18 of the 29-strong Lib Dem Federal Policy Committee have signed a letter in the Guardian today asserting that…
…as a clear majority of members of the FPC, we think it would be valuable to clarify now that we predict that our commitment to scrap tuition fees, as part of our plans to create a fairer society, will indeed be included in the manifesto and that the party will be united in strongly campaigning on this in the run-up to and at next year’s general election.
Some of the names on this list are surprising. They can’t be dismissed as lefty malcontents – far from it. I would be very surprised if there weren’t other FPC members who would have signed the letter had the organisers managed to track them down in the short time period on Tuesday.
This is a slap down to Clegg and Cable. It can’t be spun in the way the debate was. One assumes it will dominate this morning’s Today programme. I am of course delighted.
My only concern is that with the party’s press operation under the control of the leadership how much longer is this contest of nerves going to go on, with Clegg and Cable constantly ramping up the rhetoric in the media and the FPC having to keep digging its heels in. This leads to very serious questions being asked about the wisdom behind the Federal Executive’s decision last year to fold the day-to-day running of the party into a leader-led Chief Officer’s Group. We have, in effect, the press office briefing against the settled will of the party. The cost of continuing this is coming out of our membership fees. The true cost could well be paid in votes and Members of Parliament next May.
If Ros Scott appreciates the implications of all this she showed little sign of it in the questions to the Federal Executive yesterday. But she did let slip that the COG was up for review in October. The task of persuading FE members to either scrap this committee or rationalise it to ensure that the press and campaigns departments are clearly working to advance the party’s agenda rather than whatever Vince Cable has decided this week, begins now.
ADDENDUM: I feel I should add that I was somewhat irked that the questions to the FE were slightly cut short due to the Q&A session with Vince Cable et al overrunning. These sessions are bland theatre which serve no democratic purpose; do they even get televised? We really need to scrap them and, in my opinion, replace them with consultation sessions (instead of limiting consultation to the very start of conference when most people can’t take part).