Linda Jack drops out of race for party president

linda-jack-6The election for the new president of the party is underway. Ballot papers will be sent out on Friday  to all members of at least one year’s standing to everyone who was a member on the qualifying date at the end of September.   [Apologies for the earlier error]

Candidates had to collect 200 nominations from conference representatives across at least 20 different local parties, with no-one allowed to nominate more than one. Traditionally the candidates try to get the requisite signatures at Autumn Conference, but this proved to be a particular challenge this year.

Linda Jack has issued this statement:

At this difficult time for our party it is important we have a Party President who is prepared to be a voice for the membership to the leadership and a voice for the party to the people. Someone who is able to take us back to our radical, progressive core values and once again appeal to our erstwhile supporters, particularly young people.

I chose to seek nomination because I believed I had the experience, passion and independence to be able to be that voice – as well as a range of ideas about how to reform, restore and renew the party we all love. Sadly, I was unable to attract enough support from voting representatives this time and cannot therefore pursue this campaign this year.

I am delighted that we still have three excellent candidates. Each of them will bring a distinctive contribution to the fortunes of party. Each of them, I know, has the future success of the party at their heart. I wish them all the best of luck and thank them all for making sure that not only do our members have a genuine choice in this election, but also that we are guaranteed a woman President!

I want to thank everyone who has had such faith in me and has worked so hard on my campaign, especially my agent Rabi Martins. And thanks to Simon Hughes, who was prepared to back me so publicly.

I want to assure you all that I will continue to be a strong, challenging but constructive voice in the party as we head towards the next election. I will now devote the time I would have spent on my campaign to helping to make sure we have the maximum number of Liberal Democrat MPs re-elected and elected next May.


A statement from Liberal Democrat HQ confirmed this morning  that the three other candidates have reached the threshold, so the contest will be between Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper and Liz Lynne:

The official nominations for Party President have now closed and the party can confirm that there are 3 candidates:

Sal Brinton

Daisy Cooper

Liz Lynne

All the details on the timetable and who can vote etc can be found here (this is in the member’s area of the website so is closed to non-members)


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • “Wider selection”, Tim? Are you complaining that there’s not a male candidate? 😉

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Oct '14 - 1:32pm

    I’m sorry, Linda, that you didn’t get on the ballot paper. This highlights one of the flaws with our constitution that needs to be fixed by the next presidential election. In the all member ballot for leader, any member can sign nominations, but in the all member ballot for president, only conference reps can sign. That’s not fair and needs to be changed. I have no doubt that we’d have had all 4 on the ballot if that anomaly had not been present this time round.

    Let’s get a constitutional amendment in on this for next year. There is bound to be a massive review of the constitution post the election but we can’t hang around for this.

  • Fiona White 20th Oct '14 - 1:40pm

    I am really sorry that Linda has dropped out as a candidate. The best way to get a good turn out and the right results is to have candidates with a range of views. Maybe the method we use for nominating presidential candidates and the numbers required need to be reviewed. No reasonable candidate should be denied the right to stand because the barrier has been set unreasonably high.

  • James Sandbach 20th Oct '14 - 1:52pm

    As there were only 800 voting reps attending Conference this year it was almost inevitable that at least one of the candidates would be forced to drop out (and Pauline Pearce of course wasn’t even able to get to first base in launching a campaign, possibly the same for one or two others); it’s a shame it had to be Linda as in many ways her message is the most challenging one for the Party and sometimes we don’t want to hear challenging messages. But this time at least, the Presidency election has been about the membership rather than a shoe in for a leading MP, so feels like a very different type of contest.

  • This is a real shame, there was no other candidate as far from the party establishment. That made Linda an exciting opportunity to present a different side of the party to the public and demonstrate that not every Lib Dem is the same. I think I might of voted for her given the chance! I’d like to thank her for running, broadening the debate and demonstrating a very different perspective on many issues.

    As for the broken internal workings of the party failing us all, I didn’t think anyone cared about fixing broken stuff any more; isn’t that why it’s running a GE campaign with Clegg as leader? 🙁

  • Agree fully with Caron and Kavya. My views are more Liberal Reform than Libeal Left, but Linda is a LibDem to her core and the debate won’t be the same without her.

