The report you’ve all been waiting for…

Jo Christie-Smith wins a cookie for being the only blogger to spot my half-reference this morning to the executive summary of the Bones Commission report, now on general release as part of the conference material. It’s here and some choice quotes follow.

On “achieving coherence, alignment and focussed resources”:

In the vast majority of voluntary organisations in the UK there is an established difference in role between the top governance body, the volunteer organisation and the professionals they employ. Our constitution reflects this as a principle but in its separation of powers it effectively allows the professional party to assume a role of equal importance to those democratically elected. This was a significant theme in a proportion of the submissions we received, often manifesting itself in accusations of a lack of transparency in key decisions. This is unhealthy and possibly unfair but has to be addressed.

On building a network party, not just a membership party:

…membership was defined by one respondent to the Commission as joining a ‘leaflet delivery cult’, by another as ‘just being asked for cash by Chris Rennard’. It is clear that we lose members needlessly through there being few if any ‘benefits’ associated with membership ( a benefit being defined as something other than leaflet delivery and the unloading of cash!)

Most importantly we must treat our volunteers better – across the range of activities they do for the party, be it standing as a PPC in a target seat, being a party officer in a development seat, delivering leaflets or playing a part in the policy making process. Far too often our volunteers feel both used and under valued. This must change and our report outlines a number ways in which we propose this could happen.

Embrace the ‘supporter’ as well as the member as a valid group closely linked into the party with rights and connections that can act as a conduit through which we encourage membership growth.

Achieving greater integration & thus maximizing the benefits of the party’s limited resources in technology. Many submissions highlighted the frustrations of the present technology used by the party (particularly EARS and Woodings). The Commission propose the creation of a Technology Board to urgently move towards greater integration and investment in a stable and reliable technological platform to underpin our networking and campaigning.

Building engagement capability. Our members and supporters could be engaged as organised bloggers, commentators on on-line news sites and phoners networks where we can engage other communities (on-line aficionados of political comment and those who listen to radio phoneins are two suggestions here) with our perspectives and distinctive positions.

On reaching out beyond our traditional support:

We need to identify and allocate resources now to the development of an activist and voter base in seats we want to win in the general election after next. This is a pivotal role for the state and regional parties and they need to be encouraged to focus on this as a matter of urgency with a priority to identify someone/some people with leadership skills to support and develop a local team… We specifically propose a federal ‘roving campaign team’ which is able to go into seats where we have unfulfilled potential and work with the local and regional parties to try and release that potential.

On widening and deepening the candidate pool:

Simplify and accelerate the process for getting into the candidate pool…  we have to show a flexibility in looking for seats where we can select later (e.g. with a retiring incumbent) and an appreciation also of the commitment that can be given in the early stages of being a PPC, particularly those with child-care responsibilities or career issues that may limit hands on involvement at first.

On investing in leadership:

Throughout the points above we have consistently emphasised the need for better development of candidates (and of those elected to office) as a key requirement for achieving the MP goal. We believe the proposals for a ‘Leadership Academy,’ developed recently should become the focal point in this regard for how we invest in capability development and in how we can identify and develop those with the greatest potential.

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  • Hywel Morgan 14th Aug '08 - 5:23pm

    Apart from the fact that it isn’t the report we’ve all been waiting for – just the executive summary of it.

    If you were an opposition councillor and the ruling party tried that sort of trick they’d get slaughtered.

  • Alix Mortimer 14th Aug '08 - 9:51pm


    Eh? I said it was the executive summary, non?


    H’well, yes. But I am, I suppose, relieved that it’s no worse than it is, and I’m positively encouraged by the fact that it addresses the whole leaflet-delivery-cult question.

    It doesn’t go far enough, in my mind, towards the vision of liberalism as a movement, but at least it does recognise that the party-as-membership structure is dead and that supporters need to be cultivated, and volunteers properly rewarded.

    Also, the implication in the “reaching out beyond traditional support” bit is that targetting as we know it is going to get a redefinition, which can only be welcome.

  • Bones says: “To persuade voters that we are best for Britain, the party itself has to be clear on why it is structured as it is.”


    If voters think we are only interested in contemplating our internal structure…. They will run a mile!

  • Hywel Morgan 14th Aug '08 - 11:55pm

    “Eh? I said it was the executive summary, non?”

