What happened in the elections for important Lib Dem bodies this month? Liberal Democrat Newswire #28 had the answers, and you can now read it full below.
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Results out for key Lib Dem internal elections
Welcome to the 28th edition of my newsletter about the Liberal Democrats, a bonus mid-month mini-edition on the results of an important set of internal Liberal Democrat elections for bodies such as the party’s Federal Policy Committee (FPC).
Who won? Who lost? Was there an ideological shift? Read on to find out…
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In this newsletter:
Controversy over conduct of elections
Elections have just been carried out to five party bodies in a ballot of Liberal Democrat conference representatives.
Traditionally carried out by means of a postal ballot, this time the contests were carried out with a mix of postal ballots and electronic voting. The introduction of electronic voting saved the party considerable sums of money but has generated some controversy, with many people complaining that they did not receive their e-voting instructions and, not having been warned that this switch was happening, not knowing they needed to ask for replacement email or paper ballots.
There also appears to have been a significant drop in turnout in the elections. The party has not published official figures for the number of votes issued, but the number of votes actually cast in the contests was down by around a quarter on the last contests, in 2010. Part of that may be explained by their being fewer voting conference reps in 2012 than 2010, but the sliding scale used to determine how many voting reps each local party receives dampens the effect of changes in party membership levels and there has not been a similar change in the level of conference reps going to conference.
Party President Tim Farron has already promised on social media that the usual post-elections review of their conduct will look closely at the questions of who did or didn’t get ballot papers and the impact on turnout of electronic voting. There is also a growing debate about whether future elections should see the vote given to all party members and not just conference reps.
The elections were for the ‘directly elected’ members of the bodies. Most of them also have members who get on via other means, e.g. Parliamentary representatives elected by the MPs. Full details of how each committee is constituted are in the party’s constitution.
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The Federal Executive (FE) is the body charged with directing, co-ordinating and implementing the work of the Federal Party. It has a rather mixed reputation for effectiveness, although President Tim Farron, who chairs it, is widely praised for making the meetings run smoothly.
Fifteen people were directly elected to the committee, for a two year term of office. That means there will be one more set of FE elections before the next general election and hence any post-election negotiations in which the FE plays a key role. However, this FE will in post during most of the preparations for the next election.
Here are the list of people elected, ranked in the order in which they passed quota and with the number of first preferences they received in brackets after their name:*
David Rendel (56) +
People marked with a + were incumbents running again.
Three incumbents were defeated – Susan Juned, Candy Piercy and Chris White – of whom Candy Piercy’s defeat was probably the most surprising as she is widely known across the party for writing (and more recently, co-authoring with myself) the party’s general election agents manual and for running excellent training courses.
Also amongst the defeated candidates was Lembit Opik, whose comeback bid featured a manifesto promising that he was “older and wiser”.
The new faces include some with very long party experience, such as Keith House who worked at party HQ back in the 1990s running the membership operation. Daisy Cooper’s election is one of the most impressive, having run an energetic campaign and she had one of the clearest and strongest manifestos in the booklet distributed alongside the ballot papers.
Two people elected in 2010 did not restand: Evan Harris and James Graham (who had since resigned from the FE). Both were strongly identified with the Social Liberal Forum (SLF)** part of the party, as were defeated incumbents Chris White and Susan Juned. However, with Caron Lindsay, Daisy Cooper, Martin Tod and Keith House all also SLF supporters, there was no significant shift in the political balance of the elected posts.
Neither Liberal Left nor Liberal Reform, the two newer party groups, were strongly associated with any of the winning candidates (or outgoing incumbents).
* The elections were carried out using STV. Where two or more people were elected in the same round I have ordered them based on their vote totals. The order in which people passed quota is only a rough measure of their relative popularity as this was an ordinary STV count rather than one using the special rules for ordering the list of people elected, as used for party list selections. If that sentence means nothing to you, don’t worry – just remember that both the ordering of names and the numbers in brackets are only a rough guide to who was most popular.
Federal Policy Committee
The Federal Policy Committee (FPC) is responsible for the production of the policy papers that are debated by Conference and for writing the General Election Manifesto, in consultation with the Parliamentary Party.
Again fifteen people were directly elected to the committee for a two year term of office. That means this committee will be in charge of the policy process during all the main manifesto preparations, including the setting up of the manifesto drafting body. There will however be one more set of elections before the FPC gets to settle the final wording of the manifesto.
Here are the list of people elected, ranked and marked as above:
Chris Rennard (97)
With seven people newly elected, the FPC elections saw considerable change, including the election of Liberal Democrat peer and former party Chief Executive Chris Rennard. The popular mandate he secured in this election cements his recent return to an influential role in the party.
Four incumbents were defeated, including the highest profile figure associated with the Liberal Left, Linda Jack. However, also amongst the defeated was Mike German, usually very loyal to the party leadership, so there was no overall clear swing to or away from those supportive of the Coalition.
Also defeated was maverick and imaginative policy-maker David Boyle and, perhaps most surprisingly, one of the FPC’s former Vice-Chairs and key administrative organiser and fixer Jeremy Hargreaves.
Three other people elected in 2010 did not restand, including one who has since become an MEP (Phil Bennion). The other two are Sandra Gidley and Susan Gaszczak.
The net effect of the changes was a slight strengthening of the number of Social Liberal Forum supporters on the committee, with again Liberal Reform supporters making not much of an impact.
Federal Conference Committee
The Federal Conference Committee (FCC) is, with the support of party staff, responsible for organising and running the party’s two annual conferences.
For this committee, 12 posts were up for election.
Here are the list of people elected, ranked and marked as above:
Sal Brinton (108) +
With six changes, FCC too saw a heavy turnover of personnel. Ahead of the elections there was a lot of controversy over the security-checking procedures for party conference and whether or not the party should have agreed to police demands. The issue also featured heavily during the contest. However the results themselves are rather mixed on this point. Some high-profile campaigners against the process were elected, but incumbents who had defended the process were also comfortably re-elected, including FCC chair Andrew Wiseman.
Instead, the story is more one of a strong Social Liberal Forum group of candidates being elected, including Evan Harris, Gareth Epps, Kelly-Marie Blundell and David Rendel joining the committee for the first time. This could be very significant for future decisions over what gets debated at party conference.
Five incumbents, including several long-standing members of the committee, were defeated: Robert Adamson, Qassim Afzal, Jon Ball, Arnie Gibbons and Linda Jack. Her defeat means the pattern of other elections was repeated: the highest profile Liberal Left candidate defeated and Liberal Reform not (yet?) making much of an impact.
Dee Doocey did not restand.
International Relations Committee and ELDR Delegation
Two other contests also took place – for the International Relations Committee (“the consultative and co-ordinating body of the party regarding its activities on the international stage“) and the ELDR delegation (“the administrative forum of our European Party“).
The results for the International Relations Committee were:
Ed Fordham (208) +
The results for the ELDR delegation were:
Jonathan Fryer (144)
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