Sal Brinton writes…The next steps on the supporters’ scheme

Following the all member survey and consultation on setting up a registered supporter scheme the Federal Board met on 15 and 22 October. At the first meeting we saw the results of the survey, and at the second the rapporteur notes of the various consultation events around the country. We discussed these results and your comments and queries and considered the next steps.

The Board asked me to thank all those who responded to the online survey, and who came to ask questions and raise comments at the various events, including the two webinars. Many of the issues you have raised are similar to those that have been raised by members of the Board themselves. It’s never possible in the first consultation documents to cover all those issues, but the Board are clear as part of our next steps we will publish a document that responds to them – more details below.

Firstly, the overall headlines of the survey responses. Over 10,000 of you replied: this includes those who answered the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) survey that went out in mid-August, before Vince Cable’s speech and his subsequent survey. Over 75% of all those who responded said that you supported the creation of a registered supporter group. Within that, more than half said that you supported the proposals that a registered supporter should have a vote in the election of a Leader of the party, and also for the broadening of the pool of those who can stand for Leader beyond the MPs.

There was overwhelming support for registered supporters campaigning and being asked what their priorities are for the party in policy terms, and finally, there was substantial support for the removal of the current rule that you have to be a member for twelve months before you can be selected as a candidate for election to Parliament in Westminster. The concerns were mainly around ensuring that there are clear benefits for members that supporters would not have (ie members being able to nominate candidates for Leader, and voting for policy motions at Conference).

In Vince’s proposals he had urged us to move forward swiftly, now that we had some momentum amongst those who are already supporters or who vote for us, which would include taking the elements of the proposals to a Conference so that members can debate and vote on it. Your Board discussed and decided that we should:-

  1. Arrange for a webinar in the next few weeks to give members the results in more detail and to take questions on next steps. As with our consultation webinars, this will be recorded and then be available on the members part of the website for those who weren’t able to join us live. Members of the Board are also happy to engage in debate with members on the scheme on social media including the various party pages on Facebook
  2. Continue to encourage supporters to sign up (although without any of the voting rights that we as members will decide on at Conference), as they are already doing through our Exit to Brexit campaign – over 10,000 have signed up in recent weeks;
  3. Ask the FPDC to develop the practical arrangements for a registered supporter scheme, as well as a consultation document to respond to the specific issues and concerns raised by members. There are other committees also involved in parts of this: FCC with arrangements for Conference, and FCEC with their messaging and communications expertise. We will be coordinating these elements, and overall this work will be led on behalf of the FPDC and the Board by the FPDC Chair, Miranda Roberts;
  4. Prepare a Business Motion and Constitutional Amendments to be submitted to Federal Conference Committee for inclusion at Spring Conference at York. Some members will be aware that the Leader had asked the Board to consider calling a Special Conference so that the whole package could be debated and voted on by members earlier However, Vince agreed with the Board last night that the proposals could be debated in the Spring. He thanked the Board for their commitment to proceeding with the establishment of a supporter scheme and for being clear that members should decide at Spring Conference on the detail of that scheme.The Board wants to thank all the members who have contributed to the debate so far: we look forward to continuing that debate over the next few months in the lead up to the party making a decision about the detail at Spring Conference.

* 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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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Evans 23rd Oct '18 - 3:27pm

    I would suggest that the members need to be given the results in full detail as soon as possible and definitely well before any webinar so that they can fully consider and prepare questions and follow ups before the webinar.

  • paul barker 23rd Oct '18 - 3:33pm

    A big thank you to everyone involved. I am glad that the idea of a Special Conference has been dropped. Taking these proposals at Spring Conference is a compromise but we are still at the mercy of “Events” around Brexit. We have to be very careful how we “Sell” this to the media so that it doesnt look like navel gazing at a time of National Crisis.
    I hope that we can avoid the worst result, wher Conference passes the changes by a clear majority but fails to reach the two-thirds threshold, that would not look good.
    Clearly we need a lot more good-natured discussion around these proposals.

  • Adam Bernard 23rd Oct '18 - 4:20pm

    Does ” Over 75% of all those who responded” include written responses sent by email or just the tickybox form?

  • Adam Bernard 23rd Oct '18 - 4:27pm

    Echoing David Evans above, It would be nice if we could have the raw data where available.

