Daisy Cooper: Accountability – the missing ingredient of Lib Dem internal democracy

Continuing my series of guests posts from candidates for Liberal Democrat President, today it’s Daisy Cooper talking about one of her priorities.

Daisy Cooper: Accountability – the missing ingredient of our internal democracy

To put our own house in order, we must recognise that accountability is the missing ingredient of our internal democracy.

In a number of different contexts our processes have been found wanting: it has left processes open to abuse, which in turn has left members and the party vulnerable. This cannot continue.

Both the 2008 ‘Bones Commission’ (Party Reform Commission to the Federal Executive) and the 2013 Morrissey report (Report into the processes and culture of the Liberal Democrats) identified an almost black hole of accountability, but neither managed to fix it. Our spaghetti system of processes fails our members, and fails the party.

There is a complete mismatch between the Federal Executive’s mandate to “direct coordinate and implement” the work of the Federal Party, and its levers for doing so (which are almost non-existent). There is currently no ‘whole party strategy’ against which FE can monitor progress, but there should be. FE appoints the CEO but does not have the power to manage her/his performance – it should. The CEO her or himself must have the power to take decisions for which s/he can be held accountable.

There are no criteria against which FE members are elected. We could consider introducing a system in which FE candidates run for election for one or more portfolios – such as membership, campaigns or governance – in order that they can demonstrate their suitability for scrutinising these areas (currently members choose the basis upon which they want to run for FE pursuing their own interest, not necessarily what the party needs).

Regional executives must be freed up from party administration, so they can focus on finding candidates and building campaigning machines.

And then there is the governance tension between the FE and the English Party: it is the English Party that is responsible for managing finances, mediating in disputes, determining grants to party associations and borrowing money, yet members expect FE – through its elected members – to be accountable for these vital decisions. Responsibilities, powers and accountability must be aligned if our party bodies are to be effective.

Professionally, I have a strong track record of driving through governance reforms notably at the Commonwealth Secretariat – a highly politicized environment, with competing agendas and vested interests. I’m confident that I have the stomach and ability to drive it forward here.

I have some ideas on how we might do this, and I’m completely open to more. The process of finding solutions must be open, consultative and voted on by Conference. But what I know for sure is that accountability is the missing ingredient of our internal democracy and without it, we can’t move forward.

Also on this site are her previous posts:

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