Opinion: Decision making in the Liberal Democrats

libby on the wall3

The Liberal Democrats could be on the verge of a major change in the way in which we conduct our internal business.  We have already decided to move to OMOV for Federal Conference, and that will result automatically in all members of the party being eligible to stand for the elected positions on our Federal Executive.  We have also already decided to move to no less than 30% female representation for the elected seats on the FE, which will automatically weight the FE to at least 15% women (a token gesture by people who don’t understand the issue).

I have proposed, as a part of my agenda for election to the FE that we should move to having all seats on the FE directly elected and on a 50/50 +1 split of male to female members. If this passed at Autumn 2015 conference it would mean that we would be achieving a half of our board of directors being male and a half being female possibly as early as 2017.  I know that studies demonstrate that the most successful boards are those with 50/50 split of men and women, but what I would like to see this party do at this time of transition is participate in a properly conducted research study of how decision making changes and whether it improves as a result of these changes.
 
We need to know whether these changes make us more or less likely to take decisions based on evidence or emotional attachment, and whether the decisions we take are indeed in the best interests of the party and the country (these two things are not always one and the same).
 
When we fully review our party’s constitution next year we need to ensure that we implement 50/50 throughout our committees and that we are able to review the impact of any changes we make as some of those changes will be significant if we are to make this party relevant to the 21st Century.  For that reason I would suggest that we offer the opportunity for a study (externally funded) to be undertaken into how the changes we make impact on the working of the party (for good and bad) so that when we come to reflect on the changes we know what worked, what didn’t and future changes to our party are made in that knowledge.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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20 Comments

  • Joshua Dixon 22nd Oct '14 - 3:31pm

    Great idea!

  • I strongly agree with point that Jennie Rigg made that, as we passed policy for people who don’t identify as either gender the previous afternoon, a 50/50 quota would actually make it harder for such people to be elected.

    I also have my concerns that the quota could lead to problems for BAME representation, especially as our experience of AWSes in the Labour Party has led to the selections being predominately white middle-class women.

  • “We need to know whether these changes make us more or less likely to take decisions based on evidence or emotional attachment, and whether the decisions we take are indeed in the best interests of the party and the country (these two things are not always one and the same).”

    Fail to use or only use head is failure, same with the heart. To live and survive we need both. There is your answer.

  • Simon McGrath 22nd Oct '14 - 4:22pm

    ” I know that studies demonstrate that the most successful boards are those with 50/50 split of men and women”
    Sounds very interesting – can you give us the references please ?

  • paul barker 22nd Oct '14 - 4:43pm

    These sound like great ideas, particularly encouraging Academic study of any changes. The results would be useful to other Parties across The World & Democracy everwhere.
    @ Sarah Noble. Surely a simple amendment would solve that ? Just add undefined to each gender ?

  • If that’s what you want to do propose it as a constitutional amendment. Why is is platform for getting elected to the FE?

  • We need to know whether these changes make us more or less likely to take decisions based on evidence or emotional attachment

    How are you going to tell whether a given decision was taken based on evidence or emotional attachment? Presumably those on both sides who are emotionally attached will insist that the evidence favours their side as well.

    and whether the decisions we take are indeed in the best interests of the party and the country (these two things are not always one and the same)

    How are you going to tell what would have happened to the party or the country had you taken the opposite decision, ie, what are you going to compare the decision against in hindsight to determine whether it really was in the best interests of party or country?

  • Fail to use or only use head is failure, same with the heart. To live and survive we need both

    Der Mittler zwischen Hirn und Händen muss das Herz sein, eh?

  • Dav, “The heart must be mediator between brain and hands” dont you love google haha. The body does not work without the heart, simple.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Oct '14 - 6:57pm

    When did the Federal Executive Committee last take a decision of any note whatsoever? What have they done to stop the parliamentary ‘Leadership'(sic) drag our Party down to levels never heard of before despite accumulating evidence since at least 2011?