  • Echoing what Tim Oliver and Gareth said.

  • David Rogers 20th Oct '14 - 2:09pm

    Whilst it may be a perfectly reasonable point that the nomination rules require review and/or revision, there can be no doubt that any prospective candidate (and her/his agent) should be fully aware of them before embarking on the process. Serious challengers require serious organisation!

  • Joshua Dixon 20th Oct '14 - 2:14pm

    David, even with twice as many volunteers and even more time and effort dedicated to it the task was an incredibly difficult one due to the lack of conference voting reps. As I have said before, the contest should be about who best engages with the entire membership, not just those able to attend conferences and who are involved enough to be reps.

  • Surely we don’t need to “review the process” as OMOV will eradicate the problem?

  • Rabi Martins 20th Oct '14 - 2:17pm

    Well said Caron
    For a Party that puts such high store on member participation I cannot understand why the rules were so deliberately skewed in favour of well known establishment personalities. I can understand the rationale for setting a reasonable high threshold of nominations for this important role Surely 200 nominations from twenty local parties would have sufficed to demonstrate that the prospective Party President had support from across the Party So why on earth did we need the additional restriction that only conference representatives should be eligible to sign the nomination forms ?

    Talking about the process I was also suprised to be told that prospective candidates could not distribute their literature to the members attending the hustings. It was as if the powers that be did not want members to learn about the lesser known candidates

    And can someboby explain to me why in this day of electronic communication why be nominations still have to be signed on bits of paper ?

    There is another aspect of the election for Party President I am puzzled about
    I gather the candidates will not be provided with a list of electors i.e. the mebership list ? Why ? How are the candidates supposed to canvass support ?

    And by the way well done to Linda for being the first non Parliamentarian to put herself up for this Party President election I am of course disappointed that she has aslo ended up as the first one to drop out of the contest
    I echo Linda’s good wishes to the three remaining contenders
    Whoever wins will have their work cut out to as Linda says in her statement ” be a voice for the membership to the leadership”

  • LD Write-In 20th Oct '14 - 3:10pm

    If we allowed write-in candidates, Linda (and anyone else) would be able to carry on in the race.

  • paula keaveney 20th Oct '14 - 3:12pm

    This is a real shame. I signed Linda’s form and really hoped she would be in the race.

  • Nick Perry
    You mistake “curmudgeonly” for hard headed practicality and realism. David Rogers is quite right. It does not matter what the election is! It does not matter what the rules are for that election. Whatever the rules are, any prospective candidate (and her/his agent) should be fully aware of them before embarking on the process. Serious challengers require serious organisation!
    I realise that at all levels Liberal Democrats nowadays are more used to losing elections than winning them. It is time to reverse that and get people to learn, or in some cases re-learn, what you have to do to win an election.

    The basic , common sense words of David Rogers are not “curmudgeonly” they are the words of someone who knows how to win elections.
    If you do not get your athlete onto the starting blocks, she ain’t gonna win the 100 metres.

    I have some sympathy with those calling for any member to be able to nominate a candidate in these elections. But why did you all wait until now to say so? The Liberal Democrat Constitution has been around for 25 years and some might argue that there are other faults which must be higher up the list of “ought to be changed”.

  • Surely the rules were agreed by conference. I assume all those people complaining now took part in that debate……

    If someone couldn’t organise a team to get 200 signatures then what does it say about their ability to organise things as president.

    @James. Really! – that sounds worryingly low (less than 1/3 of the conference reps)

  • I think it would be quite telling if those of us who would have backed Linda do a write-in vote for her. My feel is that 200 is rather a lot of nominations. Perhaps 50 would be a more achievable target, especially now that we only have around 40% of the membership that we had in the early days. Bearing in mind it relates to Conference Reps, that makes it yet more unreasonable.

  • Bearing in mind what you have said before, Hywel, if you are correct in your statement that there are around 2500 conference reps, there will not be that many who are “active” interms of exercising their voting rights. I expect Gareth Epps can tell us approx how many reps vote in Committee elections – it won’t be anywhere near 2500! I still maintain if several candidates stand 200 is an unreasonably high requirement. Remember that in the early days candidates were a “shoo-in” (not “shoe in” by the way) and were more or less expected to be. Remember also that there appeared to be a low key “Anybody but Linda” campaign out there. While sympathetic to the view from John Tilley and David Rogers that you MUST know the rules well before you enter the race, it helps if those rules are not prohibitive.

