How do we improve as a party and achieve greater success in future elections? That’s the theme running through the bumper set of key decisions the Federal Board is looking at next week at our meeting. (Or rather meetings, as to avoid Zoom fatigue, we’re splitting one long meeting into halves on consecutive nights.)
Included in that will be the Board’s first considerations of the independent election review, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill and coming out tomorrow. Thank you for all their hard work to her, her colleagues and everyone who contributed evidence to the review.
Even without that review, there are some things we already know we need to change, in particular our use of technology. That’s why the Board will also be looking at major plans to overhaul our approach, learning from the best of those outside politics and from politics overseas. A big part of the plan is much better use of volunteer expertise.
In a similar vein, we’ll also be looking at the hard work done by the Federal Conference Committee and conference staff to scope a potential online conference in the autumn. We’ve already put on pause plans for a traditional physical event in September in the light of coronavirus.
Putting on an online event of the scale and complexity of our conferences – which including not only debates in the hall, but keynote speeches, Q+A sessions, fringe meetings, training and more, will not be easy. But I very much hope we’ll be able to find a way to make an online event work. An event that isn’t a weak substitute for what we would have otherwise done. But an event that shows the way to a bigger, more inclusive and more successful hybrid combined offline and online conferences when conditions permit.
Events and technology are not ends in themselves, of course. So, the Board will also be looking at three other pieces of the puzzle for rebuilding the party.
We’ll be looking at how to kick-off revising our party strategy, drawing on the lessons of the election review and also those of the many colleagues who were so spectacularly successful in the council elections last year. Involving members will be key to making this a real strategy for the whole party.
Which leads to perhaps the most important single act of engagement party members can have: choosing our leader.
There’s a diverse and very strongly held set of views on this. Following my request for feedback from members (thank you for all the messages!), around 45% of members have said they want a leadership election now. Most members, around 55%, therefore have a range of other views – from a little later in the year through to a small number wanting to go for next May.
A bigger determining factor for many of those members is what happens, or what people expect will happen, with the lockdown. The Board, therefore, will have much to consider to get the decision right. These are complex judgement calls, about which many have strong feelings, so I will make sure that members are properly informed of whatever we decide.
Alongside that, we’ll also be having the first outing for our regular quarterly reviews of how the federal party is performing against the targets in our previous strategy. We’re developing a dashboard of key metrics to help understand what is and isn’t working, learning from some of the professional performance tracking rigour common amongst large charities and other campaigning bodies similar to our operation.
Of course, not all proposals that go to the Board go through, so remember this is a run-through of what we’ll be discussing rather than exactly what will happen. Views are of course very welcome on all these points.