    Significant decisions in the Liberal Democrats appear to be made between Nick Clegg and his former bag carrier. Now if we could turn one of those female! 😉

  • Peter Andrews 22nd Oct '14 - 7:26pm

    No idea how electing all FE members would work given currently the President and Leader have positions on the FE and there are MP & Lords reps as well as the chairs of the 3 national parties.

  • Igor Sagdejev 22nd Oct '14 - 8:26pm

    May we actually elect people on their merit, rather than have quotas?

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Oct ’14 – 6:57pm
    Even some members of the FE told the conference in Glasgow that the FE was “supine” and worse.

    Peter Andrews 22nd Oct ’14 – 7:26pm
    No idea how electing all FE members would work given currently the President and Leader have positions on the FE and there are MP & Lords reps as well as the chairs of the 3 national parties.

    Yes, Peter Andrews, at the moment the FE is a chocolate tea pot when it comes to democratic accountability.
    It is stuffed full of unelected people. . The power of patronage etc of The Leader distorts any decision on almost any subject.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '14 - 12:16am

    This article deserves strong condemnation. Any proposals on improving equality in the party that only focus on gender are not about equality, but the self-interest of men and women who want to attach themselves to the feminist power group.

    There is a case for diversity quotas, but not gender quotas.

    I have a proven track record of hiring a team that was diverse according to race, gender and sexuality. So I am not taking lectures by people who think the way to build a successful organisation is to prioritise women above everyone else. It just creates division and resentment.

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Oct '14 - 5:06am

    Funny that, I could have sworn the party had stopped this very thing being introduced – and for very good reasons, why are you reintroducing something that was voted down?

  • SIMON BANKS 23rd Oct '14 - 9:29am

    When we review the party constitution next year (first I heard of it, maybe because I was entitled to go to Glasgow and vote, but had decided I couldn’t afford it this time and anyway was in Clacton), we should look at the whole structure and approach. A party that supposedly believes in diversity and devolution has a prescriptive, top-down constitution thanks to SDP leaders’ fear of local activists. Many of us active in local parties, without whom many essential things wouldn’t happen, feel the status of local parties is gradually being undermined and the loss of the right to elect voting conference reps (without doing anything for the people who are interested but can’t afford the time or money to go for nearly a week) increases that.

    Some undermining, or rather reduction, of local parties’ importance is inevitable and even sensible because members can link and influence in so many more ways irrespective of geography thanks to the internet. But local parties remain the main way of mobilising activists and the only democratic route to any decisions to do with local councils or the selection of PPCs. Moreover, free association in active groups is part of the very heart of Liberalism. So how will the constitution encourage it?

  • Are we moving towards quotas for B.A.M.E people and/or youthful and/or elderly people etc or is there deemed to be some unique contribution that only a designated proportion of women can make?

  • Are we moving towards quotas for B.A.M.E people and/or youthful and/or elderly people

    Some of those categories are not like the others…

    (a ‘B.A.M.E. person’ is not going to stop being one of them, but if someone is elected to fill part of a quota for being young, will they be expected to resign their seat in a couple of years when they are no longer young to make way for the next one?)

  • This is so typical of the Lib Dems. By common consent the FE is as useful as a chocolate teapot yet identity politics dominate discussion about what to do.

    I suggest that its size is a far more important issue. From memory the FE has something over 30 members which is far too big to be effective. I challenge anyone who thinks it’s about right to name three examples of effective boards of anything like that size. It so dilutes responsibility that there is effectively none and it inevitably means that for some members it become a cosy sinecure leading inevitably to a (small ‘c’) conservative turn of mind to protect their position.

    Cut the number down to 12 – that’s quite enough for any governing body. All should be elected, non ex-officio and non the grateful (and loyal) recipients of patronage. Then expect them to perform and if they don’t boot them out.

  • GF
    Sounds good to me –“…Cut the number down to 12 …….. All should be elected, non ex-officio and notthe grateful (and loyal) recipients of patronage. Then expect them to perform and if they don’t boot them out.”

    I would only add in — openness and transparency in their work, and an end to the crazy “collective responsibility” tradition that seems to have crept in from somewhere.

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