I’m a little confused. Ed Davey has been elected unopposed as Chair of the Lib Dems Campaigns and Communications Committee. But Lord Rennard has simultaneously been appointed Chair of the General Election Campaign. This is confusing, because the CCC Chair post replaced the Chair of the GE Campaign post back in the late 90s. What’s more, Rennard, as Chief Executive, is technically accountable to the President and, on campaigning, the Chair of the CCC. So who takes the decision, and who takes the blame? Are we seeing a bit of a conflict of interest here?
Personally, having sat on the Party’s Federal Executive for three years, I had come to the conclusion that the elected nature of the CCC Chair was a mistake. It was established as a reaction against the fact that Paddy Ashdown had appointed Richard (now Lord) Holme as GE Chair because of his links with Rio Tinto Zinc. However, the effect has been that accountability over campaigning has been dispersed: no longer could you blame the leader for ballsing up campaigning as the FE now elected the person in charge. Yet the FE can’t be held to account as it is elected by STV and is thus a representative body. Add to that the decision (which in retrospect I think was a mistake) to effectively merge the roles of Chief Executive and Campaigns Director, and we already had the confusing situation where it was unclear who was in charge. With Rennard’s appointment as GE Chair, that situation has become even more confusing.
The party has a major issue with accountability, as the Michael Brown affair exposed when it first came to a head six months ago. This suits the establishment as it means they can always take the credit for when things go right and blame others for when it goes wrong.
We need more checks and balances. But we need a simpler model for who gets appointed to what, and we need fewer job titles. Fundamentally, we need clarity about who is in charge. Since Charles Kennedy declined to rule out this week whether he might one day go for the leadership again at some point in the future, it should be pointed out that he is chiefly responsible for our current mess. That is why I’m not quite as excited by the prospect of Kennedy for President as Andy Mayer appears to be, regardless of the superficial attractions.