What’s coming up at the next Federal Board?

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.



11 responses to “What’s coming up at the next Federal Board?”

  1. I really appreciate an update of this kind. The headline might have seemed a bit dry, but it’s vital stuff and it’s really good of you to keep us up to speed.
    On Conference, I’m not one of those optimistic that an online event can be an event at all, however it may suit some and that’s great. It’s extra important to capture the energies of those who are relatively new to the party, and if this achieves that it will be worth it.
    Regarding the “need” for a leadership election. You’re right that it is a polarising question, but I don’t see my own view mentioned at all and I know I’m not alone. There are precious few who qualify to stand, a large number of outsiders saying “You’ve had an awful lot of leaders recently, do you have a problem ?” and an acting co-leader who’s doing a more than adequate job. Democracy is important, but in this case it may not be more important than continuity, competence or dealing with a crisis, and Sir Ed Davey is doing all of those things. (A lot of which is of course thanks to you.) I think everyone’s time, and a substantial amount of money, would be far better spent on the outcomes of the Review. One of the excellent legacies of Jo Swinson is that we have more women MPs, but unfortunately none of them has the gravitas yet. Their time will come in a year or two. Let Sir Ed continue for the same length that Sir Vince did … he deserves the role if he’s willing to continue, which everything about him suggests he is. We should be thanking him, not arguing about when to replace him !

  2. I do not understand why the delay of electing a Leader.
    Leadership with authority is lacking. Joint is temporary where only Ed Davey has managed an impact, but when it’s accompanied by Temporary and Joint, there is a feeling what does the other think and how long will this one be present.

    His position needs sorting. IMHO

  3. I wasn’t aware that anyone was ‘arguing’ about when to replace Ed(Kate), but as Mark reports coyly, a substantial majority of members want the Leadership election to be this year. As has been said in the press, our acting Leader was the one substantially rejected by the membership at the last election, so it is wrong for him to become the de-facto Leader. The Board could have already decided on a coronation, but clearly there are good democratic reasons to not do that.
    The cost of the internal and on-line election, with pod-casts and youtube hustings speeches would be easily covered by a funding appeal to members, the majority of whom will be glad to see the job done.
    If the membership were then to elect Ed, then so-be-it, but I would seriously doubt that happening. Whilst he is doing an adequate job of holding the fort, he does not have the cut-through and appeal of some of the the other contenders. When we need a Leader with some fresh dynamism we don’t need ‘another Vince’.. we certainly can’t afford the luxury of giving him the position because ‘he deserves it’, which, with his baggage, is a moot point anyway.

  4. I was not one of those taken in by the youthful appeal of Jo. But too many were and the party, including many excellent candidtes suffered as a result. We must hope that the excellent Dorothy Thornhill will reveal in her imminent review where she Jo went wrong.
    Much as I like Jo as a person, and as an enthusiastic campaigner, she was responsible for three of the catastrophic causes of our election failure.

    First, in actually calling for a general election. We had the Tories where we wanted them. In office but not in power. They would have had to negotiate a deal on Brexit, probably about some kind of consulting the people.

    Second, in being persuaded to say: “I can be prime minister.” One suspects the bad advice she was given. Third, and most dangerously, listening to the same sycophants saying: “Go on Jo, tell them you can stop Brexit in a day.” That lost us legions of non-LibDems who were backing us on the need for a vote.

    Ed would never have made those errors. We need a leadership election soon, preferably before any kind of autumn conflab. Otherwise the public will get used to him, and then wonder we have changed leaders three times in 12 months.

  5. I fully agree with Johnathan Hunt, yes Jo is a good campaigner, but she made a lot of serious mistakes in her short term as Leader, if she had spent time in her constituency campaigning instead of touring the Country she may well still be an MP but perhaps not Leader. Lets select a new Leader early next year.

  6. For goodness sake elect the new leader as soon as soon as sensibly possible, and certainly this year. Ed Davey may have ‘baggage’ (who doesn’t?) but he has senior government experience and is a good campaigner. Being leaderless is deeply damaging.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.