  • Tim13
    Dangerous suggestion which might end in humiliation. Without a great deal of organisation the “write in” vote might be derisory, with most of the 40,000 members not being part of this sort of discussion. If Linda did not have the necessary organisation to find 200 nominees it seems unlikely that an organisation would exist to summon up enough “write in” votes to produce a respectable protest. A derisory vote might fatally harm any future election prospects for Linda. She suggests in her message above that she may try to stand again in the future.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Oct '14 - 5:44pm

    I signed Linda’s papers on the grounds that I thought she should be able to stand though I was not and am not committed to support any of the candidates and indeed may not do so. But really, any serious candidate declaring their interest in the summer and with networks in the party (as Linda and Rabi have) should have been able to get 200 names by now.


  • James Sandbach 20th Oct '14 - 6:00pm

    As I understand from inquiries out of the 5000 or so people at Conference in Glasgow – so felt busy enough, only a 3rd were Party members (the rest being exhibitors, lobbyists, journos, fringe speakers etc), and then only half of those were voting reps.
    So yes one could argue that X or Y candidate could have been more organised, but the simple truth is there were barely enough conference reps to go around at Glasgow given the rule against multiple nominations, and whilst nominations could be signed remotely by non Glasgow present conference reps it still means signing the papers, copying them onto a Scanner and returning electronically which many cannot do. Our membership and conference reps are clustered in the South and many decided not to travel up to Glasgow for 2nd year running. During most of the debates the Hall was almost empty which demonstrates how few voting reps were around. And as others have pointed out the Party is only about 30% the size it was when founded so it’s constitution no longer fit for purpose.

    But it illustrates if nothing else that the Party’s internal democracy is dying on its feet – I hope OMOV and more sensible choices for accessible conference venues will change this, though perhaps the bigger problem is the Party is becoming more and more like a shrinking cult of loyal purists (a bit like evangelists who think they are the gods’ elect, have special knowledge, are right whatever the evidence etc so must be the electorate who wrong is about us!) rather than a broad based movement drawing from every geographical community and diverse cultural, age range and socio-economic backgrounds. One of main reasons I supported Linda is that she’s active and respected in a wide range of mass membership campaigning organisations outside the Party, so gets what we need to do to reach out and become a mass membership campaigning organisation again.

  • I am very sad that Linda has not been able to continue as a candidate. Very sad indeed.

    But puhlease don’t blame the rules. Ask yourself how Daisy Cooper, who was, until recently, much less well known in the party than Linda, managed to get 200 signatures? Answer: because she had keen young activists standing in the main thoroughfares of the conference from day one asking all who passed by to sign. One of the key tests of candidates is organisational ability.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Oct '14 - 7:13pm

    Best of luck to Linda. Her article about her sister was touching and she also had the grace to respond to the comments.

  • My problem with Linda’s campaign is exactly the same as a friend of mine had. I was talking to him at conference and he said that he couldn’t support her because she’d said in a conference speech a year or two ago that the only thing keeping her in the party was the Glee Club. I appreciate it might have been a throwaway comment but I was present for her speech then and it was also the reason I couldn’t support her.

  • Ruth Bright 20th Oct '14 - 8:45pm

    As an exile from conference on this occasion I was sad enough to watch all three editions of the Daily Politics covering events in Glasgow. The mini presidential debate was easily the best bit of those programmes – very sad there will not be another with all four hopefuls.

  • James – I wasn’t there so hence my surprise

    Tim13 – from Colin Rosenstiels website about 1200 conference reps voted in 2012 (though I don’t know how membership numbers have changed the total since then – and rules on allocations might have changed as well).

  • James – OMOV wouldn’t have done anything to make conference more accessible. If I’d wanted to go it would have cost me £450 at a conservative estimate.

  • Nick Perry
    I am not sure what you mean by the phrase — “It’s a human thing.”. I would welcome some elaboration?

