One issue which comes up regularly in different ways is Liberal Democrat party members feeling they do not know what the party’s federal committees are up to in their name. Without getting too lost into the rights and wrongs of each individual case, I think we have a problem from both ends – committee members do not communicate enough and also members do not get in touch with them enough.
The way to break that is to improve the basic flow of information, so more information comes out from committees, prompting members in turn to ask and lobby more, prompting committee members in turn to respond and discuss more.
And hence my motion for the party’s spring conference which simply asks each federal committee to produce a written report after each of their main meetings, along with contact details so that people can get in touch. There are, of course, many matters of detail which it would not be appropriate to publish in a report but in almost all cases the fact that an issue is being discussed can, at the very least, be public – which lets people know that now is the right time to express their views on it and who to express them too.
For example, I think the process by which CONNECT was chosen as the party’s preferred electoral database supplier was a good one, involving bodies such as ALDC and the Agents Association in a thorough tendering process in which several firms were given the chance to bid and had their proposals carefully examined. However, it’s also clear that many people interested in and affected by the decisions felt they only heard about them very late in the process. Without giving away any politically sensitive information about the party’s campaigning approaches, it would have been quite possible for a report published by the FE after the meeting at which it agreed to this process to have told people about it. That would have both made for better communication and also given people an idea of how and where to have their views taken into account.
The draft conference motion is below. If you are a voting conference representative and would be happy to put your name to it, please email me with your name, membership number and local party name. If your local party is also willing to support the motion in its name, please let me know too. Thanks!
1. That the party’s federal committees are currently held to account and made transparent through twice-yearly reports to federal conference
2. That the committees regularly make decisions in between conferences which make the reports an after the account record rather than providing members with a chance to influence decisions
3. That the party’s beliefs in transparency, providing information about institutions which hold power over us and empowering individuals apply just as much to our own operations as to that of the state
Conference therefore calls on:
1. The Federal Conference Committee, the Federal Executive, the Federal Finance and Administration Committee, the Federal Policy Committee and the International Relations Committee each to publish a written report after every meeting of their full committee.
2. The reports shall include a full current list of the committee’s members along with such contact details as committee members consent to be made public.
Note: the final text of the motion may vary slightly as I’m waiting to hear back from the motion drafting advisory service.