I’m just in the door, home from a wonderful weekend in York at Conference. It is a miracle that I am able to write this, given that I left the Novotel Bar at 4:15 this morning after a night of great fun with friends. You may or not be impressed to know that when I […]
I’m just in the door, home from a wonderful weekend in York at Conference.
It is a miracle that I am able to write this, given that I left the Novotel Bar at 4:15 this morning after a night of great fun with friends. You may or not be impressed to know that when I got back to my horrible little room, I laid out my clothes for the morning and plugged in everything to charge that needed to be charged.
I was back at Conference by 9:15 this morning feeling a lot better than I deserved.
These are anxiety inducing times but there is an excitement too. We know that we are about to enter a new phase of our party’s story.
I am very grateful to Vince for stepping up and showing authoritative leadership for two years.
He has made us the party of Remain and in his speech today he was clear that we will not be watering down our core values to satisfy any authoritarian centrist group that might appear although we will work with them to change our politics for the better.
I am incredibly excited by the prospect of the upcoming leadership campaign. I know who I will be backing if they stand. The last contest in 2015 was conducted while the party was consumed by grief after the horror of the election. We had gone beyond denial to anger and sometimes pure rage by the time it had finished.
This one will be much more positive and dynamic. I am looking forward to it.
The big decisions on Vince’s party reforms took place. Vince wanted to set up a scheme for registered supporters who would be able to vote for leader, he wanted us to enable non MPs to become leader. He also wanted to enable people to become candidates within 12 months (or 9 months in Scotland) of them joining the party.
Before we went to York, I had thought that the reforms might just get through. There was a question mark over votes for leader, which had never been that popular amongst most people I had spoken to over the last few months. I wondered if it could get the required two thirds majority.
There was quite a lot of debate round this point. In my speech, I said that we didn’t have the resources to protect ourselves against entryism, especially if we allowed members of other parties to become supporters and vote in our leadership elections. I reminded Conference that there were only 500 votes separating Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne in 2007.
To be honest, I wasn’t fussed about any of the package. The supporters’ scheme on its own, is a fine model, built by the Federal People Development Committee, but I feel that the opportunity cost to us of ploughing resources into it that could be going into training or winning elections was too much of a distraction.
Christine Jardine proposed the motion, saying that she would have liked the chance to be able to sign up to be a supporter when she was working as a journalist and not allowed to be a member of any party. She also said that she would have loved the chance to vote for Charles Kennedy as leader. She argued that it was important to open up our party.
In a series of 7 votes, conducted with extreme competence and clarity by Federal Conference Committee Chair Geoff Payne, Conference approved the supporters’ scheme but voted down votes for leader and non MP as leader. In fact votes for leader didn’t look as if it even had a simple majority.
Geoff also deserves credit for being able to ascertain a 2/3 majority. He called the waiting time to become a candidate vote as having passed. People asked for a count and, sensibly, he agreed. It passed 513-245, which is 68%.
The other counted vote was on whether registered supporters could be on policy working groups. That went through 453-327.
An amendment explicitly forbidding supporters being allowed to be members of other parties was passed.
Got to say something about this debate. Pretty much 800 people sat in a room for the better part of two hours talking about the constitution of the party on a day when there were rugby matches going on. I know some people skived off to watch the Scotland England game (and how amazing was that Scottish comeback?), but that showed how engaged people were in the issue.
The debate was also conducted with passion and good humour and mostly showed our party at its best.
It was a super weekend in York and there is so much more to tell you over the next few days.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings