Your last chance to have your say on Vince’s party reforms…for now, at least

The consultation on Vince’s party reforms ends today.

If you haven’t already responded, you can do so here.

It’s really important that as many party members as possible make their views known.

If you are not sure about the issues, we’ve published lots of articles with varying viewpoints about this over the past few weeks and months. There’s a list of them here.

Here are some highlights?

Vince himself wrote for us to say why he thinks we need to change:

The Liberal Democrats have a long and proud history of approaching these transformational moments head on — by localising power, fostering diversity and nurturing creativity. We fight for our fundamental values of liberty, equality and community. In short, we live by the very principles that successful movements are built upon.

Earlier this year, we set a new direction for our party, by passing a motion at conference to “Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities at every level of society.”

It is time to make good on this directive — to transform our party into a wider liberal movement that will bring positive change to Britain.

But James Baillie had concerns about party democracy:

Meaningful democracy requires a level playing field and a fair debate – party associated organisations and member groups are vital to policy formation at conference, for example. So how are the leadership going to ensure that their proposed wider movement provides an intellectual space for liberal ideas rather than just an echo chamber for the leadership of the day? Will member organisations get access and the ability to regularly communicate with Lib Dem supporters, so that we actually get? Will member campaigns be able to present an opposition case to any member ballots, on an equal footing to the proposition?

I have more questions on this topic than space in an article to write them down, and it’s not simply a case of the devil being in the detail – the issues posed above are absolutely questions of vision, of whether we want an informed, participatory future for our movement or a cut-down, centralised shell that can bypass members and use supporter ballots as a legitimising prop.

Maria Munir said it was time to shake up the party:

The argument that those who are worthy will inevitably progress to the helm is outdated and untrue. With a snap General Election seeming unlikely, we’re not getting a huge contingent of MPs any time soon. If we are to choose our next leader, and really choose them this time, we need more competition. We need people who have been candidates, in local and national elections, to be able to put their name forward. We need new supporters, bringing their wealth of expertise, to reform our image. We need young people to influence the direction of the Party in a way that acknowledges that older age does not necessarily mean most experienced. We need a bold vision which means that underrepresented groups can direct our Party into a braver future. This isn’t a threat for us. This is a threat for the other political parties out there, who know we have a lot to gain from such radical changes.

Jennie Rigg had concerns about the meaningfulness and authenticity of the consultation process:

We have also been assured repeatedly that these changes will not be imposed on us, that we will have chance to debate them, that we are a democratic party, but here is what I, as a member of Federal Conference Committee, have seen:

– a total lack of communication with the federal committees about this
– all the MPs being brought out to bang the drum for how marvellous these ideas are
– an exponentially larger number of emails to members and supporters alike about this than there were about conference
– a survey which amounted to “do you agree with us that the leader’s ideas are marvellous, or do you want to doom the party forever?”
– insinuations that anyone who so much as raises a question about the proposed reforms is a saboteur, or not behind the leader

Here is what I have not seen:
– any meaningful attempt to engage with the existing party structures
– any meaningful attempt to consult with members
– any meaningful attempt to listen to anything existing members have to say.

Whatever your view, time is running out so complete the consultation today.

What happens next?

Tomorrow and on Monday 22nd, Federal Board will discuss the consultation results. Vince wants a member ballot and a special conference to approve these proposals before the end of January. These things come with a fairly hefty price tag, approaching six figures. It will be for the Board to discuss whether this is the most cost-effective way of doing it, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the proposals.

Federal People Development Committee will also be discussing this on Wednesday.

Some people may feel that with the national focus on the sharp end of Brexit, we should not be sticking our own heads up our navels and thinking about party rules because that will not endear us to the very people we are trying to attract. Others feel that this is so urgent and so critical to our future that we can’t afford to hang case another party comes along and takes all our potential supporters.

If you want to let Federal Board members know how you feel ahead of their decisions, please do. That list isn’t quite up to date, but I think I’ve got most of the changes below. Most are easily contactable on social media and are actively participating in the threads in various groups on Facebook. 

They are:

Vince Cable

Sal Brinton

Dinesh Dhamija

Joyce Onstad

Neil Fawcett

Paul Strasburger

Christine Jardine MP (replaces Alistair Carmichael)

Catherine Bearder MEP

Liz Leffman

Sheila Ritchie

Cadan ap Tomos

Chris White

Simon McGrath

Finn Conway (replaces Thomas Gravatt)

Elaine Bagshaw

Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Caron Lindsay (that’s me)

Alice Thomas

Alex Hegenbarth (replaces Helen Flynn)

Mark Pack

Nasser Kassell

Victoria Marsom

Gordon Lishman

Pauline Pearce

Candy Piercy

Robert Woodthorpe-Brown

Geoff Payne

Miranda Roberts

Jeremy Hargreaves

Tony Harris

James Gurling

Helena Cole



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I think the supporters scheme is worth trying. If it proves to be unsuccessful, if and once implemented, then the party should have the right to close the scheme. Having exit strategies built in may make members more happy about giving these reforms a try.

  • Graham Jeffs 14th Oct '18 - 3:50pm

    Where are our priorities? Where should our focus be for using scarce resources (people and money)?

    This whole escapade seems Depressing, Useless and Dysfunctional.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Oct '18 - 5:44pm

    I had not looked at this survey before but I used your link to do so. It is utterly appalling. More than half of it is no more than a blatant attempt to collect what people now call Vote ID – or in this case perhaps Member ID though it seems anyone can take part and even pretend to be a member (I wonder if people are being cross-checked?) What is the point and purpose of all this – rather than Member Democracy it seems like Member Manipulation. Then all the controversial matters are half-hidden in a general question – “do you support a scheme for people to register support for the party?”

    I don’t know anyone who disagrees with such a scheme subject to safeguards. The question is whether anyone can just walk in off the street and vote for the party leader, or candidates, or even come to conference and vote for policy!!!

    This whole operation is a shoddy top-down attempt to bounce the party into some crazy things – and to be honest having looked in detail at this survey (but refused to take part in such a shabby affair) it is not even being done is a very professional way. (And that is being kind).

    (And by the way if you don’t agree that the party can use all the information you provide more or less as it wishes, you are blocked out of the survey altogether!)

  • Lloyd Harris 15th Oct '18 - 7:48am

    What I find annoying is that there are two proposals – an internal one from the Federal People Development Committee for a supporters scheme (without votes) & Vince’s one for changes in leader rules, supporters with votes etc.

    This isn’t being made clear and hope the internal proposal isn’t lost – this one could probably be done without any special conference. Personally I wish our leader would back off and let the FPDC one get off the ground.

  • Lloyd Harris 15th Oct '18 - 7:51am

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