The future of the English Party

The English Party has set out its governance review, with the aim of making it accessible to members and easy to engage with, whilst providing least distraction from current campaigning and the fighting of elections and by-elections. We recognise the importance of ensuring the party in England is relevant and accountable to members, has clarity of purpose and operation and is effective and efficient and have worked hard to embrace these ideals in the range of proposals being put to members.

The options for the future of the party in England have been complied by a review group set up in autumn 2016 by the English Council Executive and comprising representatives from all eleven regions. The members of the English Review Group, as we are known, come to the process with a range of professional and party experience, including both long-standing and relatively new members. Within the group, we have differing opinions regarding the future shape of the English Party but have all have worked together to come up with a range of proposals for consultation.

The proposals outline four options for how the future party in England might look and function, they include:

  • Evolution: The English Party remains broadly as currently constituted with a similar structure in terms of roles and responsibilities but its operation is changed to enhance its clarity of operation, delivery and relevance to members.
  • Transformation: The English Party is transformed into a streamlined campaigning-oriented organisation focused on building the numbers of councillors, London Assembly Members and MPs. It takes back responsibility for many functions it has traditionally delegated to the Federal Party and in turn transfers greater responsibility to the regions.
  • Abolition 1: The English Party will be abolished and its key functions absorbed by the regions.
  • Abolition 2: The English Party will be abolished and its key functions absorbed by the Federal Party.

Members are encouraged to read the full versions of the proposals and indicate their preference either for one option or by expressing an order of preference, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 none of the above.  There is an opportunity to comment in a free form box on the survey.

The consultation will run until Sunday 26 March.  The results and comments will be fed into the review and analysed by the English Review Group with a view to bringing a detailed governance proposal to English Council in June 2017.

There are a number of ways in which members can get involved and/ or respond:

  • Attend the Spring Conference English Review Group consultation session 3 – 5.30 pm on Friday 17 March Meeting Room 6, Novotel, York
  • Visit the English Review Group at its conference exhibition stand 17-19 March
  • By completing the on-line survey accessed via the governance review consultation paper. You will need to be logged in to the members’ pages at http://www.libdems.org.uk/.
  • By post: English Review Group, Lib Dem HQ, 8-10 Great George Street, LONDON SW1P 3AE
  • Or by emailing the ERG chair [email protected] with your comments.

It is vitally important we have a party and structure fit for purpose, the need for genuinely ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’ voices to be heard is greater than any time in my lifetime; with your help, we can create that structure and work together efficiently and effectively to mobilise our party and defend our values.

* Sally is Chair of the English Review Group, Chair of West Herts Liberal Democrats and PPC for Hemel Hempstead.

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15 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Mar '17 - 10:09pm

    Abolition 1 and 2 are outrageous ! There is such a country as England , it is to debase it to call it nothing but a collection of regions. It is to elevate it to call it the same as the UK ,1and 2 , nonsense !

    Just when UKIP are collapsing , and Brexit full throttle, it is a crying out for a voice of reason in the uk widely, and the anti EU dominated England, that is not served by such silliness.

    What with dredging up faith schools, and other pointless debates at Spring conference, the party needs a lesson in priorities !

  • Home rule for the White Rose county !!!!

  • I’m with Lorenzo here.
    The Party appears obsessed with it’s own internal identities and long held squabbles and pet topics?
    This does not seem particularly helpful at present.

    Let me try to paint a picture if I may:
    Let’s imagine a lot of very skilled lumberjack’s frantically busy cutting down trees.
    They are obsessed with their own particular tree,
    They cut it, perfectly, they shape it into things of beauty, but it’s never quite detailed enough, they are always glancing over their shoulder ever worried about the lumberjack next door in case their tree is more beautiful or the details of their cut is better.
    This goes on for weeks, months, years, everyone mentally ranking themselves and internally pitting their trees against everyone else’s, agonising (like a prize pumpkin grower at the local fair), in case the detail of their tree is not good enough in other’s eyes. Will I be respected enough, am I good enough?
    Then one day exhausted, a couple of the lumberjacks take a break and walk, slowly at first and then with more of a spring in their step, free of the intensity of all the detailed analysis and competition.
    Eventually they reach the top of the nearest hill where they are able to look down on the whole forest – they both sit down exhausted and suddenly realise they are able to see the ‘big picture’ laid out in front of them, for the first time in a long long time.
    They look at each other, in a synchronised moment of realisation……………………
    And to think, we’ve being spending all that time and energy cutting down trees.

