Norman Lamb was quicker off the mark during the Liberal Democrat leadership race with plans for reforming the way the party operates, especially with his idea (subsequently also backed by Tim Farron) that the party should open up its Deputy Leader to election by all MPs and with candidates not restricted to MPs.
Lamb has also been more effusive in his language about simplifying the party’s committee structures – an important point given what the Morrissey Review concluded and the way the English Party’s rules are about to stop working – but Tim Farron has been making up ground with his Festival of Ideas proposal and the extensive details of his plans on diversity.
Now both have set out further plans in more detail. For Lamb, it’s about opening up the party’s federal (national) conferences to those who can’t afford the time or money to attend them, and treating staff better:
Going to conference is expensive, inconvenient and impossible for teachers, who can’t get the time off work. It’s very difficult for those with caring duties and for people who are elderly or disabled. We must find a way to let members “attend” Conference remotely, watching proceedings, submitting questions and voting online.
Another key area of our party that needs reform is the way we employ staff. For a start, we should live by our values and pay all staff including interns the living wage. But we also need to look at how we manage and motivate our staff so that we retain the best and the brightest to campaign for us.
He’s also picked up on a point I’d previously complained both candidates had overlooked – the need to improve diversity at the local government level:
We need to find creative, effective and Liberal ideas for getting more women, members of ethnic minorities and people from other under-represented groups elected to the Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and European parliaments. Local government is another area where we need to broaden our representation – and councillors will have a vital role to play in the Lib Dems’ revival.
The Party did make some progress in getting a balanced slate of Westminster candidates in May. Most of our previously held seats had candidates from under-represented groups, half of whom were women. Where we have excellent candidates such as these, we must give extra support to make sure they win. But let me be clear: we should rule nothing out when we consider how we tackle this issue, because frankly this is a crisis in our party.
This is not just about Parliamentary candidates. We should also find out what prevents people from under-represented groups succeeding at every level inside the party. Then take strong and effective action to break down the barriers.
Meanwhile Tim Farron has made rebuilding the party’s organisation the subject of his latest campaign video.
It’s mostly familiar territory – if you’ve been following the campaign closely – with plans that have been launched before, such as a 100,000 membership and the Festival of Ideas. There is also a new measure in the film – a good idea with an awful acronym: