Opinion: Have a local party meeting after the election

We will all be very busy for the next few weeks, working hard to get Lib Dem MPs elected.

But once the votes are counted, the job of setting the country on the best direction will not over.  There is every chance no party will win a majority.

Thinking about this must not distract us from campaigning.   But it would be irresponsible to think that polling day is the end.  It is just the beginning.

The Federal Executive has agreed processes for how Liberal Democrats approach inter-party negotiations.

A negotiating team will operate on appointment by the Leader.  It will report to a small reference group drawn from FE, FPC members and MPs/peers. They will report to the full committees and all MPs/peers.  Any proposed decision to work with another party in government will go to a Special Conference.

Good decisions require the input of as many people’s wisdom as possible.  That is not to derogate the control the FE must take in these matters but to recognise that the best decision-makers have open ears.

We have to put the country on the best course and give Lib Dem voters a feeling they are getting what they voted for.

All of you who are out on the doorsteps or the phone, having conversations with voters will have insight into this.  You will know what people most need and expect from us.

I encourage you to make arrangements to meet with other local party members around a week after polling day.  Don’t get hung up on notice periods and after formalities for an “official” local party meeting.  Do what you reasonably can, while concentrating on the urgent business of the election.

In the week after the poll, meet up with as many members as you can, talk about where we are and where we need to go.

If you are a member in England, tell me about the fruits of your discussions.  Likewise, Scottish and Welsh members should contact their FE representatives, Dan Farthing-Sykes and Baroness Christine Humphreys respectively. In fact a full list of FE members can be found here.

I will make sure your voice I heard and will share a summary of all the representations that I receive with other members of the Federal Executive.

I have a special mail box for this purpose postelection AT antonyhook.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

* Antony Hook was a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England (2019) and has practised as a barrister since 2003. He is currently Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Kent County Council.

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  • A special conference is perhaps more useful than all member ballot. It allows people to properly hear each other’s views before taking a decision.

  • Glenn Andrews 25th Mar '15 - 10:58am

    Good decisions require the input of as many people’s wisdom as possible…. that means sending the coalition agreement to every party member, and we all decide if it’s good enough, that’s easy enough, just e-mail the agreement through and post out the ballot paper.

  • Can I point out that a postal ballot would cost us about £60,000 plus any admin. We may be abit short of cash on May 8th.

  • paul barker 25th Mar ’15 – 11:06am
    “…a postal ballot would cost us about £60,000 plus …”

    Comapared to the “small fortune” which Mr Coetzee says he has spent on “private polling” the sum of £60k seems modest.

  • Duncan Brack 25th Mar '15 - 11:25am

    Good article, Anthony – though the procedure is laid down in Article 15 of the party constitution, it’s not been just invented by the FE. It was agreed by conference in 2012 – which could have decided to include a ballot in the process, but didn’t.

  • Duncan, the FE on 19 Feb approved a process specifying in further detail how Art 15 will actually be carried out in practise. If the constitution is the primary legislation, this is the secondary legislation so to speak.

  • Glenn Andrews 25th Mar '15 - 11:44am

    @Paul Barker; OK the postal ballot would be an unaffordable option, but what about a ballot box at every constituency office?…. obviously I realise this won’t be happening this time around; if the scenario occurs of course…. just throwing it out there.

  • robert Leslie 25th Mar '15 - 12:24pm

    Any agreement made after the next election will need to be in place as quickly as possible .The time factor will tend to exclude postal ballots. With regard to ballot boxes in constituency offices,pleas remember ther are many seats where we do not have an office , the nearest one to where I live (assuming we hold the seat) is about 1.5 hours away and in some of our seats members would need to take a ferry to get to the office.

  • This is a great idea – thanks for suggesting it in good time. I am in the process of setting up such a meeting in Kingston. I think it is vital that local members are all given the opportunity to discuss and have an input into the process; not all can go to the special conference and in any case most won’t be conference reps.

  • Spencer Hagard 26th Mar '15 - 10:50am

    It is essential to arrange a meeting date of all local party members to take place after the electoral dust has settled, but while national post-election discussions are still at an early stage. In Cambridge, ours is booked for 12 May.

  • Mary, Spencer,

    Thanks. Please both let me know what arises out of your discussions.

  • SIMON BANKS 26th Mar '15 - 3:40pm

    An important article – thanks.

    On Caractacus’ point – there’s no reason except cost why the Party couldn’t have both a Special Conference and then a vote of all members. As Anthony says, a Special Conference allows much more room for testing and listening to other people’s positions, for speeches to change votes and for the leadership maybe to shift the content of its proposals having tested opinion but before a vote is taken. A vote of all members would be the most democratic thing and if it went in favour of some proposed arrangement, would give that arrangement the greatest legitimacy.

    But we should face the reality that many members do nothing but pay their subs. This seems to me to be particularly so of members recruited nationally after the 2010 election. They deserve a voice – but the party could limp on without them, whereas it could never survive without the activists, who would form the overwhelming majority of people at a Special Conference. It’s also worth considering that the activists give far more in blood, sweat and tears. I would suggest that the Party should not enter into any agreement, especially a coalition, unless it’s demonstrated it has the support of both the activists and the whole membership.

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