Tag Archives: federal board

Federal Board reformed in “peak Lib Dem” debate

Chair Duncan Brack remarked late yesterday evening as he opened the debate on reforming the party’s Federal Board, we had reached “peak Lib Dem” as before us we had 4 options, constitutional amendments, standing order amendments, 3 requests for a reference back and 7 votes.

The Federal Board put forward those 4 options – 3 for reform, 1 to keep roughly the same arrangements in response to the Thornhill Review’s criticism of party governance in the 2019 General Election.

The option passed was to have a slimmed down board of 16 people who are:

The President, who shall act as its Chair;

B. The Leader;

C. The Chair of the English Party, the Convenor of the Scottish Party and the President of the Welsh Party;

D. The Vice President responsible for working with ethnic minority communities;

E. Three people who shall be party members elected by all members of the Party except that persons who, at the date of the close of nominations for election under this paragraph, are members of Parliamentary Parties set out in Article 17 shall not be eligible to be candidates for election under this paragraph. Casual vacancies amongst this group shall be filled in accordance with the election regulations;

F. A Vice-Chair of the Federal Policy Committee;

G. The Chairs of the Federal Conference Committee, the Federal Communications and Elections Committee, the Federal Finance and Resources Committee and the Federal People Development Committee;

H. The Chair of the Young Liberals; and

I. A principal local authority councillor, elected Mayor or Police and Crime Commissioner, elected by the principal local authority councillors, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners of the Party.

This is controversial as it reduces the number of directly elected members of the Board from 15 to just 3.

A request for a reference back made by Board Member Simon McGrath, who criticised the plans here was defeated by a handful of votes.

Conference chose the option to create a Federal Council to scrutinise the work o the Board. Amendments were passed to give it some teeth – eg the ability to call in and overturn some Board decisions. The Federal Council will be made up of:

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Why Conference should vote against the Board Reform proposals

Over the last few weeks virtually everyone who might be expected to carry weight with Conference delegates has been getting calls from the Party President asking them to come out in favour of the reforms to structure of the Federal Board. There has been a string of LDV and social media articles explaining why we need a smaller board. I imagine on Friday evening we will see a string of Party dignitaries speaking in favour of the reform proposals.

There has been a fair amount of circularity in the argument put forward to support this. Mark Pack having convinced the Thornhill review team that the size of the Board was the major contributor to the General Election debacle, now quotes the same report as evidence. But re-reading the report its clear that the disaster had little to do with the Board and much more to do with an over centralised campaign based around the Leader and a small team of advisers combined with an unwillingness to listen or challenge.

People may be surprised to know that the Board didn’t (and shouldn’t) get involved with the detail of our GE campaigns. That is constitutionally the role of the Federal Campaigns and Elections committee – though it’s not clear whether they were allowed to exercise that role in 2019.

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Mark Pack’s March report

It was a shocking and sobering sight just a few days ago to wake up and see a photo of Kira Rudyk, the leader of a sister liberal party of ours in Ukraine holding a gun and preparing to fight.

It was also a reminder of the importance of our liberal values – and the need for internationalism to support fellow humans, rather than to try to hide away within our own borders as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Viruses, climate change and dictators don’t stop at borders, and nor should our compassion for other people.

The wave of sanctions, both mandatory from governments and voluntary as others too have ceased trade, cancelled events and ended Russian participation, is a reminder of just how much integration there was – economically, socially and culturally – between Russia and the rest of the world.

A frequent hope of liberals is that such extensive links can bring people together and reduce the risk of conflict. What the invasion of Ukraine has shown, however, is that such hope is not enough. We also need strong multinational institutions with the necessary powers to enforce their decisions when required.

Getting that right will help avoid future Ukraines, but we also have to work with where we are in the present. Which is why we’re pressing the government so hard to take effective action against the Russian oligarchs who have secreted so much wealth in London and spent so heavily on British politics, British legal services and British financial services.

Events in Ukraine will come up in multiple ways at our online federal spring conference 11-13 March. You can still register for the event here (and it only costs £5 if you have not come to conference before).

In the light of both the tragedy in Ukraine and the controversies over the Chinese use of money to influence British politics, we’ve been reviewing our rules for checking the international aspects of potential donations to confirm that they have the right safeguards in them.

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President’s Update, February 2022, Europe, Party reform, supporting candidates, new Vice President

The next steps in our European policy

There’s a lesson we should learn from Brexiters. It’s that for most of the road to the tragedy of the 2016 referendum they weren’t Brexiters but Euro-sceptics. For most of that time, they weren’t campaigning for Brexit to happen tomorrow, but against a particular aspect of the EU. That is how they built up a broad coalition of support to get Brexit through.

