Edition #51 of Liberal Democrat Newswire came out last week, looking at the latest twists in the race to succeed Tim Farron as Party President, arguments over the rules for electing party committees, new developments in the party’s policy plans for 2015 and more.
It’s now also available online to read below.
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Liberal Democrat Newswire #51
Welcome to the 51st edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, which continues my in-depth coverage of the race to be the next Lib Dem President, takes a look at a political book to have on your late summer reading list and includes the first look at the party’s pre-manifesto document.
Thanks for reading and, as ever, do please let me know your views or if you’ve spotted a story you think should be covered.
P.S. Remember, you don’t have to wait for the next edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire to keep up with the news. My blog is regularly updated with stories such as Four lessons for the party from the Chris Rennard events.
In this newsletter:
One in, one out: it’s still a four woman race for the party presidency
There are now once again four candidates in the race to succeed Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron in this autumn’s election.
Pauline Pearce’s withdrawal reduced the field to three – Sal Brinton, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne.
But they’ve now been joined by a fourth candidate, Daisy Cooper, who launched her campaign at the weekend. Here’s her launch email:
Her first campaign video adds some more detail to her priorities although (as I’ve said of the other candidates), so far the aims are much clearer than the means – and past presidents have a rather regular pattern of going into office with lofty aims which they then don’t reach.
However, having another candidate to make the contest even more competitive is going to add to the pressure on all the candidates to flesh out those details – which very much will be a good thing.
What’s your view? Do pop over to my blog and post a comment.
What the other candidates have to say
Before Daisy Cooper declared, I asked the three candidates then in the race for their answers to this question: What are the most important reforms you would like to see to how the party is run?
Here are their answers.
In our attempt to be fair and tolerant, we have built a federal, state and regional structure that is complex and opaque to most ordinary members. The difficulties over the recent Chris Rennard case show that our complaints, investigation and appeal processes must be reformed. Not many grassroots members, let alone the media, understood that complaints are dealt with at a state level, with a number of different committees that no-one has heard of each of which deal with different stages. Whilst making it fair, we must also make it more transparent.
I am also supportive of the proposals for one member one vote for federal elections and voting conference. We have to find ways to engage all members, some of whom feel that they can’t break in to the voting representative world because they aren’t as well known as existing voting reps.
Whilst we are getting better at interactive websites for contributions, I also want to see more roadshows across the country, following the 15+ Manifesto Roadshows over the last year. Relying on members coming to conference or London isn’t good enough, and we should plan for these. They don’t just need to be about policy, either. We could take views from members about party reform as well.
Finally, if we don’t improve the number of women, BAME and disabled MPs at the next election, we must return to the motion we passed in 2011, and reconsider all women shortlists, and some quotas for BAME and disabled candidates.
The role of President is to ensure the effectiveness of the internal workings of the Party, and to act as the Party’s public face. If elected my first task would be to address the ‘disconnect’ which has appeared under the strains of Coalition, a disconnect that is both internal and external. My commitment is to restore the national fortunes of the party, renew the hopes and self-belief of members and respect the sovereign power of members.
The major responsibility for the party is to nurture each and every constituency. Together we must create a shared plan for development and I believe we have to reinvent community politics for our century.
We must streamline the party’s organisations and structures. We have too many committees and bodies, undermining clarity, transparency and objectivity. We should create term limits for all who serve on party committees.
Finally we must recast how we make policy, being much clearer about the role of our representative democratic processes. Currently we fudge the balance between democratic and representative bodies, ‘expert’ functions, and the need for day to day decisions by elected persons as issues arise. Leaving members frustrated by seeing the sovereign power of conference seemingly being ignored.
Firstly we must make sure any further reforms that are necessary following on from the Morrissey report are implemented. These should be in place before the new President takes over in January, as they are urgent.
Following on from this but not exclusively linked, I would like to see individual elected Federal Executive members take responsibility for liaising with the different HQ directorates. This should provide early warning systems to report if anything is going wrong. It would also give support to staff members and the Chief Executive.
I would like to see members of staff who do not have a background as Liberal Democrats have an induction session with activists and councillors so they are aware that volunteers are the Party and that they have a wealth of experience that can be learned from, particularly with regard to campaigning. In that way we might get away from the disconnect that there appears to be between the centre and members.
If we go into another coalition, we need to have a process that ensures wider ownership of decisions, perhaps FPC could act more as a sounding board. Regular contact with key stakeholders before Government announcements or decisions is also important.
All three have also talked about their plans for the party in posts for Liberal Democrat Voice:
What to make of the candidate messages so far?
