Opinion: Lib Dem write in campaign gathers support

Just last year Linda Jack, a reasonably prominent Lib Dem, failed to secure enough nominations to stand for the position of Party President.

The fact that a well-known party figure could not muster the required number of names to take part in one of the most important internal elections suggests we are going wrong in the nominations process.

Of course, if we allowed write-in candidates for internal party elections, Linda’s campaign would have been able to continue.

The hours she and others had invested in developing a vision for the future of the party would not have gone to waste.

Those who did support her campaign would simply have been able to write her name on the ballot paper.

Equally, those who wished to vote for somebody completely different would be able to do that.

Looking at the presidential election survey question results on LDV, we are told that 9% planned not to vote, with more than a quarter of those giving the reason that they didn’t want to vote for any of the candidates.

In response to our original blog post, some people questioned whether there was even a problem to be solved.

We believe that the case of the most recent presidential election proves that there is a problem. Others questioned whether a write-in candidate would be committed. We see no reason why this would be the case and it would seem unlikely that anybody who was not committed could run a successful write-in campaign.

Since our original blog post, we have received support from several LDV readers.

Perhaps more significantly, Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams endorsed the principle of write-in candidates during a speech at the recent Welsh Lib Dem conference. We hope other senior Liberal Democrats will also join our campaign.

The tide is clearly turning in favour of write-in candidates. As liberals, we must be at the forefront of this democratic reform.

We campaigned hard during the General Election, but now we have a bit of time to look at our internal processes too.  If you’d like to support our campaign, email [email protected] or tweet us @LDWriteIn.

* Matt Hemsley, Dan Murch, Tom Stubbs and Max Wilkinson are the Co-chairs of Lib Dem Write In

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18 Comments

  • Matt and co,
    You say –
    “…We believe that the case of the most recent presidential election proves that there is a problem. ”

    That is as you say a statement of belief rather than fact. There may have been other causes contributing to the situation you described.

    Gareth Epps has recently pointed out in his blog that one of the things the party will have to face up to now is that the resources available to run the Liberal Democrats will be much reduced.
    Will your proposals add to or reduce the need for an expensive bureaucracy to run the party?
    Are there perhaps other priorities in internal reorganisation which might take priority?

    I ask these questions as much to draw attention to the urgent need for the party to live within it means as to challenge your proposal — I am an economical Liberal Democrat. 🙂

  • Nominations for the presidential post had to be from Federal Conference reps.

    I could not nominate Linda as I am ‘only’ an ordinary party member in those terms.

    Since we are moving to OMOV for Federal Conference the special status of FC Reps vanishes.

    Presumably in future presidential elections the nominating power will lie with the party membership as a whole.

    I fail to see how write-in candidates are necessary and my imagination boggles as to how these could be accommodated in a transferable vote election.

    Could someone explain please?

  • For the presidential election you had to get 200 voting reps from 20 different local parties to physically sign papers. The traditional method is to do this at conference, where voting reps gather. For one reason or another there weren’t enough voting reps at Glasgow conference for all for candidates to get enough noms.

  • Mark Littlewood 23rd May '15 - 11:13am

    Someone estimated to me that the total full time payroll of those employed full time by/for the LibDems is going to fall from about 150 at the start of the last Parliament to about 20. About the same total as the DUP/UUP (who actually have more seats in Parliament).

    The mere idea that changing the rules for the party’s Presidential elections to facilitate a write-in should be anywhere in the top ten thousand priorities for anyone is risible.

    If you can’t clear the relatively modest hurdle to get yourself nominated, it is absurd to think that you could come remotely close to winning an election via a write-in.

    This post is not about really about running a political party. It’s about having a hobby.

  • There was something wrong about the rules for the presidential elections given that there were 4 women wanting to be candidates and not enough representatives at conference to nominate them, given you can only nominate 1 candidate.
    There is a good case to be made for changing those rules.
    But the answer is not to have write in candidates. If the rules are reasonable and you cannot get enough nominations, then you shouldn’t stand because you won’t win.

  • Mark Littlewood is not someone I generally find myself agreeing with but his comment above is spot on.

    We are going to have drastically lower resources and I’m talking about people, time and enthusiasm as well as money. We need to concentrate on things that will make the most difference. Otherwise, as Mark says, the Liberal Democrats just become a hobby.

