Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Federal Executive: Recovering from Omnishambles

Mark Pack at has written a typically perceptive account of the travails of the Liberal Democrats' Federal Executive, which had a pretty torrid Conference.  He makes a number of suggestions as to how relations could be mended.

Rounding off the omnishambles was the declaration twice from the podium that the FE wanted to use the final pre-election conference in Spring not to promote Liberal Democrat policy commitments in the Manifesto, but to indulge in internal navelgazing by returning to the two sets of constitutional amendments it should have put to Glasgow Conference - but failed to; as well as the interim peers proposals which Conference Committee didn't take for debate at Glasgow, as debating who should go into the House of Lords wouldn't have had any effect on this autumn's elections but would have looked strange to the outside world when so many of the party's Commons seats are reportedly under pressure.  It would say something about the priorities of the current committee if they do decide to proceed with this rather than wait until the post-election conference at Liverpool, where there will be ample time for more introspective discussion.

Into the mix should also be thrown the Federal Finance and Administration Committee (FFAC): unelected but powerful, and particularly opaque.

As elections for Executive and President draw near, it focuses attention on three things.
1. The listening mode.  Individually many members of the FE are good at listening, but this is not reflected collectively.  Dissident voices never seem to make themselves known within the wider party.  This does not help the FE's image.  Both recent gaffes (on OMOV and gender quotas) where the committee failed for various reasons to heed advice, are results of this.
2. The purpose of the FE itself.  Gordon Lishman said from the podium that the gender quotas decision - arguably illegal - was rushed through after the guillotine at the end of a long meeting without debate.  How many of the earlier items were essential?  It has a long track record of discussing trivia while not focusing on key issues of strategy which is what it is supposed to be about.  As Mark says, even its own members seem to be unaware of some decisions taken in their name.
3. Mend fences where necessary.  This should go without saying.

The questions to be asked of candidates for FE and President - and their responses - will be important.  You can of course read questionnaires with the latter in the latest Liberator.

1 comment:

  1. How many of the earlier items were essential? Well, about the only other item was the Gurling Review. I'll leave you to be the judge.

    There are problems with the way the FE operates. As a member of it, I know that as well as anybody. The list of requirements Mark attached to his OMOV amendment is just the start. Even to get something as simple as a Communications plan for each decision can be a challenge. It needs to be less secretive and more engaging.

    Having said that, remember that the incentive scheme for membership that is putting money back into the pockets of local parties came from an FE discussion. This current FE has made some sensible decisions, not least on saving Spring Conference. And, while there were flaws in the constitutional amendments, the principle of OMOV has been accepted and that's somethingI'm very pleased about.


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