Tag Archives: federal executive

That interim peers list in full…

Hmmm… this article has opened a bit of a can of worms for me. Along with (Baroness) Liz Barker and (now Sir) David Williams, in 2004 I drafted the current rules for electing the interim peers list. Unaccountably, I am yet to receive any kind of honour myself.

Earlier today, I tweeted Stephen Tall to inform him that the list elected in 2006 still applies. Having now got home and looking at my old papers, it would seem that it is actually more complicated than that.

The paper we produced provides two options, and a suboption if Option A is approved:

A) 30 people shall be elected to the Interim Peers list every two years. However, in the first year (2004), 60 people shall be elected.
B) 30 people shall be elected to the Interim Peers list every two years. People shall remain on the list until the next election has been declared.

OPTION TWO (if A is passed):
C) People elected to the panel shall remain on the list for life.
D) People elected to the panel shall remain on the list for 10 years.

In addition, the following other people shall be on the list ex-officio:
* Former Liberal Democrat MPs
* A special case shall be made for the Hereditary Peers who were elected in 1999 if they are to lose their seat before democratic reforms of the Second Chamber have been put in place.

Annoyingly, my records don’t include the records of what was eventually decided by the FE (my computer crashed) and I can’t remember precisely what happened. I seem to recall that Option A was passed, but that only 30 would be elected initially and that the term of office was reduced to four years. It is certainly the case that in 2004 only 30 were elected (not 60) and that none of the 2004 list restood in 2006, although they did restand in 2008:

Source: Colin Rosenstiel. If you are aware of any (non-defamatory) reason why any of these people are now ineligible, please say so in the comments below and I will update the list.

Can anyone from Cowley Street confirm what the position is?

The list of former MPs gives Nick Clegg an even wider pool to draw from as this includes everyone who has at any point been a Liberal, Social Democrat or Liberal Democrat MP. The “elected” hereditaries are not currently eligible for inclusion in this list as they have not been thrown out of the Lords yet.

Finally, the policy also spells out how the party is to make appointments:

Advisory Panel:
An advisory panel shall be created consisting of the President, the Vice Presidents, the Leader of the Lords Party (or his/her nominee), the Chief Whip in the Lords (or his/her nominee) and one representative from the Commons Party. This panel shall be responsible for creating a shortlist of recommended candidates for the Leader to consider.

The Advisory Panel shall be requested to evaluate candidates on criteria, including the following:

  • Conscientious, hard-working individuals capable of working in a team, who are aware of the time they are expected to commit as a working peer and would be capable of giving it.
  • Experts in particular fields that the existing Lords Party is currently lacking in.
  • Diversity. The Party is committed to making the Lords Parliamentary Party more representative of wider society.

Role of the Leader:
The Leader shall have final say in the appointment. In addition, the Leader is invited to nominate one candidate of her/his choice from outside the list at each round of nominations if s/he wishes. If the number of peers appointed and nominated from the list exceeds the number remaining, the Leader may make further nominations from outside the list.

The line about the leader having the final say is a reflection of the UK’s current wibbly-wobbly constitutional position. In other words, while you can blame us for getting a lot of things wrong, you can’t blame us for this.

Two further points:

Firstly, if the party is to suddenly get 95 peers to appoint, in my view the interim peers list system will completely break down. It was never intended as an automatic entry into the House of Lords, subject to places being made available – hence the establishment of an advisory board. It was drawn up in an era when we expected peerages to be appointed by the handful, on an annual basis – not more of less stop for four years and restart with a big splurge.

I would be surprised if, after vetting, the party’s powers-that-be would end up appointing even half of these people. Nor, regardless of the rights and wrongs of appointment, do I believe they should be. If the Federal Executive and Nick Clegg is planning to make these appointments even halfway democratic it needs to review the policy quickly.

Second, frankly the whole system stinks. We shouldn’t be making these appointments at all as they highlight quite how foetid the appointments process really is. The party is going to get hammered over every single controversial appointment (and there are bound to be some), and rightly so. At the very least, Nick Clegg should not appoint a single new peer from whom he has not got a signed pledge to support an elected second chamber and stand down at the first opportunity.

On asking too many questions…

I spent most of the Lib Dem conference in a cold fury, venting off to journalists, on Comment is Free and on twitter throughout. It is therefore surprising to find that the one thing I’ve had the most stick for is simply encouraging people to ask for a bit of information.