In turn, we need to do the same in reverse – to recognise that even many Remainers are put off by ‘let’s rejoin the EU now!’, but that even those who voted Leave can be won over by campaigning issue by issue on the merits of cooperation with our neighbours.

It’s an approach that party members overwhelmingly supported in our recent (with a record-breaking response!) consultation.

At our spring federal conference, we’ll be fleshing out the details of what this means when we debate a motion which sets out our comprehensive plan to reconnect our political and trading relationship with Europe.

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A key internal party reform built from liberal principles

The seventeenth century had a big impact on British liberal thinking. In response to unrepresentative and unaccountable monarchical government, liberal thinkers developed a strong focus on dispersing power so that it was not all held by one individual, opening those who do hold power up to scrutiny and accountability – and in choosing those in power through election. They might not straight away have got to modern standards in all these areas – slight understatement! – but these fundamental principles remain central to how liberals and Liberal Democrats view power, society and government today.

So – fast forward three and a half centuries, and what does all this mean for how Liberal Democrats actually organise themselves in the twenty first century? The challenge from the Thornhill review of our governance arrangements, combined with a wider general sense that perhaps the party’s board at 41 does seem to be rather on the large size, means that proposals to change this are coming to this spring conference. The consultation exercise on them sent this message pretty clearly too. So how does this proposal measure up against these basic liberal principles about the organisation of power?

Let’s start first with the test of democratic election. The proposed new-size Board would have sixteen members, all except four elected directly by party members. (The Leader, President and Vice President elected by all members; the Scottish party convenor and Welsh President, councillor representative, and chair of the Young Liberals elected by all party members in those groups; the FCC chair and FPC vice chair elected initially by all members and then additionally by their colleagues on those committees to the chair / vice chair roles; and three others directly elected. The four elected indirectly, each by a committee of themselves elected party members, are the Chair of the English Party, and Chairs of the Finance (FFRC), Elections (FCEC) and People (FPDC) committees).

Secondly – scrutiny and accountability. Among the options coming to Conference are two different possibilities for new committees specifically to hold the new smaller Board to account (either a “scrutiny committee” of about twenty or a “party council” of about forty) – as well as an option for it being accountable directly Conference. Conference will choose one of these scrutiny and accountability mechanisms.

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Dorothy Thornhill writes: What we must do next to learn the lessons of 2019

The headline “two new MPs so far in this Parliament” is a welcome one. Winning, especially winning with record swings, is what we all want. 

Underneath the headline is a lot of hard work, plenty of tough decisions, and a drive to improve. We should all be thankful to our activists, staff and supporters. 

It is clear to me that the diagnosis and recommendations my team and I set out after the 2019 disaster were right, and that they are being taken seriously. Not least among them was that a Federal Board of 41 members cannot, and should not, be the clear leadership team we need to steer our party and help us all win elections. Something of that size is a talking shop, and talking shops are neither democratic nor effective. 

I therefore welcome the Federal Board’s motion to Spring Conference setting out options for reforming the structure of the Board.

My thanks to those who took part in the supporting consultation, collectively you have been clear that it is time for change. The feedback was crucial in helping the Board refine our options to a sensible number for consideration. With limited time, not all ideas could be brought to the floor. 

Conference is being asked to choose between three options for change, and then finally between reform and the status quo. 

As you can see (below) from the proposed set-up of a new Board, the options deliberately ensure key voices from across the party – geographically, demographically and in other respects – are built in. 

I am pleased that the reform options presented address the concerns highlighted in my review. The options provide for a smaller, more nimble leadership team.

They also retain the democratic selection we cherish while clarifying responsibilities, individual and collective. 

I see in these options a chance to better encourage cooperation. To build a real leadership team. Only when we have that team can our leaders be held collectively accountable by members: currently a missing ingredient. 

That accountability makes for a better democracy for members. Too much power, now, is wielded outside of our official structures, and so outside of accountability. 

I look forward to a rigorous, healthy debate at Conference. This is a complex question and I will be listening hard to colleagues and friends to help make my own decision. My principles will be democracy, accountability, electability, and not letting the best be the enemy of the good.

Organisational change is not easy. For us, though, it is necessary. 

Do see below for a quick summary of the options coming, in more detail, to Spring Conference.

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Only 1 day to go to have your voice heard!

The Party is currently consulting on how to reform the Federal Board.

