This autumn the Liberal Democrats will elect the Federal Committees that will prepare the ground for the 2019 European Elections and the 2020 General Election.
The Party is currently discussing what those committees will look like, and even what they will be, but the problem is that once again the timing is all wrong. The recommendations of the constitutional review will be brought to the Federal Conference in autumn 2016, but the nominations for Federal Committees normally open at the start of the Federal Conference. This means that the committee elections will have to be moved back until after Conference in order to ensure that any changes to the committee structure will be taken into account for the committee memberships for 2017 and 2018.
Bearing in mind that the party first resolved to introduce a voting system of one member one vote (OMOV) for Conference in the Spring of 2015, then had to have a second resolution to the Autumn 2016 Conference to resolve the errors in the first motion, and will now face a third motion at the Spring 2016 Conference to introduce the rules for implementing OMOV, I think I can be forgiven for being sceptical about the prospects of the committee structure being right first time.
I strongly predict that the Committees for 2017 and 2018 will look exactly like those for 2016 and 2016, with the great and the good taking up half the seats and blocking any proposals that might upset the status quo. This is no way for a radical liberal party to behave.
I have submitted a motion to Federal Spring Conference that would remove these placemen and ensure that all three main Federal Committees are directly elected by the members on the basis of one member one vote. I am told that this motion has been rejected for debate by the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) because of three words “”1st January after” in the description of the term of office of elected members of the Federal Executive (FE). Apparently this drafting error would result in there being no vice chair of the FE at the time when the budget is set.
Bearing in mind that in practice the budget is set by the Federal Finance and Accounts Committee (FFAC) and rubber stamped by the FE, and considering that the FE has not yet set the budget for 2016 and we are already spending money for the year, this is an extraordinary statement.
The sceptic in me is seriously wondering whether the rejection is more to do with the fact that half of the members of the FCC would find themselves having to face all the party members in an election for their seat if my resolution passed through conference this spring.