Throughout the week I had a number of party staff and faceless bureaucrats express to my face or indirectly how furious they are at the fact that I managed to get a number of people – my thanks to Jennie Rigg, Jo Christie-Smith and Gareth Epps – to ask a series of questions to the Federal Executive (not being a voting conference rep, I couldn’t ask them myself). There were, to be fair, quite a few. When I approached people to ask them I sent them a brainstorm of possible questions and was expecting people to ask one or two each: I certainly didn’t expect them all to be submitted (not that I’m complaining).

That all of them were submitted suggests that I wasn’t the only person who read the FE report with grave concern. Last year, with great aplomb, the FE published the findings of the “Bones Commission” – a strategic review of how the party is organised. At the time we were assured that this wouldn’t go the same way as all the other strategic reviews in the past and end up gathering dust on a shelf, and indeed it hasn’t, but if you go through the reports to conference this year you will not find a single reference to it.

What has happened is that the party’s internal structures have been totally reorganised, with the “Chief Officers’ Group” sitting at the centre of a spiders’ web of new boards and existing committees. What was unveiled as a means to cut down on bureaucracy, on the face of it, looks like nothing but, yet the FE report included just a couple of lines on the restructure. And there are other proposals from the Bones Commission, such as the plans for a “Leadership Academy” which have apparently vanished without trace.

The purpose of all these questions were to establish a clearer picture about how the party has been restructured, how this is working in practice, and to establish the status of the other major proposals. In a different party with a healthier democratic culture, such questions would be welcomed as an opportunity to correct an oversight. Instead, one senior staffer came up to me spitting about he had “just wasted a week answering your questions,” and I have had about 3 or 4 seperate conversations about how X or Y is furious with me (X or Y not being the President herself incidently, as I have also been told repeatedly).

I’m not naming names because I’ve got no interest to turn this into any more of a silly argument than it is. But the culture at the top really does need to change.

Six years ago, when I was on the party’s Federal Executive, the level of accountability of the party’s Treasurer consisted of him occasionally turning up to meetings and telling us everything was going well, and the Chief Executive shouting down anyone who started asking any pointed questions about how the party was fundraising. 18 months later, the Treasurer resigned under mysterious circumstances and shortly afterwards the party started accepting donations from Michael Brown. It looks as if the party will now escape having to pay any of the Brown money back, but it is a lucky escape for what was an avoidable cock up. Would extra scrutiny have stopped the party from accepting this donation? We’ll never know, but I think there is a certainly an argument that it might have forced them to think through their procedures better and give it more careful thought.

Either way, if you can’t explain clearly how the party’s decision making structures work, then there’s probably something wrong with that. By all means shoot the messenger, but it doesn’t change that fact.

In defence of the Aberdeenshire Four… three… two

There has been a lot of murmuring at this Lib Dem conference over the debacle which has been raging in the Aberdeenshire Lib Dem Council Group over the past sixteen months as a result of Donald Trump. Bernard Salmon provides the background and I endorse what Neil Fawcett and Stephen Glenn have to say.

The one thing I would add is that the party is generally terrible at conflict resolution and generally running its own affairs with by the standard it would judge other organisations to abide by. The Scottish Lib Dems have past form of course – I may disagree strongly with a lot of what Neil Craig has to say but I haven’t yet seen anything on his blog to indicate his unsuitability to be a member of the Lib Dems. But you can’t single out the Scots. Last year there was that mess over Gavin Webb. My first article on Lib Dem Voice was over the poor handling of a complaint I submitted to the Federal Appeals Panel. Going back to my days in LDYS, I can recount two incidents: one where I was the subject of a complaint as a staff member which took the best part of a year to be investigated (I was eventually exonerated but had to have it hanging over my head while I was looking for a new job – a fact which almost certainly lead to me lowering my standards); and one in which I was the complainant which simply fizzled out into nothing. I could cite other examples, but I fear I would end up straying into the dark and murky world of defamation.

We have got to get a grip on all this. The party likes to wrap itself up in its image of being nice, and thus tends to kid itself that such structures are not necessary. As a result, the system is often use to trample on people in a quite appalling way, while letting others get away with the most appalling behaviour. If the FE is looking for something to do, then establishing a joint states commission to thoroughly review all aspects of how complaints and conflicts are resolved within the party and establish clear best practice protocols would be both timely and crucial.

In the meantime, I really hope people kick up a major fuss at the Scottish Lib Dem conference next weekend.