The voices of members such as yourself are critical if we are to deliver on the recommendations of the 2019 General Election “Thornhill” review. We have already shown progress in Chesham and Amersham, and have an amazing opportunity to deliver another blow to the Tory Government in North Shropshire (volunteer here or donate!) but to be successful in the long term we need to get our own structures right.

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Liberal Democrats adopt definition of Transphobia

The Lib Dems have always believed trans right are human rights. Over the last year it has become clear that the Party needed to explain what that means in practice. 

We know that some parts of the media have been actively trying to smear the Trans community and have promoted scare stories designed to frighten people into rolling back trans rights in general and preventing the reform of the Gender Recognition Act in particular. We want to support members who want to call out transphobic behaviour, and challenge it both in and outside the party. 

It was time for the Party to make its position clear. 

Our Party President, Mark Pack asked the Disciplinary Sub Group to work on this definition. It has taken us some months and many different drafts to produce a definition that we believe will give members an effective way of answering the question ‘What do the Lib Dems believe is transphobic behaviour?’

We have consulted with trans members of the Party, with LGBT+ and with other interested parties. Our colleagues on the DSG have put in suggestions and concerns. We thank them all for their extremely helpful input. We have also drawn on the work done by organisations such as Stonewall and TransActual UK. 

This document was then submitted to the Steering Group of the Federal Board, who adopted the definition of Transphobia unanimously. 

We hope this definition will help guide members who want to support the trans community and call out transphobic behaviour. It will also be key to supporting the Party’s disciplinary processes. It is an important step towards ensuring that in 2020 the Liberal Democrats continue to demonstrate their commitment to Liberal values, as eloquently described in the opening sentence to the preamble to the Party’s constitution.

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.” 

Definition of Transphobia 

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Reducing the size of the Federal Board and giving power to the members

Last week Mark Valladares wrote an article – ‘How the Party is managed – can you be democratic and efficient’ and some in the comments called for a smaller Federal Board.

The Thornhill 2019 Election Review talks of a Federal Board of 40+ members (page 34) which is too large to be a ‘realistic decision-making body’ (page 22) and implies that during a governance review this should be reduced (pages 24 and 49).

Mark Pack in his report on the July Federal Board meeting states that the Federal Board has a membership of 43. The Constitution sets out a …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 30 Comments

The new complaints process – our first year

Embed from Getty Images

When the Lib Dems’ new members’ complaints procedure went live on 1 July 2019, we committed to an independent, fair, member-led process. The Federal Board agreed to review how the system was working at the end of its first year and I’m pleased and proud to say that the first steps in that review has identified some clear positives.

The system is independent. The Federal Board has no role in – or knowledge of – individual complaints. Instead, the Senior Adjudicators’ Team (SAT) leads and advises our volunteers. This team of four specialists, lead by our Lead Adjudicator, Neil Christian, reflects the federal nature of our party and it means there are up to three people from outside the state party of the complaint to provide impartial advice to our volunteers.

It is well-staffed: since our volunteer call last year we’ve trained over 100 volunteers to act as adjudicators, mediators and investigators. That’s well in excess of the 55 volunteers Conference originally agreed we needed, and we are working to train more.

The rules are much more transparent and flexible than they have been in the past. We have spoken to members and party bodies across all the state parties since last July to ensure it works – and to make amendments where it doesn’t. These changes are drafted by the Disciplinary Sub-Group and agreed by Federal Board as needed. The procedure is published on the party website and we welcome input from all members on how we can improve it.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 24 Comments

Time to debate policy whilst the house burns down? Perhaps we should smash the boards instead

That the decision by the Federal Board to delay the leadership contest to 2021 was controversial amongst members is itself a non-controversial statement. WhatsApp groups and email chains have been filled with sometimes sweary complaints regarding the decision, comments about dissatisfied members at risk of leaving the party, and an overall despair at the lethargic and doubt-ridden approach the party has taken to 2020.

That the report into the 2019 General Election car crash was hard-hitting and well-sourced is also non-controversial. It is a good bit of commentary on the reasoning behind the weakening of the Lib Dems since around the time of Kennedy’s removal as leader. It covers a lot of topics familiar both to those who have observed Lib Dem fortunes academically and have had to deal with those fortunes on the ground.

The consistent underpinning theme of the report is the institutional rot that has occurred in party infrastructure, which has been aided – but critically, not caused by – political decisions by various leadership members during the last fifteen years or so.

