Yesterday, Liberal Democrat conference voted to implement the rule changes to bring in one member one vote (OMOV). What does this mean?
Federal committee elections
Starting from the next round of elections in autumn 2016, party committees such as the Federal Executive, Federal Policy Committee and Federal Conference Committee will be elected by all party members (though the election regulations also need updating).
Starting with Spring 2016 in York, all party members coming to conference will be able to vote (unlike the situation in Bournemouth, for example, where around 40% of party members present cannot vote).
Remote voting and participation at conference
This is logically the next issue to consider about how our conferences are run, and there is both a Federal Conference Committee review starting up on this, as well as opportunities to raise it via the party’s governance review.
Federal conference voting reps
In theory, there’s now no longer a need to elect them at local party AGMs. However, party HQ is asking local parties to continue to do so in case something goes wrong with the election regulations for federal committees (see above).
Other federal reforms
Yesterday’s package of reforms included a new requirement for regular reports after federal committees to be made available to party members – the idea being that if everyone has a vote, everyone also needs to know rather more about what the people they elect are up to.
Conference also voted last autumn to reduce the level of secrecy over what happens at federal committees, such as letting members know which way the people they elect voted on big, controversial decisions. Again that’s part of making democracy meaningful, and this is still a work in progress – something to return to at conference next year if it isn’t sorted in the meantime. Likewise, the committee election rules should be getting an overhaul to make them better suited for OMOV elections. (For details of what is required on both, see the amendment passed last year.)
English PartyAs I’ve written about earlier, the English Party’s constitution is written in a way that is dependent on the existence of federal conference representatives, and so is now broken.
But that is good because it is a further spur to reform, and the English Council Executive had already decided to propose moving to OMOV for the English Party too. This will get debated at English Council. (There is a side-issue about whether reform of the English Party is good because it makes it better or bad because it is a distraction from more radical change in the party’s structures. It’s a similar question to whether tweaks to the House of Lords rules are good, or a distraction from its major reform.)
English regional parties
These currently all have their own regional conference representative system and indirect elections. The move to OMOV for the federal party does not force this to change, but should give a good head of steam to any regional reformers.
Note: updated to reflect Lib Dem HQ’s message to local parties about continuing to elect conference reps.