Continuing my series of guest posts from candidates to succeed Tim Farron as Liberal Democrat President (of whom there are now three, after Linda Jack dropped out), here is Liz Lynne setting out her plans to reform the party’s structures.
It has become even more apparent to me over the last few months that the structures of the Party need to be radically reformed. I have been taking soundings from different people from all sections of the Party about the problems and what needs to be changed. The main problem that everyone has highlighted is that no one seems to know how each body of the Party relates to the other and who is responsible for making which decisions. Nobody seems to have a strategic overview of how it works.
In any company or organisation, the assumption is that the Chairman and the board have ultimate responsibility for deciding on the direction that the company or organisation should take. The President and the Federal Executive at the moment don’t seem to have that role and many people have said that it appears as if they are expected to rubber stamp decisions that have already been taken instead of taking on that management role themselves. I am very well aware that any change is not going to be easy and that is why it will be so important immediately after the election to start on the process of putting workable structures in place.
We will have to set up think tank meetings to include representatives from all the different constituent parts of the Party to really find out what each elected committee actually does in reality and of course include all the ad hoc committees that have evolved over the years. Most people don’t seem to be aware about what is the responsibility of state parties in relation to the Federal Party either.
Most of this detailed work will have to be left until after the election as the priority has to be to win as many parliamentary seats and council seats as we possibly can.
Some smaller changes can be made in the meantime however. The first one I would want to put in place is for Federal Executive members to be made responsible for liaising with individual directorates at HQ and reporting back to the rest of the Federal Executive on a regular basis. In this way we would have the ability to pick up any problems at an early stage. It would also give more support to the staff, without in any way trying to undermine the role of the Chief Executive.
We have to make sure that chairs of other committees attend the Federal Executive meetings on a regular basis and that reports are presented to the FE.
We must also address the perceived disconnect between the Party in the country and HQ. One way of doing this to require all new staff members, who are not Liberal Democrat activists already, to have a week long induction period with activists and councillors so that they become aware of the years of experience and expertise that is within the Party that they can tap into.
I am also setting up the Network of Experience in January. The aims of the network are two fold: first, to act as a support network for those people who have held elected office in the past and second, to tap into the wealth of experience that they have.