In the previous edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire I took a look at the leaflets issued so far by the candidates then in the race, concluding that:
With their answers above, all three of the previous candidates are continuing to flesh out the details of how they will turn their lofty (and rather similar) aspirations into credible plans.
New entrant Daisy Cooper is, judging by her electronic literature so far, in a similar position – offering an overall set of aims which is little different from her rivals and a few early hints of the details for turning the aims into results.
That similarity of objectives means that when it comes to voters choosing between the candidates, a major factor will be the extent to which they show the vim and elan necessary for effective leadership of the sort all four talk about.
Important too will be the level of credible detail the candidates can offer to give people confidence they really could deliver in the way that, for example, Simon Hughes’s plan when President to double the party’s membership never got close to success.
So far then the initial answers are good but (as Hywel Morgan pointed out) all of them are vulnerable to the Jeb Bartlett question. In West Wing, after praising his opponent for having a good 10 word debate answer he then asked: “What are the next 10 words of your answer? … Give me the next 10 words. How are we going to do it?”
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Federal Executive quietly adopts a 50% female quota for party elections
At its July meeting, the party’s Federal Executive (FE) decided that for the 2014 federal committee elections, at least half of all the directly elected places must be filled by women.
The FE intends this to be a pilot to judge its impact before making longer-term rules, with several FE members having also expressed a desire for any such future rules to include consideration of equalities issues other than gender.
However, the pilot itself may not go ahead because of a dispute over how the FE decision was made. Usually such changes to party election rules go to conference for debate and vote. Two years ago party conference granted the FE emergency temporary powers to change the rules in order to be able to deal with an immediate legal issue that had come up about the party’s previous minimum one-third female, one-third male rule.
However, since then there have been several party conferences at which a rule change could have been debated in the usual way. So is using emergency powers two years an abuse of those powers?
Note: I will be re-standing for election to one of these committees, the Federal Policy Committee.
Pre-manifesto extracts and training guide published ahead of Glasgow Conference
The party’s Autumn conference in Glasgow will centre around the pre-manifesto document, extracts from which have been trailed in the press over the summer.
Nick Clegg’s foreword, which summaries the approach of the document, has now been published along with selected headline policies. You can read about them here.
The list of training sessions for conference has also been published. You can also read the guide over on my website.
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Party selection news
In Liberal Democrat Newswire #50 I covered the Liberal Democrats’ own Boris Johnson dilemma – a popular directly elected Mayor pondering whether to go for Parliament.
Dorothy Thornhill, Watford’s Mayor, has indeed gone for the selection and so far at least one other person is challenging her – local councillor Rabi Martins.
Over in Brighton, Nick Clegg biographer Chris Bowers has been selected to challenge Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Meanwhile along the coast in Portsmouth South, where Mike Hancock MP has been deselected, the party has chosen Gerald Vernon-Jackson to stand.
Pssst! Fancy some free chapters from 101 Ways To Win An Election?
Sign up at www.CampaignMasterclass.com and you can receive a selection of extracts from 101 Ways To Win An Election by Ed Maxfied and myself for free via email.
Or if you’re too impatient and just want the whole thing now, you can buy it online now (in either print or ebook formats).
What’s your favourite political(-ish) podcast?
Starting in the next edition I will be featuring one podcast each month that is particularly suitable for people with an interest in politics.
Whether worthy or fun, it might be about politics, it might be about a subject area politicians frequently have to deal with or it might be something that seems a good fit with readers’ interests.
Got one that you’d like to suggest? Just email me at email@example.com and let me know.
A book to read: Damian McBride
The original hardback edition of disgraced Labour spin doctor Damian McBride’s book was such an enticing read that if you haven’t yet read it, the release of the paperback edition is a good prompt to remedy that.
Although if you have read the hardback edition already, be aware that the changes made for the paperback edition add but a little to the original edition.
There’s a previously removed chapter about phone hacking, full of claims about just how extensive Rebekah Brooks’s power was, and a series of comments on Ed Miliband of which (as McBride was surely savvy enough to anticipate) the critical have achieved far more publicity than the positive.
Much of politics and journalism come out of the account with a battered reputation. It’s a picture of frequently drunk Labour figures managing to spin regularly complaint journalists who were all too eager to push stories that served McBride and not their readers, as long as they got them ahead of their rivals.
But as I wrote of the hardback edition of Power Trip (and read that post for a fuller review of the book):
I also pointed out that, for all the book’s frankness in parts, it is also rather coy at other times:
McBride’s tactics and style are to be reviled. What he says about politics and the media however can still be learnt from.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.
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