    Yes – I wasn’t aiming at you but the party leadership who think the way to win support for change is to do it as covertly as possible. AIUI at least one SAO explicitly mentioned in the report hadn’t seen it as of about a week ago

  • Painfully Liberal 14th Aug '08 - 11:56pm

    Why the hell do people these days feel always feel the need to diss Focus deliveries? Frankly a couple of hours delivering Focuses does more to further the cause of liberalism than every blog post on the internet.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Aug '08 - 12:39am

    “Eh? I said it was the executive summary, non?”

    I think you should insist on the right to write your own headlines.

  • Rob Blackie 15th Aug '08 - 9:25am

    The candidate development point is quite right though.

    We do a bit for our target seat candidates – but relatively little (beyond the excellent conference training) for everyone else.

  • Painfully Liberal 15th Aug '08 - 9:55am

    Indeed the quality of Focuses varies considerably (side note – we have various Blog awards, why not some sort of best Focus competition?) and they are indeed aimed at a different audience to the online communication methods.

    Sorry if I was a little aggresive in my earlier post it’s just that I do get a little annoyed when Focuses and their delivery are used as some sort of lazy shorthand for the problems of our party. Particularly the occasional condescending observation one gets on the internet.

    Speaking as someone charged with arranging our local deliveries, I find that it’s hard enough to find people willing to chip in and can be difficult and embarrasing trying to jolly people into it. The last thing we need is others disparaging its worth.

  • Grammar Police 15th Aug '08 - 10:07am

    Agreed PL, agreed. We find that our non-member supporters are often much happier to deliver than even our new members, let alone the ones who’ve been in the party for years. I suppose members feel they already contribute through their membership fees. The joys of working through our D&Ps in the rain (as we did last Saturday) are few – but it’s really motivating to come back with a clutch of new deliverers, who really were just waiting to be asked.

  • Grammar Police 15th Aug '08 - 10:47am

    Of course the party should be better at utilising people’s particular skills – and there should be an easy way for people to volunteer their more specialist skills (and the volunteer time bank seems a particularly good idea for this)*

    But it’s a simple fact that a large part of a local party’s role is to deliver our message(s) – whether that’s through the press, in letters, emails, or even Focuses. Sure we have to develop that message, do the casework, run the campaigns, write the leaflets/emails etc, canvass and talk to people on the doorstep, administer the party, work on committees – but most of this requires some level of communicating to the public.

    We mustn’t go too far the other way, from the party who never asks for anything but delivering leaflets, to the one that never asks anyone to deliver leaflets!

    *As someone trying to engage as many members of his local party as possible it’s actually incredibly difficult. People are much more likely to respond to direct, individualised requests for assistance than mass mail/email – even if you’re looking for a particular skill. Unless you know what skills people have, how can you ask . . . ?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Aug '08 - 11:44am

    “I presume you do understand i-r-o-n-y because you employ it in your comment. Why, then, can you not detect it in my headline?”

    Well, I wasn’t the only one who failed to detect it!

    But, as ever on Lib Dem Voice, the reader is always wrong …

  • Dominic Hannigan 15th Aug '08 - 11:52am

    apologies if I missed it in my skim through, but where is any mention of/recognition of devolution and how these reccomendations will work in a federal party system?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Aug '08 - 1:02pm

    I love the bit about other committees being required to “delegate” their powers to Clegg’s COG, and in return being able to “approve and scrutinise” (in that order!) the COG’s decisions.

    Give up your powers to me, and I will allow you to approve what I do with them!

  • David Morton 21st Aug '08 - 3:34pm

    I think this raises a number of isues best discussed in private but having read the executive Summary twice my initial response was.

    1. Its strong on listing problems but has very few solutions.

    2. Overall the lack of detail makes it difficult to make any real judgement.

    3. Very weak on values.

    4. Isn’t tis kind of introspection better timed for just after an Election rather than just before one?

    5. The very specific suggestion re COG doesn’t flow fro the analysis. I fact I feel vaguely insulted by the sugestion that the report hasn’t been written to fit this idea rather than this idea coming from the report.

    I await the full thing with interest.

  • David Morton 21st Aug '08 - 4:18pm

    Ok. I made that bit up.

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