  • Why are we even bothering with this Presidential election at this stage? Shouldn’t we all be out delivering leaflets and knocking on doors? If you can get 5,000 people to a conference in Glasgow, then it should be a doddle getting 10,000 into target seats every day till polling day. While I suppose it is regrettable that members are deprived of the opportunity to vote for Linda as President on account of a procedural fluke, the upside is that Linda can now focus her undivided efforts on those contests that really matter, such as those in Cambridge, Watford, OXWAB, etc.

  • Louise Harris Bloom 21st Oct '14 - 12:57am

    I wasn’t at conference but Liz asked me to sign her form at another event a couple of weeks before. ..

  • Liberal Neil 21st Oct '14 - 8:07am

    While I am sorry that Linda won’t be a choice on the ballot paper I do agree with David Rogers and others that if you choose to stand for an election it is your job to be organised enough to get nominated.

    If Linda’s team made the decision to wait until conference to start gathering signatures then it is their failure of judgement that led to her not getting nominated, a mistake the other teams didn’t make.

    Sesenco – I don’t think the party has any choice but to have a Presidential election as it is in the constitution. On the positive side we did have Daisy Cooper here in OxWAb last Friday knocking on doors with us.

  • Sesenco
    I think more than half of those 5, 000 in Glasgow were not party members or supporters — but lobbyists and journalists. So unlikely to be helping us out in key seats.
    Whilst I whole-heartedly agree with you about the importance of getting outside help into key seats NOW, I think the presidential race is almost run and with ballot papers going out in a few days from now the impact on most of our 40,000 members will be minimal.
    My guess is (quote me in a couple of weeks if I am wrong) that the turnout for the election of the party president will be around 30% or less. I will be delighted if I am proved wrong.

    I would venture a second guess that a high proportion if not most of the members of the party live in constituencies with Liberal Democrat MPs. If every seat wih an MP has 400 members that is more than half the membership. I recognise that cannot possibly be true in Scotland where we have only 3,000 members in the whole country (compared to the SNP’s 100,000) but say for argument it is roughly true for England.
    It will be more difficult to get those members, activists or resources to shift from seats where we already have an MP. The years of self delusion about the invulnerability of the incumbent MP will convince most to remain where they are.

    So the queston becomes — how do we get members from the 600 seats where no Liberal Democrat MP will be elected in May to help elsewhere in a seat where it could make a real difference?
    In most cases helping by telephone and sending a cheque may be the only practical option.
    If you live more than a hundred miles away from such a seat a cheque for the amount of the train ticket / or petrol costs to travel might be more useful than spending the time travelling. So long as the cheques goes to a constituency rather the bottomless pit of the party HQ general election supremo.
    Unfortunately I get no impression at all that the man in charge has a clue about how to shift resources from one seat to another. He never graces us with his wisdom in LDV — which is odd for someone whose job description includes the requirement that he should inspire people at all levels of the party. Perhaps he is too busy reading opinion polls and snjoying the thrill of regular general election strategy meetings with the party leader to look down from Mount Olympus to see what ordinary mortals might be doing to help the party.
    Perhaps he was very active at the Conference and the 800 party members that were present are fully aware of what he is doing. The rest of us will just have to guess or maybe we will get an e-mail sometime in May 2015 telling us that where we work, we win.

    BTW — I have no idea how many of our members are “ghosts”, for example those people who took out a standing order or direct debit in the heady days of Charles Kennedy’s leadership and have just not got around to cancelling it. I have no idea how many of our members are elderly and infirm (they joined the party in Jo Grimond’s or David Steel’s time) and are now just not capable of a journey across the country to help elsewhere. Then there are those members who are slightly more than just supporters and take out a membership on the strict understanding that they do not have time to do anything else (we have all signed up people like that).

  • I think John Tilley is missing the point. Normally candidates have been able to secure 200 nominations at the autumn conference plus people whose support they knew they could count on. The candidates could not anticipate that there would be only 800 voting reps at conference. With four candidates, that made securing 200 nominations extremely difficult. Three of the four candidates, I gather, had to scrabble for nominations in a short period after conference and nominators not met face to face had to scan in their signatures (not everyone can do this) or post nomination papers.

