The Triple Lock: Lib Dem procedures in case of a hung Parliament

Pink padlock

No jokes about dodos, please.


With a hung Parliament looking so likely, a quick recap of the Liberal Democrat process for deciding what to do in the event of negotiating with other parties may come in useful, especially given the media’s weird penchant for describing unearthing the process as requiring investigative journalism.

It’s known as the ‘triple lock’, despite originally having four parts, and was amended after the generally good, but not flawless, experience of how it worked in 2010 along with a ruling by the party’s Federal Appeals Panel.

You can read the full history of the triple lock, including why it was first created, in the article I wrote for the Journal of Liberal History.

Here’s the current version:

 ARTICLE 15:   Support for a government which contains other political parties

15.1       This Article applies where the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons (‘the Commons Party’) enters into negotiations with one or more other political parties with a view to the formation of a government supported by the party and such party or parties; and sets out the procedures to be followed for the party to give its support for such an arrangement.

15.2       For this purpose:

(a) the Leader shall, with due regard to diversity, appoint a negotiating team to conduct such negotiations;* and

(b) there shall be a reference group consisting of not more than nine people (none of whom shall be members of the negotiating team) appointed equally by (i) the Federal Policy Committee** (ii) the Federal Executive*** and (iii) the Westminster Parliamentary Parties**** (in the last case acting jointly).

15.3       The negotiating team shall report regularly to the Leader and the reference group, and shall have regard to their respective views.

15.4       If as a result of these negotiations the Commons Party determines, after further consultation with (i) the Federal Policy Committee (ii) the Federal Executive and (iii) the Parliamentary Party in the House of Lords (together ‘the consultees’), to support a government which contains members of one or more other political parties, it shall seek the approval of conference by submitting a motion to that effect. Such a submission shall state the final views thereon of each of the consultees, and such a motion shall require for its passage a two-thirds majority of those present and voting at the conference.

15.5       Upon the submission of such a motion, the Federal Conference Committee shall convene a conference to consider the motion at the earliest practicable opportunity or shall include the motion in the agenda of a conference currently in session or imminently to start.

* The negotiating team is Danny Alexander, Lynne Featherstone, David Laws, Baroness Kate Parminter and Steve Webb.

** The FPC’s trio is Duncan Brack, Belinda Brooks-Gordon and Julian Huppert.

*** The FE’s trio is  Sal Brinton, Josh Dixon and Neil Fawcett.

**** Two peers – Dick Newby and Jim Wallace – have been selected. The third Parliamentarian will be an MP, to be chosen by the MPs after the election.

I’m a member of the Federal Policy Committee, who as you can see features in the process – so if when the time comes it kicks in, by all means email me your views.

Special conference voting reps

If there is a special conference, it will be called using the party’s existing voting reps process, as the party’s move to one-member, one-vote with conferences being open to any member who registers hasn’t yet come into force. However, the allocation of voting reps to local parties is fairly generous so there would be plenty of scope for members to attend. Here’s the sliding scale used:

Membership of the Local Party : Number of Voting Reps
30 to 50: 8
51 to 75: 9
76 to 100: 10
101 to 150: 11
151 to 200: 12
201 to 250: 13
251 to 300: 14
301 to 350: 15
351 to 400: 16
401 to 450: 17

Then 1 more voting rep for each extra 100 members. In addition, people such as MPs and Parliamentary candidates are automatically voting reps, without having to use up any of the local party’s slots.

In areas not covered by existing local parties (i.e. with membership numbers under the minimum threshold or with a suspended local party), there are no conference reps.


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