  • Well, Andy if that’s true, anything that streamlines bureaucracy, makes the whole more effective, stops people obsessing about their little trees and allows greater focus on the shape of the big picture must be a good thing and should be freeing both energy and time wise

  • Antony Watts 7th Mar '17 - 8:11am

    I am new to the LibDems and I have no idea what you are talking about. Is this a LibDem “English Party: or the BNP?

    Stop this crazy sub-national squabbling and turn to the political top-down issues in a wider world.

    There is today only one issue to face, that of Remaining in the Europe Union. That’s where all voices must trend and shout out loud.

  • Cllr Ron Tindall 7th Mar '17 - 8:35am

    Who realises the English Delegates only meet twice a year (last time I looked). To achieve our objectives we need electoral success. I have more faith in ALDC than I do the English Party. I am with Andy Hinton on this one. Some functions up and some down but if forced to choose, down to Region and closer to the members.

  • One crucial difference between the English Party and the Scottish and Welsh parties is that it has handed responsibility for policy back to the Federal Party. This is the aspect that interests most members – far more than budgets or constitutions.
    The ‘Federal’ Spring Conference later this month has six policy motions on the agenda. Two of them are only applicable to England; two are applicable to England and Wales; and only two are also applicable to Scotland. I wonder what delegates from Scotland think of that.
    Therefore, the way that party members in England will perceive the English Party is strongly dependent on how and where policy for Engliand is decided. I am not convinced that there would be enough support (and attendance) at separate English Conferences. However, it might be possible to hold an English Conference adjacent to a Federal Conference (something that I believe the Scottish Party has done when the Federal Conference has been in Glasgow).
    Therefore, the forum for development of policy for England needs to be at the forefront for decisions on the future of the English Party. In the Governance Review consultation paper, it seems to be consequential to discussions of options for administrative arrangements.

  • lloyd harris 7th Mar '17 - 10:01am

    It appears that there are comments here based on gut feel rather than having read the at least relevant parts of the paper http://www.libdems.org.uk/english-party-governance-review
    It is well written, isn’t that long and summarises each option and what it means very well together with their pros and challenges.

    I believe that we should read first and comment second otherwise we will end up making decisions in the way Donald Trump does – i.e. based on no evidence at all.

  • Tony Dawson 7th Mar '17 - 4:27pm

    The Liberal Democrats are a Party which believes in regional devolution. No one has ever adequately explained the (alleged) point of the ‘English Party’.

  • Some combination of abolish 1&2 makes the most sense for the reasons Andy states

  • Simon Pike is right the English Party handed responsibility for policy making to the Federal Conference, but between 1987 and about 1993 there was an English conference to make policy for England which I attended a few times. It would be held on the day before Federal Conference and I think it was held in both Cardiff and Edinburgh but I could be wrong.

    What I think is missing from the consultation paper is any discussion of “State Parties” within the Federal constitution and the fact that each “State Party” has one or two representatives directly elected to some Federal Committees. I think there are 10 regional parties in England. If we abolish the English Party and these 10 regional parties are “State Parties” then the representation of England of the Federal Committee will be expanded by a factor of 10 and so outnumbering the combined Scottish and Welsh State Party representatives by a factor of 5 to 1.

    I have briefly looked at the consultation paper and a combination of options 1 and 2 would be my preferred option – bringing in OMOV for the majority of members of the English Executive, keeping a balance of regional chairs and directly elected members (10 Regional Chairs, 11 directly elected), keeping the English Council as a representative body elected from the regions with OMOV and keeping English Policy being made at Federal Conference. With the addition that the English Chair should report to every Regional Conference to make the existence and work of the English Party more widely known. It should keep responsibility for membership and providing support and advice to regions and local parties, but it should pass more money down to the regions. (Another thing missing from the consultation paper is last year’s expenditure of the English Party so we can see what it spends its money on.)

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