What You Can Get Away With » federal conference committee

(title highly commended in the category of ‘headlines most likely to send someone to sleep’)

I’ve done my bit for the party and completed voting in the latest round of internal federal party elections. (Now just the regional ones to go!) However, while I was filling out the final few places on the Federal Policy Committee ballot form – there’s a certain kind of evil fun in working out who you really don’t want on the committee, and is thus deserving of 63rd preference – I was struck by a few thoughts, which I thought I’d share here.

My words have been heeded – OK, it’s not entirely down to me, but the quality of information from candidates was a marked improvement on last time when I wrote this post. I don’t have the manifesto booklet from last time to compare, but people seemed a lot more willing this time to use their publicity for something other than a CV and some glittering generalities. I think that reflects that there are a lot of healthy debates going on within the party about future direction. People aren’t just setting out to manage the status quo but are talking much more about what they’ll do with an elected role.

Relaxing election rules worked – I haven’t liked any candidate’s Facebook page, but I think it’s good that they exist. What I’ve found much more useful this year is that people can actually talk in public about the fact they’re standing for election and what they want to do. So, there have been lots of blog posts from candidates, people talking about it on Twitter, and a very useful intervention by Jennie Rigg, with her questions to FPC and FCC candidates. These – and Andy Hinton’s question to Federal Executive members on accreditation – were much more important in determining where my votes went than the manifestos. Indeed, all my high preference votes for FPC and FCC went to candidates who’d answered Jennie’s survey, and she deserves lots of thanks for all the work she’s done on this.

Who should be voting? A few people have raised the question of whether the franchise for these elections should be widened from the current system of only conference representatives getting to vote in them. There’s a very strong case for widening the franchise (especially as using the internet for voting and distributing manifestos cuts the costs), but I think we have to be careful in rushing to do it, as there is the prospect of them becoming popularity contests for well-known names, as seems to happen in Labour NEC elections.

I think there is a strong case for having all members elect at least part of the Federal Executive and Federal Policy Committee, but alongside a national list, I’d also look into electing some members regionally – to ensure the whole country is represented – and whether Parliamentarians should be able to stand in the members section of the election.

On a similar issue, some people are calling for Conference to be one member, one vote, which I’m all in favour of as soon as they can come up with a way of holding conference in a way that allows all members an equal chance of getting there at the same cost. Until they solve that, they’re proposing a system that would allow conference to be dominated by the people who can spare the time and money to get to conference and/or those who live near to the conference venue.

If you’ve still not voted – the deadline is Wednesday at noon, so you should be doing it soon! – and are open to influence, here are some of the people I gave high preferences to and would like to see elected:
Federal Conference Committee: Zoe O’Connell, Gareth Epps, David Grace, George Potter
Federal Executive: Elaine Bagshaw, Daisy Cooper, Bill Le Breton, Caron Lindsay
Federal Policy Committee: Jo Hayes, Gareth Epps, Ewan Hoyle, Richard Flowers
ELDR delegation: Jo Hayes, Allis Moss, Mark Valladares
International Relations Committee: I voted in this, but I don’t feel positive enough about any of the candidates to endorse them publicly.

Right, now when do I get the regional ballot papers…?

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I mentioned the other day about Jennie Rigg’s plan to gather questions together for candidates in the Liberal Democrats’ internal elections. Unlike when I come up with a grand plan and then neglect to follow through, Jennie’s a woman of action, and not only has she collected together a list of eleven questions for candidates for both Federal Policy Committee and Federal Executive Committee, she’s managed to send it out to most of the candidates.

So, if you’re a candidate and you haven’t received any questions yet, now you can go and find them, and if you’re a party member wanting to know more about what people want to do if they’re elected, you can go and find out. The answers are being collated here as they come in, and they make for very interesting reading so far, giving you a much greater insight into what they stand for than a side of A5 in the manifesto booklet ever could. Indeed, it occurs to me that this sort of public forum, with the opportunity to question and debate the points made is something the party should be encouraging for a healthier internal democracy. I’ve noticed previously that Labour Party members are often debating their NEC and Policy Forum (I think that’s the right name) elections, and it seems odd that ours up to now have almost been conducted in secrecy.

There’s a few other thoughts I’ve had about internal party democracy from reading those responses, but I’ll save them for another post. Until then, get over to Jennie’s blog and read what they’ve got to say!

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My, is it really two years since the last set of internal elections in the Liberal Democrats? Obviously yes, because the Lib Dem Twitterverse and blogosphere is at something-that-might-be-a-fever-or-might-be-the-result-of-sitting-too-close-to-the-radiator-pitch about it, but this time we may get more discussion of them because the rules have finally been relaxed to allow it.

Given that the deadline has passed, it’s probably too late to point candidates towards my suggestions for what to say and not say in their manifestos from last time, but I would say that they’re important things to remember when campaigning in these elections. They are important, and the committees will have some important decisions to make about the future direction of the party as we approach the next election.

With that in mind, I’d like to point people towards Jennie’s plan to gather together questions for FPC and FCC candidates – if you’re not standing, it’s your chance to get a question to a lot of candidates, and if you are standing then when she’s gathered together her list of questions, answering them is a way to get your views seen by a lot of people. Hopefully, it’ll mean we can get a proper debate going, and give me a chance to really think over who gets my 63rd preference for Policy Committee this time.

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