The Elephant Interviews…

Hello, fluffy friends.

So… who wants to interview the Leader of the Liberal Democrats with me?

Such a lot has happened since last I wrote to you.

Sir Mr the Merciless has taken the LONG WALK; Mr Frown has shot himself in BOTH FEET; and Mr Balloon is still RUBBISH.

The Liberal Democrats will soon have a NEW Party Leader, either Mr Chris or Mr Nick, and you may have already read that I (OK, and some other people) went along to INTERVIEW both of them. I think that the interviews went RATHER WELL, and certainly showed both candidates at their best. The question is: do we want that to be the end of it? Because I am thinking that this might be something that is worth keeping going.

What is EXCITING is that BOTH candidates have said so too, and what is more, said so ENTHUSIASTICALLY. That is RIGHT: the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats (whoever wins) has agreed that we should carry on having a regular “Bloggers Interview Panel”.

What this would mean would be that several times a year, about half-a-dozen people – bloggers but otherwise normal Party members – will get to meet and quiz the person at the very top of the Liberal Democrats: ME!

Er, and the Party Leader.

Hopefully this will be a tremendous opportunity, a chance to open up a new dialogue between the top of the Party and the membership, and a lot of FUN.

The thing is: who gets to come along?

When we started this, and credit where credit is due, it was Sir Mr the Merciless who first invited us, the panel was made up of the people short-listed for the Liberal Democrat Blogger of the Year Award. When the Leadership Contest was called and we got in touch to organise our leadership interviews, we added other prize-winners to get a bit more diversity. And for a bit more gender balance we have added some more ladies too.

But increasingly it is looking less like a panel of nonimated Top Bloggers and more like some people I have, er, met.

That’s not very fair and it’s not very Liberal Democrat.

So, that is what I am here to ask you about. How do we arrange for a wider and more representative selection of the Liberal online community to be able to take part?

The FIRST important question is how many people would WANT to take part, who would want to have a crack at interviewing the Party Leader?

There are one or two obvious basic rules. Panellists would have to be party members; they would have to have a diary published on Lib Dem Blogs Aggregated, and they would have to write up the interview for their online diary.

The SECOND question after that is how do we get a reasonable panel out of the people who want to have a go?

What seems to work well is a panel of about a half-a-dozen people for each interview.

Continuity of panellists is an advantage, enabling people to follow up on points raised in earlier interviews, or just to develop a better relationship with the Leader and the other bloggers, but fresh ideas are also necessary. And we want to have a broad range of perspectives: young and old, North and South; ladies and gentlemen and elephants.

So here is my PROPOSAL. I think that each year we should pick a pool of about a dozen people, who will go on the panel. The Winner of the Blogger of the Year Contest gets a place, obviously. Perhaps the Winner of Best New Blog and Best Blog by an Elected Person should have places too, to get some different perspectives. Maybe even all the category winners! And at the same time we should run a poll or nonimations through Lib Dem Voice for another ten places. Add to that we will co-opt highest placed runners up, so that the pool always has at least two men and two women and two people who’ve not been on before.

Once we have our pool we can set up a rota, probably by drawing lots at the start – people can always do swapsies if they want to – to make sure that everyone gets at least a couple of goes on the panel.

I shall organise it and chair it and provide the DOUGHNUTS, but if I don’t get nonimated then I will BUTTON my TRUNK and won’t ask any questions.

Do you think that this sounds FAIR and FLUFFY? Please comment below!

Remember, my aim is to come up with a plan that will be OPEN and FAIR and bring in LOTS of people, but at the same time is EASY enough to be managed by a SOFT TOY.

Obviously there ARE other possibilities.

For example, I thought QUITE HARD about just organising the interview (subject to the Leader’s convenience) and then advertising the time and date here on Lib Dem Voice to make the invitation completely open to Lib Dem Bloggers.

That LOOKS like it would be more straight-forward and democratic, but it’s actually PRETTY COMPLICATED to think of a way of picking out the applicants that is both FAIR and SEEN TO BE FAIR by everyone who might want to take part. (I am not a one elephant Electoral Commission, you know!)

You might also want a say on whether there should be some sort of TERM LIMIT, like the Americans have for their Monkey-in-Chief and like you can’t win Blogger of the Year two years running. Personally I think NOT – if you are good enough to get nonimated time after time, then so you should be! And making sure there are two new people each time should keep things from becoming STALE! But you might DISAGREE!

We should also think about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. So far we have held three of our interviews in LONDON. This is because it is CONVENIENT, what with all the MPs working in that big old CLUBHOUSE there. But it might not be convenient for YOU – especially if you are blogging from EDINBURGH. We would have to think CAREFULLY about how – as an AMATEUR organisation – we could make that EASIER.

We did, though, do our FIRST interview – with Sir Mr the Merciless – when we were in BRIGHTON at Conference, and this might be a GOOD place and time to organise future interviews. Conference, I mean, not just Brighton!

And we shouldn’t necessarily limit ourselves to JUST interviewing the Party Leader. There are three candidates for the role of Party President, for example. Nor should we forget that there are Liberal Party Leader’s in Wales and in Scotland as well, and a TOPPING candidate for London Mayor, and also Liberal Democrats actually IN POWER in councils across the country, including major cities like Liverpool and Newcastle.

