After a series of eight votes on Friday night ably navigated by session chair Duncan Brack, Liberal Democrat federal conference passed an important set of reforms to address one of the key findings from the Thornhill Review, the independent post-mortem into the 2019 general election. It found that the Federal Board, at 41 in size, was far too large to do its job properly.
That finding wasn’t a surprise, as all the way since the party’s creation there have been repeated complaints that the Board, and its predecessor the Federal Executive, was far too large. But over the years not only have attempts to reduce it failed, the net effect has been that it has got larger.
But not after last night’s votes, where after a close vote on whether or not to debate a reference back but then by 71% – 29% in the final vote, conference voted for a new Board of 16, along with a Federal Council to provide scrutiny in-between federal conferences. (This was Option 3 in the motion.)
The outcome draws heavily on last year’s consultation with members, so thank you again to everyone who took part in that and made sure the proposals put to conference reflected the views of a wide range of members from across the party.
All the amendments were passed, and they all improved the changes in different ways, including giving the Council more specific powers and an ability to raise issues with the wider membership via conference.
The motion also – quite rightly – introduces a new power to no confidence a President if they’re not doing their job properly. Please don’t rush to use it… but it is an important safeguard we’ve previously lacked.
It’s been a huge job of work from the start of consultations through to the final votes, and many people deserve thanks for their parts in that.
Thank you too to everyone who took part in the debate. The changes made along the way to the original motion have improved what we’ve agreed and give us an even better chance of avoiding our next election review having a similar negative verdict on our structures to the Thornhill Review’s.