Sal Brinton writes: Consultation on party governance

Over the last two years members have made it clear that they feel that the party is out of touch, often unaccountable and our complex structures unintelligible to all but those heavily involved in them. Reform was a key issue raised by members in the Presidential campaign in 2014 and again in the Leadership campaign earlier this year.

In answer to this, I promised during my Presidential campaign that I would be a reforming President, tackling the difficult issue of party governance head on by carrying out a full review of the party’s governance, followed by a root and branch restructuring of the party in line with our core values, bringing our party structures into the 21st century.

The Party Governance Consultation document is now up on the party website.

Members are welcome to submit their views and the principles that should underpin these, in answer to the questions listed in the booklet. You are also very welcome to arrange to talk with your Federal Executive Regional/State Representative at your regional/state conference, or with any member of the Federal Executive at Federal Conference in Bournemouth. There will be an FE helpdesk by the information desk.

Click here for a full list of FE members. Please also feel free to get in touch via [email protected].

The consultation will be open until midday on Monday 16th November.

* Baroness Sal Brinton is President of the Liberal Democrats. She is a working Lib Dem peer, and was the candidate for Watford at the 2010 and 2005 General Elections.

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  • Tony Dawson 10th Aug '15 - 6:32pm

    “tackling the difficult issue of party governance head on by carrying out a full review of the party’s governance, followed by a root and branch restructuring of the party in line with our core values,”

    I am not saying that this would definitely happen but If a full review properly and objectively carried out produces a result that does not require ‘root and branch re-structuring’ then one would hope that we would not waste time and effort on this. We have already done the one thing which will massively-affect our effectiveness as a Party. Constitutional meddling may not add anything to this and might make things worse. We need to be very considered and cautious.

  • Sal, thanks, I look forward to working through the document and engaging with the questions: Sara does have a point – the complexity adds to the opacity for the vast majority of people who don’t have the time or inclination to pore over the constitution. So I’ll be addressing the transparency questions with particular relish.

    I still think we need a formal constitutional convention, mind.

  • James Moore 10th Aug '15 - 9:42pm

    Maybe someone can tell me if this is appropriate in this consultation, but with grassroots campaigning more important than ever, with wanting to change people’s lives from the community politics level, I would think considering moving Local Parties to be Local Authority-boundaried instead of Constituency boundaried would be a good thing to consider. I’m aware this is already the case in some locations, but it seems to be very patchwork. I know from a local perspective it is very difficult to run a borough-wide campaign when there are outlier wards that are in other Local Authorities.

  • Is there any provision to change the part’sy governance to abandon the idea of failed politicians getting knighthoods ? See today’s Glasgow Herald.

  • James Moore
    I don’t necessarily see that community politics is necessarily aligned for all purposes with Councils. There can be just the same problem if a local party represents the area of a Council, in terms of its Parliamentary campaigning (which can equally be community based).

  • Peter Bancroft 11th Aug '15 - 12:09am

    Given the widely held perception that the party is not able to make decisions (at all), shouldn’t one of the first questions be what the most important decisions are and who is empowered to make them? Having seen this sort of review quite a few times now, an immediate deep dive and obsession with the nature of outcomes, inclusivity and the minutiae of process is unlikely to get the party where it needs to go. We will be destined to forever end up in pointless discussions as to whether the FCC has the right to potentially overrule what some people though was an FE decision on a topic at some point in the past subject a conference recommendation in 2006.

  • OMOV on policy.

  • TCO – OMOV on policy? Getting the maximum number of people to share in a decision is not the same as maximising the number taking part in the arguments, which are rather different (and sometimes more important) from those thrown up by a Leadership campaign. The suggestion is one advanced by those who think a referendum is an instrument of democracy.

  • Anders Hanson 11th Aug '15 - 11:56am

    James – the constitution does now allow local parties to align on whatever boundaries they feel aids campaigning and organisation. It used to be the case you could align only on constituency boundaries but that is no longer the case and now a number of areas have switched to local authority boundaries (such as my own local party) and it’s been a big improvement.

  • Chris Lewcock 11th Aug '15 - 12:11pm

    Slightly puzzled that as an Association Chair I haven’t been asked directly to gather my Association’s views on this. Now that I’ve chanced on it on LDV I shall do so. Symptomatic?

  • lloyd harris 11th Aug '15 - 12:58pm

    I’ll read and take part with interest, like others I have seen ‘root and branch’ reviews and no real action. I hope that we now have the time and space to make real reform.
    My starting point is what structure makes these two things work best (1) winning elections (2) being an organisation that people want to be a part of.

  • The English Council really needs to be reformed at the very least; it’s by far the least accountable “legislative” structure of the party.

  • Toby Keynes 11th Aug '15 - 3:39pm

    Chris Lewcock: I’m assuming the consultation paper has only just been published, and the consultation goes on (as Sal writes) until 16th November.
    It’s been announced by Sal, which is how it came to your attention.
    All conference reps will receive the conference paper by post or email link – I’d like to think that’ll include a significant number of your area party members – and it may be promoted by other means including notifying area party chairs.
    All in all, I think it’s a bit early to decide that here’s been a significant communication failure here.

  • Sarah: you say reformed, I say abolished.

  • Hi Chris…..Perhaps we should all remember that the foundations of our party come through its membership and its identification with the electorate comes from campaigns.Tony Greaves another old soldier is right when he says ALDC is the platform for training and representing the forces in the field. Too many major committees which come to conclusions unrelated to the wishes of the ground troops , of which few have the time or inclination to sit on committees contemplating their navels.

  • Norman Baker writes in The Independent –
    “…Lib Dems may well have an energetic new leader in Tim Farron, but they were reduced to a pile of rubble at the last election..”

    In his article in Liberator, Tony Greaves provides a chilling analysis of the “rubble”and why we cannot just go back to ‘business as usual’.

    He ends with a warning that – ” The great danger is that the powers-that-be in the party ‘machine ‘ will rush to ‘reform the structure …”

    I am mindful that Sal Brinton was very much the candidatein the election for Party President supported by Grandees Paddy Ashdown and Shirley Williams and others. The very same people who supported the unsuccessful Norman Lamb in the recent leadership election. I am not making any assumptions on the basis of that fact but the people at the top of the party need to recognise that they are up to their necks in what Norman Baker describes as “rubble”.

    Some of those people who have been at the topof the party for some years need to admit the mess we are in and take their share of responsiility for the disaster.

    Nick Clegg resigned but has anyone else?
    Are we about to enter into major changes of “governance” in the party in the hands of the very people who drove us over a cliff ?

  • Is there any mechanism wherebye the party could freeze the sending of unelected ex MPs Danny Alexander and Vince Cable to the unelected undemocratic House of Lords. It does the image of the party no good when two of the former Tory cabinet ministers are seen to be rewarded for their compliance in the Tory cabinet. I suggest that an alliance with the SNP and Labour Party to freeze the sending of any ex MPs to this place is in line with the thinking of the vast majority of the party and of the people and to do so would gain their respect.

  • Chris Lewcock 12th Aug '15 - 9:48am

    What Bob Says!

  • Richard Underhill 13th Aug '15 - 1:38pm

    The President is the best person to do this. The Leader has a lot to do.

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