Nick Clegg writes for LDV: making the Lib Dems “fit for the battle ahead”

The next general election may be only a matter of months away. In the seven months since becoming Leader I’ve been concentrating on making sure that the Party is ready for the election whenever it is called.

This means working hard to develop strong new policies and clear messages. It also means strengthening our capacity to campaign so that we can achieve our ambition of doubling our number of MPs in two general elections.

Simon Hughes, Chris Rennard (Chief Executive and Chair of the General Election Campaign) and I set up the Bones Commission early this year to come up with proposals to help us achieve this goal. After extensive consultation, Chris Bones has now finished the work on his report. It contains many detailed proposals to strengthen our ability to work effectively as a Party. Chris, Simon and I will be working closely together to implement these over the coming months. Despite some fictional reports in the Times recently, Chris and I, as Leader and Chief Executive of Party, are working hand in glove to implement the Bones Commission, as we have worked together on it since its inception.

On Monday evening the Federal Executive of our Party voted decisively to start the process of putting in place the structures to make these proposals happen. I think it made sense to deal first of all with the issues of improving our ability as a Party to make decisions in a streamlined manner – clearer, faster and more transparent systems are needed if we are to continue to grow as a Party.

The Commission Report rightly pays great tribute to the work of Chris Rennard and his team in getting us to where we are today – a Party which now has more seats and more support than at any point since 1923. What our Party – both staff and volunteers – have achieved since our creation 20 years ago is nothing short of miraculous. We are Europe’s most successful Liberal party. But if we are to break the tired and stale grip of two party politics we must ensure that our organisation is fit for the battle ahead.

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  • Interesting that Nick Clegg denies the Times report of “a serious rift between Mr Clegg and Lord Rennard”, but says nothing to contradict the points of substance in the reports – that the proposals will give him personally “unprecedented powers over the Liberal Democrats” and will “turn the party’s traditional structure on its head, centralising all decision-making under a new “chief officers group””.

    As the Federal Executive has apparently approved the proposals, and as Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes and Chris Rennard are going to be working hard to implement them over the coming months, is there any chance of ordinary members being told what they are – other than through “fictional reports” in the press, of course?

  • And while I’m at it, why does this piece begin with “The next general election may be only a matter of months away”?

    Does anyone on this planet really believe Gordon Brown will go to the country before 2010?

    Call me cynical, but this just conjures up a picture of Clegg asking a bright young thing, “What can I say that will get the troops into line?” and the bright young thing replying “Tell them the next election could be only months away”. Which really isn’t very bright after all.

  • Labour gets hammered in elections. Brown quits or is ousted. New Labour leader remembers what happened to Brown last autumn. Snap general election called instead. Voting is all over by Christmas.

    Likely? No.
    Possible? Yes.

    I prefer having a party leader who has the foresight to be prepared for both the very likely but also the possible.

  • Sorry, I’ve missed something along the way here, what actually are these reforms going to be?

  • “Likely? No.
    Possible? Yes.”

    But probable? Certainly not!

    So when the party leader feels he has to conjure up this unlikely prospect in the first sentence of his piece, I wonder why.

    As I said, by all means call me cynical. After all, it doesn’t matter what people call you, as long as they don’t call you pigeon pie and eat you up …

  • “Probable” was your word. Not mine. Not Nick Clegg’s.

    So when the anonymous poster feels he has to conjure up this word, I wonder why.

  • Andrew Turvey 16th Jul '08 - 11:16pm

    So is this Bones report going to be published or are these “key” reforms going to be done in secret away from the interfering eyes of mere party members?

  • Andrew Duffield 16th Jul '08 - 11:19pm

    Indeed. It would be nice to have some flesh on the Bones.

  • Steve:
    ““Probable” was your word. Not mine. Not Nick Clegg’s.
    So when the anonymous poster feels he has to conjure up this word, I wonder why.”

    The point I was making was that – though, as you had pointed out, an election “months away” was _possible_ – no one in their mind thought such a thing was remotely likely.

    So I was puzzled by the fact that Nick Clegg invoked this wildly improbable spectre in the first sentence of his piece.

    Does that make it any clearer?

  • I too would like to know what the reforms are and look forward to the publication of the report to members, hopefully soon.
    It is entirely possible that some of the reforms can be implemented quickly but I suspect that if there are any about major change in how the party runs itself, then they will require Conference approval.
    I have checked the downloadable preliminary agenda for September and there are no motions about the Reform Commission. Unless there is a hidden holding motion of course 😉
    I would expect mention of the Reform Commission to be in the reports to Conference this year and I am sure questions will be asked. Hopefully there will be a fringe event or 3 about the report, especially if the report is published before conference.
    Until the report is published, I feel that it is too early to get worried about the reforms. Lets wait until we know what they are.

  • Martin Land 17th Jul '08 - 9:55am

    As a card-carrying Stalinist I’m not overly bothered about how we make decisions, but about who is making them. And that seems to be the same people as before. So if you think poor decisions are constantly being made then the only comfort you can derive from this is that they will now be made more quickly.

  • We need to ensure that these reforms genuinely make the party more effective, rather than making the leader less democratically accountable. Always suspect the latter when you see leaders trying to alter party structures. The Bones Report needs to be published now. Or leaked.

  • David Morton 17th Jul '08 - 11:52am

    I’ll reserve jugement on this whole isue till hve actually seen the proposals. However on procesess i have two questions.

    1. Now that the story has leaked (and been denied) in the Times, the Leader is writing guest articles and FE has approved the plan then why no just publish it?

    2. If FE has approved I and Nick says its going to be implimented then what is the status of the Consultation ?

    Also i agree the ” Election might be only mnhs away” line smacks of ” be good or you will get o presents from Father Christmas”.

  • dreamingspire 18th Jul '08 - 7:39am

    Clegg’s living up to his reputation of spouting empty words I see. Mind you don’t shoot yourselves in both feet this time. Must be agonising for the MPs.

  • “Possible” and “widely improbable” are not the same thing. If the only way you can make your point is to take someone’s words and rewrite them into something else, I think you should rethink your original point.

  • Steve

    ““Possible” and “widely improbable” are not the same thing.”

    I think you’ll find that no one is claiming they are the same thing.

    My point is simply that it’s wildly improbable that a general election is “months away”, and that therefore it’s rather strange that Clegg opened his piece as he did.

    There’s really nothing hard to grasp about what I’m saying.

  • Spanny Thomas 19th Jul '08 - 5:36pm

    Thank you for coming here Nick. It is great to hear from you. My only concern is on taxes. We are not the Tories and surely we need to concentrate on services rather than giving money to the well off.People will not vote for the “me me me” party like they did in the eighties.

  • “We are Europe’s most successful Liberal party.”

    Though one could argue, that the liberal parties in Belgium, Denmark and Estonia have done well, too. And with a longer perspective, the Swiss liberals, who have sat continuously in the government for over 100 years, haven’t done bad, either.

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