policy areas need to be discussed.
    I’m hoping that some clarity over this is established by the Review group and a mechanism emerge by which members can be involved in deciding what areas of policy need discussing so that something coherent results from conference.
    Then we might be able to choose a leader who embodies the spirit of Liberalism and Democracy rather than one who has a more authoritarian take on things as some members seem to want.

  • Paul Barker 27th Mar '20 - 4:49pm

    It would probably be a good idea if Mark Pack dealt with some of these points.
    For now, I dont see a problem with Ed as acting Leader for everything External.

    Politics a Year from now could look & feel completely different, there could be advantages in having a Leadership Debate when we have some idea how the Dice have fallen.

  • Steve Comer 28th Mar '20 - 9:25am

    Whilst I’m very aware of the current crisis, I am very concerned that COVID-19 seems to be a catch-all pretext to make decision that could not otherwise be justified.
    I agree a postponement is necessary, but to delay until May 2021 is excessive.

    If the election had been postponed until the autumn I would have supported that postponement. But this looks like a stitch up by the Clegg-coalition-continuity element in the Party to deliver the Leadership to another ex-Minister!

  • Paul, hustings attendance.
    I’ve missed the most recent one but the non election in 2017, had a high school hall in Chester almost full just to hear Vince.
    In 2006(!) the NW hustings was in the main public hall in Manchester Town Hall was standing room only, and that is a big room.
    Time’s have changed but hustings like this are far better than on line.
    That said, I think deferral until May 21 is too late, Autumn would be better, and it doesn’t clash with the big round of local elections the same month.

  • This is a national emergency. Leadership is vital, and demonstrating the Liberal Democrats will rise to it is even more vital. We should have elected a new leader within weeks of Jo’s resignation. Ed Davey is doing a brilliant job, we need to give him the authority to hold the government to account.

  • Some people are commenting that an online or postal election could ‘easily’ be held. Others have pointed out that online methods exclude people. The postal election option sounds OK until you remember the huge amount of admin involved in printing, envelope stuffing and posting to 120,000 and then opening and counting the votes. Not at all easy to do when people are working remotely.

  • Denis Loretto 28th Mar '20 - 1:29pm

    I have been a member of this movement – including my time with the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland – for 60 years. My loyalty to it is unquestioned. But one aspect which has always annoyed me is the obsessive tendency to elevate fine details of party procedures above practical considerations. Normally that can be tolerated but not right now. Our country – indeed the world – is facing an unprecedented crisis. At political level there is even talk of a national inter-party government being formed to address it. If we Lib Dems want to have, as we should have, a meaningful part to play in all this we need to have a Leader that we do not send “naked into the council chamber”. Internal democracy will have its day but right now we need to elevate our former Deputy Leader into our Leader. Lorenzo Cherin has provided the method – if all other leadership aspirants were to withdraw then Ed Davey could be declared elected unanimously with no need for a campaign as indeed Theresa May wa. I am quite sure Ed would be happy to give a firm undertaking to stand down and trigger an election once this awful crisis is over and normal life resumes.
    Please please do this and do it now.

  • Johnny McDermott 28th Mar '20 - 4:36pm

    I don’t understand why our member’s board, although public (which is more easily addressed than alternative) has almost all comments vetted. My contribution deleted, and unsure why, it seems rather sinister, when it’s probably nothing.

    We are big boys and girls. Comments that fall short of the standard of civility and maturity required, or are outright abusive, can be deleted after the fact, with a space left, perhaps, where our community rules are explained.

    As it is, I’m far too apathetic to repeat the same thing twice, only the conclusion: this delay is folly.

  • David Garlick 29th Mar '20 - 11:51am

    Dammed if you did and dammed if you did not.
    I would have preferred to get it done but accept the decision.

  • @Paul. Like Andy, I attended a Vince Cable meeting, this time upstairs at the Slug and Lettuce in Southampton. Packed. Standing room only.
    At a local election candidate hustings prior to the recent GE we managed to get 40 people (over 20% of locals members) to turn up. So to answer your general point, I think there is a huge appetite for “live” politics and a sense of involvement, in the party and the country as a whole.
    P.S. As a teenager I heard Harold Wilson address a public meeting that had hundreds in the hall and a good few locked outside. I don’t think the public has changed that much, but I do think that politicians are less willing to meet the great unwashed face to face.

  • John Marriott:

    “If I were Johnson, I reckon I would rather have Keir Starmer backing me than old JC.”

    If I were Keir Starmer (or whoever wins the Labour leadership election), I’d tell Johnson to shove any offer to join his government where the sun doesn’t shine.

  • neil sandison 5th Apr '20 - 12:48pm

    Have we lost the Democrat from the title of Liberal Democrats ? Without consultation with the membership the Federal Board has cancelled the election of a new leader and postponed it until 2021 .We have important LG elections both at borough ,district ,county and unitary authority level we could do with the profile a leadership election would give us in the coming months ,every campaigners knows winning elections is a marathon not a sprint and being invisible whilst other parties steal our members is an act of political suicide but perhaps we should used to that from our feeble leadership .
    This party needs a new leader who can refresh our mandate with the public ,who can promote the new politics of community ,climate change ,the circular economy ,inclusivity and internationalism don’t leave it to labours hollow words and lack of action

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