This is why the U-turn by the Federal Board this week, to take a panicked approach to the leadership election, replacing a longer-term strategic decision which was well articulated by the Party President and others in several places, is so exceptionally concerning. It illustrates the dysfunction outlined by the report perfectly, and does nothing but, at best, delay real action and debate on the report’s themes until the autumn.

What is clearly needed during this extended stint in the political wilderness is time for the lessons of 2019 to fully sink in, and for an empowered President, new CEO and an acting leader (without the distractions of enacting a mandate) to action the recommendations of the report. It requires a strategic approach, not a tactical one.

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Daily View 2×2: 16 April 2020

2 big stories

Alright, we’re locked down. But the question is, how do you return to normal? The German government thinks it has plotted a route, as the Washington Post reports. Buty don’t get too optimistic, these are relative baby steps we’re talking about, capable of being halted without significant difficulty. On the other hand, it’s more of a plan than the British Government have thus far…

There’s still not much sign of Government support reaching businesses, and whilst the news that the Oasis and Warehouse fashion chains have entered into administration will be the headline story, the low takeup of …

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Most of the nation could not care less about us having a leadership election. So, let’s do it.

The Liberal Democrat leadership election should not be delayed until May 2021. We will be going into a crucial election season without direction. Labour will have a new leader trying to rejuvenate the party. The Conservatives will be rallying around the Prime Minister. We, on the other hand, will be soul searching and asking difficult questions that should be getting solved now. How will we convince voters we’re who they should trust to help run their areas, when we cannot even decide at that point what kind of party we want to be?

The mood of the nation is not …

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Getting our finances right – report back from February Board meeting

At our latest meeting, the Federal Board welcomed our newest member, Lisa Smart, who has been elected the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC), taking over from James Gurling. Welcome on Board, Lisa!

We also welcomed back to the Board Tony Harris as Registered Treasurer and Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) and Mike German as Federal Treasurer.

Details of the outcome of elections for other key posts around the party are available on the party website. Congratulations to everyone elected and thank you also to everyone else who applied, helping to give us a strong set of names to choose from.

After our January Board meeting agreed the timings and got the ball rolling on key elements for our success this year, such as an independent elections review and our leadership election, the Board concentrated this time in particular on the Federal Party’s budget.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Fancy being in charge of the party’s finances?

Peter Dunphy, the Chair of the Party’s Federal Finance and Resources Committee, is stepping down after four and a half years in the role.

He’s been an incredibly wise pair of hands, steering the party through some pretty torrid times. The change from being a party of Government with nearly sixty MPs to a party with just eight required careful handling. We’ll miss him in the role. On stepping down, he said:

In case some of you don’t already know I will be standing down as Chair of FFRC and therefore Registered Party Treasurer on 1st July.

I originally notified Party Officers including

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So who’s on the new Federal Board?

The new Federal Board is responsible for setting the strategy of the party. But it can’t do it alone. This strategy has to be passed by Conference – which means that the Board will have to get buy-in from across the party as outlined in Article 5.2 of the Constitution.

The Federal Board shall publicise a timetable for the production of the strategy and its submission for debate by Conference. In preparing the strategy, the Federal Board shall consult widely within the party, including in particular the Parliamentary Parties (as defined in Article 9), all relevant Federal Committees, the State Parties and Specified Associated Organisations.

One the strategy is passed, the Board has to oversee its implementation and report on progress to Conference.

So who are the people who will be charged with such responsibility?

The FB will be chaired by Party President Sal Brinton who starts her second 2 year term on 1st January 2017.

Other members on the Board as of right are:

Leader, Tim Farron

A Vice-Chair of the Federal Policy Committee and Chair of the Federal Conference Committee

Three parliamentarians

One principal local authority councillor (Chris White has been re-elected to this role)

A Liberal Youth representative

English Party Chair (Liz Leffman from 1 January 2017)

Scottish Convener (Sheila Thomson)

Welsh Chair (Rodney Berman)

One person elected by each state party from among its members

The 15 directly elected members announced yesterday, who are:

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What can we learn from the Federal election results?

Yesterday, we learned who party members had chosen to represent them on the main Federal Committees.  These were the first elections held under one member one vote. Previously, only those who had been elected as Conference representatives by their local party could have a say in the direction of the party.

Congratulations to all those who were elected – and commiserations to those who weren’t.

From 2012, Daisy Cooper and Sue Doughty led a process which led to the biggest internal democratic reform in the party’s history. In 2014, Conference accepted their proposals to give every member a vote. We now have not far off twice as many members as we did back then in the last days of the coalition.

So how did these elections go, and what can we learn from them?

Who was elected?

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