    The rules are presumably devised to stop the choice being complicated by candidates who don’t have a lot of support in the party. I can understand that precisely because it is an OMOV vote with many members who aren’t political geeks or activists likely to be confused or turned off by a long ballot paper and lots of names and messages. To make any party member able to nominate (which presumably is what Thomas Long has in mind) would lead to the number of signatures required being increased and the job of candidates being made much harder.

    What would be sensible and simple would be to allow nominations from anyone registered as a voting rep at conference (but with OMOV that would mean people who actually booked to attend conference, not elected voting reps who didn’t book to attend this time, like me, as such a category would no longer exist) plus any Chair or Secretary of a local party or any PPC, say, and/or to reduce the number of signatures needed to, say, 150 or 100.

    I hadn’t yet decided whether to vote for Linda or Liz, but I was impressed by Linda’s qualifications from her work and voluntary background. She was clearly a serious candidate and therefore the process of sifting didn’t work.

  • Rabi Martins 21st Oct '14 - 10:10am

    @Sesenco – Actually this Party President election is extremely important That is why I hope every member will take an interest in what each of the candidates is offering and make the right choice The Party’s survival depends on it.
    All the signs are we are heading for a very depressing result in the General Election (Today’s Ashcroft poll puts us in 4th place behind the Greens!) If we do as badly as the polls predict it will push Party morale even lower than it already is
    In that event the new Party President will be the one with the responsibility of re-energising the troops Otherwise I fear a number of them will join other parties or simply dis-engage with Party politics That will be a disaster for democracy in Britain and could be the nail in the coffin for Liberal Democrats

  • I was one of Linda’s Presidential Campaign supporters, and was saddened that we were unable to secure the number of nominees that we needed. I believe that she would have given us the leadership as a party that we have been sadly lacking of late, and help to reconnect the parliamentary part of our party to its grassroots.

    She will have my vote for FPC, and I hope in that role will be able to work with whoever succeeds Tim, to re-orientate and re-energise us before, during and after May 2015.

  • Thanks for comments, John Tilley and Hywel, on my thoughts. Points taken.

  • Rabi Martins
    I fear it is 5th place in the Ashcroft poll.

  • Could there be/is there a list of how many reps each eligible local Party sent to Conference alongside how many they were entitled to send?

  • paul barker 21st Oct '14 - 2:21pm

    I normally never comment on other comments but several people have said that current membership is 30/40% of its founding membership. In fact we started out with about 60,000 members, making the current membership about 75% of that. Membership did increase later to a peak of about 100,000 but we cant compare that with now because we dont know if we have reached another peak, we need to compare like with like to get any sense out of the figures.

  • David Evans 21st Oct '14 - 3:01pm

    Wow. Another close your eyes and wish, now isn’t the right time to judge anything, from Paul Barker. By “compare like with like” do you mean compare figures you like with other figures you like, Paul?

  • Nigel Jones 21st Oct '14 - 3:09pm

    I am one of those who nominated Linda, because I felt there is a need for someone who will not be afraid to challenge the establishment of the party.
    I sincerely hope the other candidates will be challenging; during the election campaign this needs to be done sensitively, but I am yet to be convinced that the remaining candidates will be that challenging voice on behalf of so many members who are not happy with our leadership and also those who while reasonably content still feel our party now lacks the vision for the future based on our values as written in the pre-amble to the constitution.

  • David Evershed 21st Oct '14 - 3:58pm

    Perhaps we need a system for nominations which reports the nominations so far versus the target. Then voting reps can make a nomination for someone they don’t support but think should stand if it looks as though they have a shortfall.

  • Christine Headley 21st Oct '14 - 6:52pm

    I would have thought nomination papers available at the information desk would be useful, so any voting rep could sign for their preferred candidate, or make up numbers for another. You can’t bank on being in Linda’s train carriage on the way home (as I was)….

  • John Tilley

    I should stress that when I say “target seat”, I am referring mainly to held seats. Perhaps I should say “key seat”, for avoidance of doubt. Pardon my sloppy language. Of the three that I actually named, two are held seats, while the other is that rare beast, a non-held seat which we might actually win.

