In amongst the paperwork for the Autumn 2012 Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton is the bundle of reports from various party committees and bodies. The idea of the reports, and the ability to question them, is a great one. The content of the reports can have a tendency to be a little too banal or general to make for a meaningful report back from committees to people who elected them.
Take this shock news from the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) report, for example:
We have a great line-up for the rally on Saturday evening. Some excellent speakers have been chosen.
However, even in the banality of some of their sections, the conference reports do at least illuminate what sorts of decisions are being made and by who – as in this example, where at least the report means any reader is clear about who to complain to if they don’t think the rally line-up has been chosen well. Knowing how best to press a point is a huge step towards having a decent chance of success at making the point.
Two good signs in the reports do deserve welcoming.
First, in Tim Farron’s early days as Party President, the Federal Executive (FE) report shrunk hugely in length and content. To Tim’s credit, not only did he respond positively when I raised this at conference last year, but also the improvement in the FE reports has been sustained with the Autumn 2012 version.
Second, the bundle of reports now includes a report from the Federal Appeals Panel (FAP). This follows my motion – and the nail-bittingly close debate – at the last autumn conference. There are no shock revelations in the report. Yet it does what I hoped it would.
It both sheds some light on what the body does and how it does it, always good things in principle, and it also makes it easier for people to find its rulings and so cite them as precedence in any future cases. If you don’t know what precedents may be available to cite in a case, you’re always going to be at a disadvantage in arguing your corner as effectively as possible. Now people can accumulate FAP reports and start losing that disadvantage.