Nick Clegg: re-elect Tim Farron as Party President

Neither is quite so gauche as to say it explicitly, but you hardly have to peer between the lines to work out what message is meant to be imparted by a piece from Nick Clegg praising Tim Farron’s record as President, especially when it’s contained in a leaflet handed out at conference by Tim’s re-election team and with a form asking people to sign Tim’s nomination papers tucked inside.

It is looking like it will be an uncontested re-election so far, but credit to Tim for still taking it seriously. That is not only sensible caution, as complacent candidates often rightly become unstuck. It also means Tim and his team are making good use of the opportunities to communicate internally, to motivate members and to spread positive stories such as the leaflet’s account of successful membership recruitment in northern England. As Hull councillor Claire Thomas is quoted as saying:

If we can get 13 new members in one month in an inner-city ward in Hull, just think how many people there are across the country waiting to be asked to join.

Tim Farron’s President campaign site is at www.timfarronforpresident.org.uk

 

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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This entry was posted in News, Party policy and internal matters and Party Presidency.
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6 Comments

  • Simon Titley 28th Sep '12 - 6:14pm

    It’s time we amended the party’s constitution to bar MPs and peers from becoming party president.

    Apart from the first contest in 1988 (which was won by a former MP, Ian Wrigglesworth, with no parliamentarian opponents), every subsequent election has been won by a parliamentarian. On five occasions (1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2006), the winner was returned unopposed. An all-member election in which both parliamentarians and non-parliamentarians can stand invariably becomes a beauty contest, in which non-parliamentarians stand no chance of winning (and hardly ever bother standing).

    But there’s a more important reason for barring parliamentarians. The key function of the party president is to represent the members to the party. Presidents who are also parliamentarians end up doing the opposite – representing the party to the members. And that includes Tim Farron.

    So Tim Farron’s re-election (contest or no contest) is a foregone conclusion. But let’s ensure that, from 2014 onwards, we have presidents who are independent of the machine.

  • But are there non-Parliamentarians who would have the time to do this? By this I mean the role that the President has now become (AIUI constitutionally all they have to do is turn up to chair the FE once a month/6 weeks)

  • Simon Titley 28th Sep '12 - 11:31pm

    @Hywel – If anyone has time constraints, surely it is a parliamentarian? An MP typically works 60 to 80 hours a week, plus travel time. Peers do not have such great time pressures, but the party nevertheless expects its peers to be full-time working peers.

    The constitutional duties of the president are not arduous but not quite as minimal as you suggest. The president’s job is to “be the principal public representative of the Party” (an ill-defined role). The president also chairs the FE and sits ex officio on the other principal federal party committees (FCC, FPC, FAC); receives the resignation of a party leader and requests for a leadership election; must report annually to party conference; and chairs party conference for the opening and closing sessions plus any formal leader’s speeches. Even so, a president who performed only this constitutional minimum would not be much use.

    The true value of the presidency is not the limited constitutional duties but what the president makes of the job. The need is for someone to represent the members to the party. Party members directly elect only two officials, the leader and the president. The leader must be an MP and has obvious leadership duties, whereas the president could (in theory) be any party member. Therefore the president is the only party office holder with both the authority and the potential to represent the members to the party. If the president is merely another part of the hierarchy, an opportunity is wasted.

  • If we don’t want an MP or someone from the Lords, given the serious time commitment there would have to be a monetary allowance to go with the job, to ensure that it wasn’t exclusively taken by someone well-off and/or London-centric. It would probably be someone who was ‘known’ by having appeared and spoken at conference a few times, and would need to have a bit of charisma… sorry but no-one comes to mind… any suggestions anyone?

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Sep '12 - 11:03pm

    Tim Farron was one of the people most strongly pushing the line “Rejoice, 75% of our manifesto implemented”.

    This was on the basis of some back-of-an-envelope calculation by some researchers who have now rescinded it anyway.

    Although it actually does not imply it, it’s easy to read the claim (and in my experience most people who heard it did read it this way) as “75% of the Coalition’s policy is Liberal Democrat”.

    This is so incredibly damaging, that I think anyone involved in pushing this “75%” line should hang their heads in shame, and most certainly should not be trusted with any position of responsibility in the party.

    Firstly, it plays along with the idea that we Liberal Democrats are all incredibly happy with this government, and what it is doing is nearly all what we always wanted to do anyway. Well, that’s a very good way to say “bye bye” to almost all the people who used to vote for us.

    Secondly, one of the most basic skills in politics is being able to ask questions, being able to investigate if a dubious proposition is put to you instead of naively accepting it, recognising when an argument put to you is weak back-of-an-envelope stuff.

    I could never ever back Farron for any post of any sort of responsibility after his strong backing for this ridiculous line.

  • Simon Titley 30th Sep '12 - 1:23pm

    @Peter – If the party staged such an election, I think you’d find that suitable candidates would come forward. More so, since they would no longer be inhibited by their inevitable defeat by a parliamentarian.

    @Matthew Huntbach – Agreed. Indeed, it was Tim Farron’s short intervention speech in last week’s conference debate on the economy that lost my support. Anyone prepared to act as such a stooge is no longer fit to be president.

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