    In my own region, which is Home Counties South, there are only two held seats, and no others where we have the remotest chance of winning. There are also 5 held seats in SW London that border my region. I would expect activists in Homes Counties South to be directed to those 7 seats, while those in the Chichester area could be sent to Portsmouth South. But the email from Mr Coetzee has yet to arrive. We are now approaching the last week of October.

    While I am uncomfortable talking about such matters in a public forum, I feel that the situation is so serious that I have to speak out in this way. My knowledge of what is going on in the Campaigns Department is close to zero. I am not using inside information to make these comments, only what I can see with my own eyes.

    I am moderately confident that 4, or possibly 5, of the 8 seats above will hold, but I wouldn’t put any money of it. Every available resource is required. Similarly, 4 of the 6 held seats in the North-West. I am much more worried about the West Country and Scotland, where there are a lot more seats and fewer activists than in the South-East, and some really serious geographical considerations. How do you bus activists into Cornwall? Or into Caithness?

    If a certain person whose name I am probably not allowed to speak were in charge of our GE preparations, then without the slightest doubt it would be in an unimaginably healthier state.

  • “In my own region, which is Home Counties South, there are only two held seats, and no others where we have the remotest chance of winning. There are also 5 held seats in SW London that border my region. I would expect activists in Homes Counties South to be directed to those 7 seats, while those in the Chichester area could be sent to Portsmouth South. ”

    Most if not all those areas will have local elections in May 2015 as well. My experience of organising a target seat on 3 occasions is that the movement of activists to come and help in a way that is significant is pretty much a fiction. And that was at a a time the party was doing well and people supported the Parliamentary party.

  • Hywel

    I can only speak from my own experience.

    When I lived in West London, many activists worked in Richmond and Twickenham, even to the extent of running skeleton or even purely paper campaigns in their own constituencies. This happened in 1992 and 1997. In 2005, I worked in Hornsey & Wood Green and Orpington, both of which received outside help. I live in a constituency where I may well be the only member, so not even a local election could keep me at home. In 2010, I took a week off work to go to Eastbourne, which received outside help from all across Home Counties South and parts of London as well. Even areas that have local elections in 2015 (which London doesn’t) need to take some time out to work in key seats, especially during those crucial months before the campaign proper begins.

    In 1992, Des Wilson (a man who listened to no-one other than himself) insisted that there should be no targeting (“this is a developmental election, de da, de da”). We got a derisory result. In 1997, a man whose name I’m not allowed to speak, ran a target strategy, and we more than doubled our number of seats on a declining share of the vote. I could go into the history of the 1987-1992 Parliament and how the party made such a sudden and astonishing recovery in vote share (but not seats), but time forbids me. It is all so elementary, anyway.

    You see, we’ve had this debate before, and the people who said what you are now saying lost the argument, and their way of thinking was buried, at least until now. Going down the plughole is, of course, an option. Not for me it isn’t, but it seems to be what the leadership is aiming for.

  • Why not simply require 10 signatures? What is the point of this part of the process anyway if it is not to reduce the number of candidates down to more easily followed 2/3 horse race?

  • Simon Hebditch 22nd Oct '14 - 6:15pm

    Very sad news that Linda has had to withdraw from the presidential ballot. Her perspective was important for healthy debate in the party. I am not inclined to vote for any other candidate.

  • BIt of a straw man to portray me as against targeting!

    It has by all accounts worked well in London in the past – but the transport infrastructure there makes it a bit sui generis.

    In the areas I’ve worked in you have been talking about 4-5 people max – welcome to be sure but not the sort of thing that makes an overwhelming difference. The “strategy” of twinning areas as been a bit weird at times – one neighbouring seat to Burnley was notionally twinned with Southport in 2010! And promises of help tend to vanish when people get caught up in their own patch – something which will be doubled if they have local elections of their own.

    People that have come in to help from outside have often been more about personal relationships than any instructions from on high.

    So what I am saying is whilst this may be desirable it’s a largely threoretical exercise.

  • The difficulty with targeting is that regional parties are (for the most part) insufficiently integrated.

  • >How do you bus activists into Cornwall?

    I think you’ve pretty much answered yourself in the question. The efficacy of moving activists from one part of the country to another is something I’ve never really believed in, I’d like to see some hard data on this subject.

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