    I am also rather dismayed to learn that it is intended that us members should not get the opportunity to see the polling data, the full list of questions, or the methodology that was used to make the case for this whole thing in the first place. Without this, there can be no credibility whatsoever for the aggregate figures presented.

  • Martin Land 23rd Oct '18 - 4:37pm

    Bounce, bounce, bounce….

  • I agree that we need to see the full results before rushing to judgement. I was going to make the same point as Dave Page, talking about 75% supporting the principle and over half of these supporting leader votes, is actually a lower bound of 37% support.

    There were real issues with the wording of the questions – let’s just have it straight what the results say, and make sound decisions based on that.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Oct '18 - 4:41pm

    “As Nick says above, publishing the (anonymised) full results would be very helpful rather than relying on potentially ambiguous summary wording.”


    And Dave Page’s point about “Within that, more than half…” is very valid. And I would assume it was nearer “half” than “nearly three quarters” – otherwise Sal might have said the latter.

  • In the meantime we have the Conservative Party in a state of Civil War and we are about 8-9% average in the national polls. Something has to change and quick otherwise we will continue sitting on the furthest perimeter of British politics. Can we afford this internal navel gazing. It is not going to change our public standing. One thing though is certain, we cannot remain as we are.

  • “… and finally, there was substantial support for the removal of the current rule that you have to be a member for twelve months before you can be selected as a [parliamentary] candidate …”:
    Please clarify what “substantial” means in this context. What percentage of responders supported this proposal?

  • David Becket 23rd Oct '18 - 5:23pm

    At least the nonsense of a Special Conference is dead. However in March this country will be making the most momentous, and possibly disastrous, decision of our lives. With luck we will be campaigning for a Peoples Vote, though more likely a crash out into the unknown. The country will be looking for political leadership. If we debate this it is all the media will report on, and we will have let the country down.
    This is not a peoples leadership issue.

    Sal you appear to be leading on this. Can we please have some straight answers, Yes or No, to some straight questions.

    Is it in the interests of the country to debate this internal issue in March 2019? YES/NO
    Is it in the interests of the party to debate this internal issue in March 2019? YES/NO
    Does it make sense to spend effort debating this in the run up to March 2019? YES/NO
    Would it make sense for those of us who want to fight Brexit to join another party? YES/NO
    Please in one sentence give the reason this cannot wait until Bournemouth.

    It is time the leadership came clean with the members!

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Oct '18 - 5:43pm

    It seems that common sense has half broken out. At least no special conference. I can imagine the debate at the FB and no doubt some of it will leak out.

    Now let’s get to work winning Council seats in May and stopping Brexit now.

    If nonsense comes back to York then we will have to deal with that there and then.


  • paul barker 23rd Oct '18 - 5:59pm

    I have 3 big worries about all this :
    first that we will be turning in on ourselves just when we are needed, or give that impression
    second that we will look divided, the media love nothing better than finding Splits,
    third that some of these proposals will get majority support but not reach the two-thirds threshold – that would fit perfectly with the way the Media love to portray us, as Nice but Useless.

  • Seems to me that the Special Conference idea was a ploy to draw the fire of those who don’t like aspects of this scheme, viz non-MP as Leader, non-members voting for Leader, and abolition of the 12 month rule, all of which are daft. Opponents of these ideas are supposed to feel they have won something by Vince withdrawing the Special Conference, but the Party is still being sold down the river.

  • The main issue for the moment is that the special conference got dropped. A good reminder that the Board exists to represent the members not just to rubberstamp what the leader wants. Well done to those who blocked it.
    As for the proposals, we can decide on those at conference. I still reckon some are good, some are not so good and some I want more detail on. Meanwhile, we can now concentrate again on campaigning for the Peoples Vote and local elections.

  • chris moore 23rd Oct '18 - 7:09pm

    Good, the speical conference has been shelved; a ridiculous distraction; unbelievably out of touch with reality.

    None of the proposed internal party changes is going to revive Lib Dem support or indeed interest anyone who isn’t an obsessed anorak; a complete irrelevance. Pass the supporters’ scheme in an hour’s debate, then for god sake get back to real life and campaigning on issues that mean something to voters.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Oct '18 - 8:56pm

    A sensible approach, as many of us reckoned would prevail.

    The panic and fret approach seem to be amongst members perhaps justified by coalition years earlier.

    We do as theakes says here , need to change and improve.

    We can begin by not kicking up such a fuss each moment someone ventures an opinion whether a policy committee or our leadership.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Oct '18 - 10:57pm

    The Tories did not have any debates as far as I could see. Just speeches by “important people”. And Labour seemed to be back to the shambles of the past which the chair calling people s/he could see from the hall – “The lady at the back with the big…errr…red jumper”.


  • Robert Blevin 24th Oct '18 - 8:40am

    I too would like to see the results without so many of the linguistic contortions in the article. It sounds like something a way short of majority support for the ‘all shall vote’ Momentum mimicry. And even where there might have been slim majorities, we’ve seen recently the damage narrow majority support in a flawed poll (say 52:48?) can do. I’d like to see the full, raw results, presented against the original questions asked.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Oct '18 - 9:18am

    When does Spring conference registration open?

  • The consultation paper says:

    “In the spirit of becoming a member-powered movement, every member should be able to express a view. To that end, Vince will ask the Federal Board to conduct a ballot of all party members in the autumn, asking them whether they support or oppose a final package of proposed reforms, reflecting the consultation results.”


    “If the ballot wins support for the package, Vince will then invite the Federal Board
    to submit the necessary constitutional amendments to Federal Conference, and
    ask the Federal Conference Committee to ensure they can be debated and voted

    So the process is Consultation -> Ballot -> Conference Motions

    When’s the ballot happening?

    Since the consultation paper promised a ballot, some members who had already formed strong opinions on the proposals may not have bothered responding to the consultation in the expectation of voting for or against later.

  • Neil Sandison 24th Oct '18 - 2:59pm

    Sal i would echo members request for access to data .We are a party that prides its self on evidence based decisions .I would also like to see some forward thinking on membership added value in decision making to offset the enfranchisment of the supporters group in key decisions like the nomination of a candidate for the leadership or party president .We have had dual leadership before during the Alliance days with the two Davids and we currently have two leaders in Westminster one in the Commons and one in the Lords and a leader in the country through your role as the party president .The real question i would pose is how these changes will enable us to rise Pheonix like from the ashes of the coalition and become the leading liberal democratic force in the country with sound social market economic policies and ensuring globalisation and AI does not disenfranchise significant parts of our citizenship and that those who become malcontents drift ever further into the isolationist and nationalist camps of the far right.

  • OnceALibDem 24th Oct '18 - 3:33pm

    Vince has basically set himself up for a confidence vote. On an issue few people understand and where he will need a 2/3rds majority.

    The question must be why is he putting his leadership on the line to allow a non-MP to succeed him? Only an idiot would do that if it wasn’t part of a bigger plan.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Oct '18 - 6:27am

    Nick Baird, thank you for quoting the extract from the Consultation Paper, where it says that Vince will ask the Federal Board to conduct a ballot of all members in the Autumn.
    I had also been wondering what had happened to the ballot that was promised.
    The consultation seemed to make it clear that the motion would only be submitted to Conference if members had already expressed support in the ballot. But no more seems to have been said about the ballot, and it looks as if it has been quietly dropped, presumably because Vince realised it was unlikely that a majority of members would express support for the reforms.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Oct '18 - 6:11pm

    Having a leader who is not an MP is not a strange idea.
    It happened to the SNP before the Scottish parliament was established.
    Neither of the co-leaders of the Green party are currently MPs.
    The DUP leader is not an MP. She should try harder to get the devolved Assembly going again.
    The President of Sinn Fein has been elected to the Dail.

  • Mark Pack, a federal board member, has said this about the all-member ballot on his blog:

    “Footnote: the all-member (non-)ballot
    If you’re wondering what happened to the idea of an all-member consultative ballot, the rules the Federal Board was presented with for the conduct of such a ballot had numerous problems, including the idea that all party bodies would be banned from expressing a view during the contest and expenditure rules that were in effect unenforceable. Some of these could have been fixed but others came from a ruling by the chair of the Federal Appeals Panel and so are not fixable this side of a party conference.”

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