  • @Mark Littlewood

    What’s wrong with 4 people in the party having a hobby that’s about internal democratic reform? I don’t agree with write-ins exactly (I think this sort of thing could mostly be done online now, with a provision for those who can’t to write in) but I’m glad they’re thinking about it because it was a genuine issue for Linda who seemed to have broader support outside of the voting reps at that conference. It might not be a priority, but surely 55,000 people can do more than 1 thing at once? I agree about the far lower resources but it’s by debating this sort of thing that ideas can come about that lower the complexity, increase participation and get us better representatives.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd May '15 - 3:27pm

    Linda Jack was one of the volunteers at a conference hosted by Liberal Democrats in London in 2014.

    She told me, without bitterness,that the sort of people who would have supported her had left the party because of the coalition with the Tories.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd May '15 - 6:54pm

    “We campaigned hard during the General Election, but now we have a bit of time to look at our internal processes too. If you’d like to support our campaign, email [email protected] or tweet us @LDWriteIn.”

    No we don’t have time for this particular internal processs. We have more important things to do than gaze at our navels.

  • I was a voting rep who didn’t attend autumn conference. I didn’t know there was a problem until a few days before nominations closed. The link to get a nomination form didn’t work for me. I sent emails to various addresses for Linda an Liberal Left and received a pdf at the last minute. The answer is to make it easier to nominate and for candidates supporters to be active earlier.

  • Peter Bancroft 23rd May '15 - 9:51pm

    There are probably a million laudable things that we as a party could do, but this falls squarely with most of them into the “complete distraction from the need to rebuild” category.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 23rd May '15 - 10:59pm

    The terms “reasonable” (considered) and the “rational” (instrumental) can be viewed as a basic intuitive moral idea; it maybe applied to persons, their decisions and actions, as well as to principles and standards, to comprehensive doctrines and to much else.

    We are concerned firstly with knowing that the reasonable principles of justice for this basic system is more than adequate and secondly for the cooperation of fairness for the purpose of representation that would adopt to regulate the internal institution has been followed.

    Thus it is from the conjecture that it may be plausible to suggest that it can’t be shown as to how far it is sound in it’s current state.

    Therefore is there an unwillingness to take off the political agenda to keep the status quo?

  • Toby Fenwick 24th May '15 - 8:57am

    Intrinsically I agree with the thrust of LibDrn write in. But Edis makes an excellent point: once OMOV comes in, surely this is unnecessary?

  • Edis Bevan “Since we are moving to OMOV for Federal Conference the special status of FC Reps vanishes.”

    Excellent – if it means what I think it means*. When is this happening, and will it also apply to committees?

    * – ie that any policy decisions are voted on by the full membership not appointed representatives who attend conference.

  • I find it objectionable bordering on illiberal that I am not allowed to nominate a candidate in any election in which I have a vote.

    Write in candidates would, as John Tilley suggests, increase costs. Allowing the entire electorate to nominate candidates for any given post would be far more manageable from a cost point of view I think.

  • SIMON BANKS 25th May '15 - 9:48am

    In reply to Andrew Ducker – this was well aired at the time. The current rules demand a substantial number of conference delegates to sign the nomination papers (200, is it?). Usually that’s done easily at Conference for serious candidates. Linda Jack was undoubtedly a serious candidate, more so say than Lembit Opik when he stood, but numbers attending the last autumn conference were drastically down. There was then a desperate scramble to get distance nominations in.

    Was Glasgow 2014 a mere blip? Well, while saying Glasgow is “remote” is clearly silly, it is a long way from most of the party’s current members’ homes. Some people like myself who went to Glasgow 2013 decided against a repeat experience, certainly not from any dislike of a fine city, but because of the length of the journey or the frustrations of the conference building venue. Some were too immersed in campaigns towards 2015 to want to spend so much time away. But while the party’s membership was mildly increasing, the activist base was in decline. Will the surge of new members from the election reverse that, enough for some of them to want to spend £500 plus and use up a week’s holiday? Of course, we’re moving to the misnamed OMOV, but in truth it’s one person who can manage to attend Conference for a week in Glasgow or Bournemouth, one vote, and I can’t see this change making a serious difference to numbers.

    Whether write-ins are the best way of dealing with the problem, rather than reducing the numbers needed to nominate or otherwise tweaking the rules, I’m not sure. Write-ins do take some administering and have potential for disputes over unclear instructions.

  • suzanne fletcher 25th May '15 - 3:39pm

    I would hope there can be an answer to this that does not increase bureaucracy, but enables serious canidates with broad support to stand. I don’t know how many Linda was short by, and how many the others had in excess, but doubt if it was much either way. clarity about who could sign when some people at Glasgow were there as subs did not help at all. A way of having a running total might have helped.
    Although I was backing Sal, I’d have taken my name off her list if she had enough valid nominations, to allow Linda to stand.
    Let’s hope that OMOV will make the situation not a problem next time – and that numbers going to conference do not diminish !

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