Mark Pack has graciously asked me to respond to his suggestions on improving party election rules, and, as a gentleman, I do feel that I ought to respond.
First, some context. We introduced the rule that insisted that members renew their subscription before being allowed to take part in Parliamentary candidate selections and the like after a series of instances where Local Parties experienced sometimes quite stunning increases in their memberships just before the selection itself took place, no names, no pack drill, as they say. And, having experienced a few of them myself as a Returning Officer or Regional Party Officer, I understand the logic behind it, even as I regret the cause. As usual, abuse by a small minority has a negative effect for the majority.
I deeply suspect that we aren't alone in experiencing such difficulties. Becoming an MP is still prestigious, more so in some quarters, and both Labour and the Conservatives have experienced such entryism in the past. As party membership continues to fall, political parties at constituency level become more and more vulnerable to infiltration, as the numbers needed to launch a takeover become smaller and smaller.
Mark suggests that we allow those whose memberships have lapsed in the recent past (two years, Dr Pack suggests) be invited to take part as well, so long as they pay a membership subscription, i.e. rejoin.
It is an interesting idea, but creates a scenario whereby someone who is keen and enthusiastic doesn't get a vote, whereas someone who has lost interest, or decided that they no longer identify with the Liberal Democrats to the extent that they have withdrawn their financial support, does. It seems somewhat unfair to me, and I suspect that others might see it the same way.
Yes, it might have an impact on membership numbers, but each Local Party is supposed to have a Membership Development Officer, whose job it is to ensure that members renew, and to chase up lapsed members. If that person is doing their job, Mark's proposal is superfluous, and if they aren't, it is likely to be a Local Party that isn't that effective anyway, and unlikely to attract the sort of potential PPC who would need to work that hard.
So, in short, I won't be supporting this. It adds complexity and potentially greater unfairness, with little likely benefit. And now I really must dash, I've got some Local Party business to attend to...