I hope very much that you will agree that this is step forward in RECONNECTING people to their democracy. Hooray for the Liberal Democrats, leading the way again!

If you have ideas or would like to get involved, please leave me a FLUFFY MESSAGE in the comments column below.

If there are enough people who want a go, then I shall ask Mr Lord Deputy Stephen very nicely if he wouldn’t mind helping me to organise a POLL.

I think that this is going to be VERY EXCITING!

Love from
Millennium

(Read my Diary!)

* Millennium Elephant keeps an online DIARY, twice short-listed for Lib Dem Blog of the Year, which you can read here.

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33 Comments

  • Sounds like an excellent idea. May I suggest that we also ensure that we have at least one blogger on the panel from Scotland, Wales and England.
    The Scottish & Welsh parties often have different perspectives due to us having our own devolved bodies and being in four way fights (instead of just fighting Lab/Con). This would be a useful way of ensuring that our new leader is aware of the issues that affect us as these are often different to the issues that affect Lib Dems south of/across the border.

  • Grammar Police 19th Dec '07 - 12:56pm

    To make up for inefficient membership secretaries, it’s easy enough to join online: https://www.libdems.org.uk/support/join.html?ref=leader

    There is a big pic of Nick at the top of the page though ;o)

  • James Graham 19th Dec '07 - 4:33pm

    I’ve often thought it might be nice to have a non-local party for people to join who for whatever reason don’t want to be a member of a local party. I for one feel I’m currently between local parties – I’ve bounced around from place to place over the past decade and for the past four years have only considered the place where I live to be temporary.

    In terms of party involvement (once you no longer have LDYS as an alternative) it gets tricky. Local parties vary enormously from place to place in terms of how pro-active they are at welcoming new members and I’ve not been a conference rep now for four years purely on the basis that no-one in my local party has known me well enough to vote for me (in fact, my current local party hasn’t even invited me to the AGM – so much for 2008).

    It would be nice to have an alternative association which I could get involved in, particularly in a place like London where the transport infrastructure means that local can be very broad indeed.

  • Grammar Police 19th Dec '07 - 5:01pm

    I can see how that would be useful where the local party is rubbish, but would that not mean that rubbish local parties stayed rubbish, as good people would just get involved with the alternative association instead? Which is all well and good, apart from the fact that local parties organise local election campaigns etc.

    An alternative could be to amalgamate some local parties into larger unions? Then again that might mean that some areas get ignored completely. I’d love for Merton to be combined with Kingston, Sutton or Richmond, but then again, not if they expected Merton activists to always troop off to their target areas and never do any campaigning in Mitcham & Morden or Wimbledon . . . I guess you’d do it with guarantees like “min one target ward in each parliamentary constituency”, “£X budget per year” and “X number of action days per year”.

  • Grammar Police 19th Dec '07 - 6:55pm

    Hello,
    I don’t disagree with you Mat (indeed, I think Connect is a brilliant idea and I quite like the idea of a roving band of activists – a sort of more formalised version of the London activists list).

    Clearly, helping in other areas is a good training ground, and helping in other areas is good for targetting.

    However, I think we’d run the risk of hollowing out local parties of key and skilled activists. Local parties are the groups that currently run the campaigns and select the local and national candidates – and their good or poor performance is therefore very important.

    You mention that you’d have liked to have done more locally – whilst we’re not the best local party, I assume this was largely because of time limitations, as there’s actually a fair amount going on and we also try to encourage people to get involved across London too when there are opportunities. So, even if this pan-London body had existed, would you have done more?

    If, instead, not being involved locally is more about there not seeming a point because where one lives is relatively weak, then why should any of the band of regional activists be inspired to help in weak places either, ever? And even if they do, we get results where names get known, where people’s problems are actually sovled, where we actually talk about local issues – not where a gang of Lib Dems turn up once or twice a year.

    We might just end up with a situation where the ambitious and the uber-activists (not necessarily the same) are formally encouraged to abandon where they live, campaign in strong areas, and leave weak local parties well alone.

    As I understand it, one can currently be a member of any local party, regardless of where you live, and there’s enough information on a regional level of what’s going on round about if you’re interested in it. And local parties should encourage people to get out a bit more too.

    But similarly, if you’re keen, engaged, have some spare time on your hands, then I think the party should encourage you to be active locally – either where you live or where you work – as it’s only through constant, consistent work and good people that we can turn around those areas we underperform in.

  • Grammar Police 19th Dec '07 - 8:26pm

    Fair enough, but is campaigning on a regional level actually any different to campaigning on a local level? What could you have done for London or the Party that you couldn’t have done in some form for the local group?

    Indeed, we need people with a more regional-based eye to make sure that our campaigns (and by this I don’t just mean Focuses – a Focus is just a newsletter, a campaign is doing things that actually change people’s lives) aren’t just all about bin collection or damaged pavements.

  • Grammar Police 19th Dec '07 - 8:28pm

    I think we need to get local parties away from thinking that “local” campaigning means just bins and pavements – this is boring to many people.

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