The President has three primary roles;
- chairing Federal Executive - which is rather more than just turning up and doing the job. The agenda has to be agreed, papers commissioned, debate managed so as to ensure that all of the business is given a proper airing. The President is also a member of the Chief Officers Group, Federal Conference Committee, Federal Policy Committee, Federal Finance and Administration Committee and the Campaigns and Communications Committee. All meet in London, mostly in the evening, and occasionally on a Saturday.
- representing the membership to the leadership - responding to hundreds of e-mails and letters (some of them astonishingly rude or even abusive), travelling around the country to regional and state conferences, to local party dinners, to campaign events, and then conveying the information and views gathered to the Leader, the Chief Executive and now to the Liberal Democrat parliamentarians in ministerial office.
- representing the Party, as opposed to the Parliamentary Party, in the outside world, to pressure groups, media, lobbying organisations and, leading our international delegations to organisations such as Liberal International and ELDR.
- It is not a salaried position.
- No office accommodation is provided.
- No staff are exclusively given over to support for the President.
- The total budget is £5,000 per annum - this has to cover all travel expenses, including international events, and any other costs which might arise.
- Volunteer help. People do come forward, but you have to find somewhere for them to work (see above).
An absolute minimum of 30 hours per week to do all the things above, and, combined with most people's need to earn a living, that does mean that most of your waking hours are filled for you.
And a personal comment, if you’ll indulge me, if you have a family, or loved ones, you will therefore not see much of them, unless they can afford to pay to travel with you. If you don't live in London, you might not see much of your home either, which can get a bit depressing if you let it.
Having considered this, and having reached a personal view on what is required, I'm not actually going to list them. Ros had her way of doing the job, and her predecessors likewise, and each differed in terms of their personal skill set, likes and dislikes, methods of working and priorities. Oh yes, and the needs of the Party vary over time too.
Given that the membership needs to decide upon its priorities for any incoming President, it seems appropriate to leave this element of the debate for others to pontificate upon...
I certainly wish Ros's successor well, whoever it turns out to be. Because, to do the job well, and to meet the expectations placed upon them, they'll have to work bloody hard...