Opinion: what the heck do the Party President and Federal Executive do?

For years the internal workings of the Liberal Democrat party have not been known to many party members. Thousands, in fact. I did think, stupidly as it now turns out, that the election of Ros Scott, who I supported as President and still support wholeheartedly, may make a little change to that. From my PC there seemed to be a chance that I would be able to start to understand what the heck the Federal Executive (FE) does and what the heck the President does.

The ideal opportunity then came along. Our Chief Executive was accused of expenses irregularities. He then resigned. Several of our parliamentarians had and have allegations standing against them.

In short, it all got exciting and rather worrying, which it still is. So when Ros Scott blogged (on her now extinct blog) that a crucial FE meeting was coming up which would discuss all these matters, I was naturally extremely interested. I put some comments for the meeting on Lib Dem Voice, and sent an email to a member of the FE who I know.

I then waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing on Ros’s blog except something about housing in the House of Lords. I posted some comments there which disappeared into a cyber hole.

Nothing from my friendly FE member.

Nothing from any FE members.

Nothing on the LDV members’ forum.

Then we got Lord Rennard’s announcement of him standing down. Then the announcement of the process for looking at parliamentarians’ expenses.

I still don’t understand the background or rationale to those events (What chief executive of a party announces his departure two weeks before major elections for purely “health and family reasons”? Join up the dots as you will). I still don’t know what the hell the FE or the President do. In fact, I am even more confused and baffled now because Ros seems to be saying that she and the FE don’t have any powers at all. (Except, of course, the power to give party members the impression, up until now, that they have some power!)

So I have pressed my “reset” button. I shall forget that there is a Federal Executive and certainly forget any idiotic ideas I had of having any sort of conversation via the internet with our President. I shall go back to cretinously delivering leaflets and canvassing voters and stop being so idiotic as to believe that I can be involved in internal party matters without actually being one of the 0.000001% of party members who are actually on these mysterious committees.


* Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds, Party policy and internal matters and Party Presidency.


  • Martin Land 3rd Jun '09 - 9:42pm

    Well, Paul, I’ve just delivered my last leaflet, received EARS backups from all my target divisions. Printed a back-up Shuttleworth. 40 odd County Council Candidates are facing the music tomorrow.

    So I’ve time to look at your posting and turn to this matter.

    My conclusion. As I said during the presidential campaign, I was no more sanguine about a President from one House than I was from the other. Until we have the guts to have grassroots activist Presidents and accept that the odd maverick like Clem, Cyril or David P is no bad thing…

  • Herbert Brown 3rd Jun '09 - 10:55pm

    So – can anyone tell me?

    Has an independent external assessor been appointed to examine Lib Dem expenses and allowances in the House of Lords, as we were told nearly a fortnight ago was going to happen “immediately”?

    If so, who is it? And when will he or she report?

    It is coming up to four weeks since the allegations about the party’s chief executive were published. It would be nice to know whether any progress at all has been made in getting them properly investigated.

  • Herbert Brown 4th Jun '09 - 12:01am


    My question wasn’t particularly directed at you. That’s why I phrased it “can anyone tell me?”

    Then again, I’d have hoped the answer would be in the public domain, so that all the people who generally tell us what’s what would have known the answer.

    There doesn’t seem to be much point in publicly announcing an independent inquiry, if the identity of the inquirer is subsequently kept secret.

  • This is clearly, and understandably, a very angry post. Quite apart from the immediate issues surrounding Chris Rennard’s departure, it raises more general points about transparency and bureaucracy in the party.

    At the Conference last Presidential elections, I asked several people to explain succinctly what the President’s role is, since I wanted to be able to choose the best-sounding candidate for the position. Very few people could tell me; a few people angrily told me to “read the Constitution”. I must admit that after the first few cross-references, I gave up – and I’m probably more of a constitutional nerd than most party members.

    The same goes for many elected positions in the party, from the Federal Exec to my local party’s conference reps – with no clear guidance as to what many position holders are supposed to do, and no objective to rate their performance in post, can we really be proud of our party’s democratic structure?

    As my constituency’s Membership Development Officer, I’ve recruited a few people into the party recently. They’re now asking me questions about structure and policy, and I’m embarrassed that I don’t know the answers. Neither do many other people to whom I speak.

    I was hoping to prepare a “bluffer’s guide” to the party, helping new members to get the most out of the party, but it’s proving terribly difficult…

  • The FE is not all (or even many)made up of remote people in my experiance. I have a member of the FE sleeping on my sofa tonight ready to do good mornings and help run a double committee room operation today.

  • Martin Land 4th Jun '09 - 6:11am

    Matt. Too right. Surely it wouldn’t defy modern technology to have online voting from local party meetings in between conferences?

  • David Allen 4th Jun '09 - 6:51pm

    The conclusion seems to be – The only disinfectant that works is sunlight.

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