Members must decide!

Election pacts and participation in an Emergency Government need to be agreed by members.  

As a No Deal Brexit and a possible General Election get nearer there has been much talk of how we Remainers can stop it. The focus at the moment is on legislation to stop it but there are two other areas said to be under discussion: 

  • An emergency government to hold a referendum followed by a General Election 
  • A ‘Remain alliance‘ so that in key seats Remain parties don’t stand against each other (though  Alastair Carmichael has been reported as saying we would not stand down for the SNP).  

I believe that it is really important that we don’t abandon one of the fundamental principles of our Party – the primacy of members in taking key decisions  

If we participate in an emergency  Government then our Constitution is very clear about what needs to happen. Section 23 says that support for a government which contains other political parties applies

where the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons (‘the Commons Party’) enters into negotiations with one or more other political parties with a view to the formation of a government supported by the party and such party or parties; 

There are various provisions about consultations  etc but the key point is that  any agreement would have to be approved by  a 2/3rd vote at either a regular or special Conference.  

The other area is ensuring that the anti Brexit vote isn’t split  in a snap  General Election so that those who want to stay in the EU can vote for one  clear Remain  candidate 

There are clearly different views on the desirability of this  but if there are any discussions going on I hope it is being made clear that any decision for us not to stand a candidate  needs to be agreed by a vote of local members in each affected constituency  

The English Party  (I do not know the position in Scotland and Wales)  already has a policy passed in November 2017 by the English Council which says : 

Council believes that: 

1)   everyone should be given the opportunity to vote for a Liberal Democrat candidate in Parliamentary elections 

2) ensuring that a candidate is put up is a fundamental duty of local parties and, if they are not able to do so, of the Regional and English Party. 

3) there may be exceptional circumstances where it is not in the best interests of the Party to stand a parliamentary candidate. In those circumstances, where the Local Party wishes not to stand a candidate, the decision must be confirmed by a majority of  local party members, be made in consultation with the relevant Region and the English Party, and have the consent of the Federal Party 

However the Federal Appeals Panel has ruled that local parties can, in some circumstances be forced not to stand a candidate. In a case about whether the Federal Campaigns and Elections Cttee (FCEC) had the power to stop the local party in Buckingham standing against the Speaker they ruled (according to the FAP Report to Autumn Conference 2018, page 50): 

( iii) However the power to intervene should only be exercised in exceptional circumstance and not before there has been full and meaningful consultation with all relevant parties including the State, the Region and Local Party 

So the FCEC  does have the power to force local parties not to run a candidate but that does not mean that it has to do so – there is absolutely nothing to stop it saying that any decision not to stand a Lib Dem candidate  must be agreed by members.  

If we go into any deals without having members on board it will be seen as, and will be, a stitch up done behind closed doors. That will not get our members enthused about our prospects in a General Election – and we won’t we making the sweeping gains we are hoping for without enthusiastic members  giving their time, energy and money. 

* Simon McGrath is a Councillor in the London Borough of Merton.

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11 Comments

  • Party Constitutions are there to help The Party work, not get in the way. The Members involved in drawing up our Constitution cannot have imagined a situation where a minority PM would be trying to close down Parliament & deliberately wreck the Economy.
    This Crisis is bigger than Us, its a threat to the existence of The UK, lets see things in perspective.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Aug '19 - 12:43pm

    The fact is, anyone should realise, if Corbyn was sensible, he would have stepped down ages ago, replaced by Starmer or Thornberry, we in an alliance, and this extremist direction, endless austerity, demonising of the poorest, obsession with petty nationalism, Home Office authoritarian dictat, break up of our Union, trampling on our parliament, could be made trash.

    We need Corbyn to see he is not a leader. Even yesterday it seemed Sir Keir and John MC were.

  • Bill le Breton 28th Aug '19 - 1:00pm

    I still have a copy of the system that was devised for the 1997 election.

    We couldn’t understand why the Chief Whip in House of Lords kept telling us that it had to be able to deliver a decision in 4 hours. We were all missing the obvious. He was in on the ‘fact’ that Blair was going to announce 4 top Offices of State at 12 noon on the Friday after polling day and announce he had offered a deal to Paddy/Lib Dems but they had to reply by 4pm.

    On the Wednesday before the election I happened to be working with a Labour guy, who was initially due to be at Downing Street for 4pm. He came back from a call and told me he’d been summoned to Downing Street for 12 noon.

    That is when I knew Blair had reneged on Paddy. Phew. So FRED (our code name for the consultation) was shelved.

    I always suspected that something similar had been agreed by Cameron and Clegg in 2010.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Aug '19 - 1:18pm

    Until we address the profound economic and political disenchantment that led millions of voters to put their faith in the mendacious claims of a ragbag group of political malcontents, populists and opportunists, it will be difficult for our country to dream of a common future again.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Aug '19 - 1:24pm

    This is an important book: a revealing analysis of British politics today and why it urgently needs reform.
    Shirley Williams.

  • David Warren 28th Aug '19 - 1:24pm

    I don’t think even Corbyn even sees himself as a leader Lorenzo, he behaves more like a Chairman!

    The only reason he is still in place is because his supporters haven’t got a replacement lined up. He almost went after his MPs passed a vote of no confidence in him but the likes of McDonnell persuaded him to stay on.

    My prediction for a long time has been that he will stay until another General Election, lose badly and then go.

    The Labour party are letting down the millions of people that they claim to speak for.

  • James Baillie 28th Aug '19 - 3:32pm

    It would seem to me that an appropriate use of the Europe motion slot at conference, or an emergency motion/amendment thereto, might need to be to provide the parliamentary party with an endorsement of entering into any governing arrangement with any coalition of MPs, of no more than six months in duration (six months, because we could be sure that we’d have another federal conference in time if any longer term solution had to be agreed to), for the express purpose of stopping No Deal or stopping Brexit.

    Of course depending on the state of play in the next two weeks this may turn out to be a ratification after the fact, but I think that’s unlikely and in the circumstances this would seem like the best course of action to provide the democratic mandate from within the party that Simon rightly mentions.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Aug '19 - 7:56pm

    28th Aug ’19 – 1:18pm: ISBN 9781847924056 Page 9.
    I agree with Nick, but something has triggered the electronic sensor on LDV.

  • As far as I am concerned the most urgent task we have as a political party is to build support for the European Union amongst our fellow citizens. I have noticed that present government spokespeople – actually all the ones I have seen on TV have been spokesmen have come with prepared phrases that they have used to ignore the question but get their point across. I suggest that at least we ensure that the party has similar – except ours should be truthful – phrases to use in fighting for our membership of the EU. We should start with using the many emails that come out from the party headquarters.
    Please let us stop accepting the distorted view of the world being sold by Johnston / Farage.

  • nvelope2003 29th Aug '19 - 8:33pm

    The last thing the Lib Dems need is for Corbyn to step down or for the party to enter into a coalition with him. Support is already stagnant and it will drop like a stone if those things happen. Some people need to get real.

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