Saturday, March 08, 2008

Taxi for the Federal Executive!

This evening saw a vote on an intriguing constitutional amendment. Intriguing, because the prospect of a proposal on internal Party governance supported by both the Liberator Collective and the Federal Executive is so unlikely, that it must surely be a good thing, shouldn’t it?

I’m a suspicious soul at heart, and the scheduling of a constitutional amendment as part of a thirty-five minute slot containing the reports of the Federal Executive and the Federal Finance and Administration Committee, as well as a business motion making the Liberal Democrat Lawyers a Specified Associated Organisation, might lead one to believe that the matter at hand wasn’t terribly important, just mere housekeeping.

“And what was the proposal?”, I hear you ask. Put simply, the proposal was to decouple the job of the President from that of Chair of the Federal Executive. Naturally, I have a view on the matter, although that really isn’t that relevant in this instance. The more interesting aspect was that the proposal failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to pass.

My concern is that, if it was a conspiracy to push something through under cover of darkness, the Federal Executive, with its acknowledged ‘payroll’ vote, wasn’t able to successfully deliver the desired outcome. This does not necessarily inspire confidence in their collective competence. On the other hand, if it wasn’t a conspiracy, the fact that the ‘non-payroll’ vote probably at best voted narrowly in favour of it indicates how out of touch the Federal Executive has become. It is true that all but half of its membership is not directly elected. It is also true that, in internal Party elections, members of the Federal Executive who are well known personalities tend to do better than their performance might merit, simply because of their ‘celebrity’. As a result, there is a decided possibility that the Federal Executive is less well connected to the membership than it might otherwise (and really ought to) be.

Perhaps a few of them, especially those publicly arguing that removing the President from their role as Chair of the Federal Executive enhances the internal democracy of the Party, might like to consider whether or not they retain the confidence of conference delegates and the membership at large…


Duncan Borrowman said...

Having the President, elected by the membership, as Chair of Federal Executive is an important check on the party structures and should not be removed. The fact of course that some presidents may be better at that aspect of the job than others is another issue.
Wasn't Lembit the mover of this motion - is he by implication saying he wants to be a celebrity rubber chicken circuit president and not a serious one. i.e. he is not up to the job as advertised.

Erlend said...

As a member of the Federal Executive I am going to respond in person.

Firstly I will perhaps unusually, defend Lembit. This item came up at an FE where Simon had to present his apologies as his Mother was dying. Lembit having chaired the meeting was purely doing the duty of putting forwards the committee he had chaired, so Duncan's ad hominem attack is unreasonable.

More relevantly to the case for the motion is as to whether the skills sets (god I hate the jargon) for the two roles involved in the current post are at all connected. I would suggest that they are not.

As the organiser in the current holdser's constituency I am the wrong person to give a view on Simon as I would either be dislyal or prejudiced.

But in the past I doubt that President Kennedy was a great chair of the FE and that President Maclennan was a great one for the rubber chicken circuit.

As it happens I think that Ross Scott might well be good at both aspects but that is why I can still say in a principled way that the job should have been seperated.

It is reasonably clear from my discussions with other FE members that the only time this could come up is when there is no incumbent president seeking re-election so this is unlikely to reappear for 4 years.

My regret is that I did not put a card in to speak as Mark did leave me with the impression that he felt it appeared as a conspiracy by various long serving apparatchiks. Well as a 1st term FE member I disagree. It was the right answer.

We rightly have a 2/3 majority rule but I would note that it had a 60% share of the vote of those in the hall. So hardly unpopular. And on Saturday afternoon not Sunday Morning so not hidden away.

And finally given that the FE had just had the report accepted with no serious objection (not sure if it was nem con) Mark's suggestion of a vote of no confidence is pure mischief making with no shred of foundation.

Mark Valladares said...


Duncan is asking a legitimate question. As a declared candidate for the Presidency of the Party, Lembit has an obvious interest in the impact of such a constitutional amendment. It might have been wiser for him to have declared an interest and stood aside. However, having not done so, Duncan is at liberty to ask the question. Personally, I have no view on the implications of Lembit's speech, it is for others to draw their own conclusions.

In turn, by stating that Ros might well be good at both aspects of the job, you are implying that the job is possible. Perhaps finding, and electing, someone who can do it is a better option than changing the job. Merely a rhetorical question, you understand.

I won't address the question of whether or not it was a conspiracy. I have a view, which you clearly don't share. That's fine, we don't have to agree.

However, I called upon those members of the Executive who suggested that the proposal would improve the internal democracy to consider their position. Such an amendment MIGHT improve the way that the organisation is managed and led, but I am yet to see how replacing someone with a mandate from 60,000 plus members with someone with a mandate from 31 individuals, only half of whom are directly elected themselves, improves the internal democracy of the Party.

If the intention was to improve the way the Party is led and managed, the proposal could have been consistent with the Federal Policy Committee and allowed the President to nominate someone to chair the Federal Executive should they choose not to do so themselves, in the same way that the Leader does for FPC. That way, responsibility would still lie with the President. But that wasn't the proposal, was it?

Duncan Borrowman said...

I am perfectly happy for the job to be split in two. The members can elect the person to chair the FE and meet the constitutional jobs. The 32 members of the FE can appoint one of their number to do the rubber chicken circuit.

James said...

Without wanting to get caught up in a proxy debate about Presidential candidates, I thought it might be helpful to point out a couple of useful facts that might mitigate fears of a conspiracy on this occasion.

Like Erlend, I'm also a directly elected member of the Federal Executive. I suspect that neither of us would self classify as 'celebrity' FE members!

I would however remind Mark that the agenda is drawn up and timetabled by the Federal Conference Committee - on which I sit as the FE rep. I can certainly vouch for the fact that considerations saving the collective blushes of the FE were rather less apparent in deciding where a debate of this import went in the available timeslots.

The FCC is a fiercely independent committee and has its own mandate. Both federal reports were overwhealmingly accepted by conference reps - who would have had far more cause for concern had the agenda prioritised constitutional amendments of this sort over policy development and show-casing our Parliamentary teams!

Duncan's take on why the amendment was tabled in the first place may well be far more accurate - although only Erlend is best placed to comment on this ... as I wasn't able to get to the debate at FE either.

One last thought ... surely the fact that the FE meeting which met to discuss amending the constitution in this manner was actually chaired by someone other than the President indicates that the current constitution is working well enough at present without amendment!

Duncan Borrowman said...

My concern on timing was the duration allowed to consider such a fundamental change. Indeed it is the sort of issue that could have done with a bit of debate on ldv!

As it turned out I was in bed with a raging temperature at the time of the debate.

Erlend said...

My view is that the jobs would be better done by 2 people seperately. Terms like pluralism and constructive tension come to mind.

Although supporting Ros, my view is that I do not wish to make my decision on this based on the qualities of 1 candidate but on the principle as a whole.

As it happens despite the suggestion having a support of a majority of members voting (but clearly insufficient) the subject is dead and buried for probably 4 years unless something strange happens.

That majority does however negate the original suggestion of lack of support for the FE decision to bring the matter up. Clearly ther can be a majority without a constitutional amendment being passable.