Susan Kramer and Tim Farron were both asked the same ten questions about their bid to be LibDem President and given the option to reply in whatever format and at whatever length they wished. Tim’s answers are below and you can find Susan’s answers here. My own commentary on the answers and race more generally is here.
1. Many parts of the Bones Commission were deferred until after the 2010 general election. Now that it has happened, what would your plans be for implementing, modifying or mothballing those outstanding parts?
The Bones report was insightful and a lot of thought and hard work went into it. However I’m afraid that it seems to have generated more heat than light and rather passed over the heads of the people who really matter – our members. Clearly the Party needs to make sure that it is properly co-ordinated at national level and the Chief Officers’ Group suggested by Bones can perform that role. In practice, though, it’s not about meetings and bodies but about making sure that key people communicate with each other – especially the Leader, the President and the Chief Executive. We also need to pick up on the Bones thinking about regions and council groups: there is a wealth of potential there, but so often the Federal and Parliamentary parties ignore them. This means that the Party underperforms. Lastly we do need to think again about how we manage our targeting and campaigning: if we are going to grow beyond our current number of MPs we will need to look at how and when we select candidates and how we decide which seats are going to be winnable.
2. Your manifesto in the ballot mailing places a great emphasis on going round visiting local parties. Why do you believe this is such an important part of the role of the President as to deserve such a focus in your literature?
The party can become very remote from members – but they are our key resource. Before the Coalition was formed the Leader was able to do a lot of this. Inevitably that is now more difficult – and it’s more difficult for other members of the government too just because of time. So we need to show members that we care about them and we need to inspire them. This means going round the country
3. Do you believe the party should have a long-term commitment to the abolition of tuition fees?
I do. It was an important manifesto commitment and we must stick with it as a party. We must also try and influence Coalition policy to make the package on Higher Education more progressive.
4. The proportion of our local council candidates who are female has been static at around a third for 20 years. Do you believe this matters, and if so what role would you take in addressing it?
It does matter – a lot of it is down to who asks who, people choose others in their own image. There is already some important work starting on equalities and we need to carry that through. The President must be at the heart of leading a culture change – to ensure that all local parties and council groups think about diversity in everything they do – when they have meetings, what roles are allocated, how groups are run. There is still too much of the culture where for instance it’s always a female councillor who gets asked to be group secretary or speak on social care.
5. Do you believe the party’s rules for elections for federal committees and the Interim Peers have the right level of restrictions on what campaigning can be done by or on behalf of candidates, and if not what would you alter?
Far too restrictive – there should be very tight expenditure limits to make sure that the well off don’t have any kind of advantage but apart from that it seems odd that a party that is so committed to campaigning makes it so hard for its own internal candidates to do any!
6. What role do you think the Party President should play in the party’s handling of the next Parliamentary constituencies boundary review?
To ensure that resources are directed towards it – its crucial that we take this immensely seriously given the dramatic consequences it could have. We must not leave local parties struggling on their own. The President needs to be checking that the key battle grounds have appropriate backing.
7. What would you seek to prioritise in the federal party budget when it comes to matters of IT?
Integration of new/social media with traditional campaigning.
8. What was your biggest political mistake?
I have no doubt yet to make it!
So far… as a new MP in 2006, signing the round Robin letter generated by senior MPs to Charles Kennedy advising him to stand down in January 2006. I deeply regret doing that. The letter predictably became a matter of public record. I should have had the backbone to go to Charles and see him face to face to explain why I had come to that view. It was discourteous and counterproductive to have done what I did in a public way.
9. Do you read the Daily Mail?
I do. I don’t agree with much of what I read, but we should remember that there are more Liberal Democrat supporters who read the Daily Mail than any other news paper. This is a terrifying fact!
10. What’s the most important thing you have learnt from the other candidate during this contest so far?
That there is lots of life after being an MP.