miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
This gets quite long and involved, guys. There were a lot of questions in the governance review paper, and I've answered every one of them. As such, my answers are probably going to hurt your scrolling fingers. Sorry bout that. If you want to see the background to the questions you need to read the governance review paper, which you can download in .pdf here.

Q1 Are these still our values?

Yes

Q2 Are these values embedded into our party structures at all levels, members, volunteers, elected office holders and paid staff?

To a greater or lesser degree, although it depends on the individual member/elected officer/paid staff member/committee/etc. For example, FCC is much better at this than FFAC, for obvious reasons.

Q3 What does the party do well to live its values?

Conference

Q4 What does it need to improve?

Transparency and communication at all levels, but especially between head office staff and the democratic and rule-making bodies of the party. Head office staff should not be ignorant of the constitution of the party in general and the bits of it that apply to them in particular. Nor should they fail to communicate when things they do affect the running of other bits of the party.

Communication between various party bodies is patchy at best and non-existent at worst. The worst of all party bodies both at recieving and giving communication is the English council. The English state party should be abolished forthwith; it serves no purpose other than to create an extra layer of opacity between the members and the federal party.

Disciplinary procedures are confusing and many bodies have overlapping powers with regard to them. There needs to be one federal disciplinary procedure, so that everyone knows what is going on. A start has been made on this with the appointment of the Pastoral Care Officer, but there is still a lot left to be desired. As a party chair I recently received an email from one of the English Council saying that one of my members had been suspended and was being investigated with a view to being thrown out of the party. I was not to be told what my member was being investigated for, though, or when the hearing might be, or whether I might have been a witness to whatever my member was being investigated for, or anything. Just that they’d let me know in the fullness of time whether or not my member is being kicked out. This is not good enough, and does nothing to dispel my view that the English state party should be abolished.

Q5 What should the party stop doing or do less of?

Obfuscating or hiding committee decisions to avoid accountability - there is no point in electing people to committees if you can’t see what they have done once there in order to decide whether or not to vote for them again.

Q6 What should the party start doing or do more of?

Publishing minutes of and votes from committee meetings as soon as possible after they happen. This could quite easily be done in a members-only way.

Some members of some committees have taken it upon themselves to do this without official sanction, and in some cases in the face of official criticism. I salute these members for living up to the party’s values far better than the people who criticise them do.

Q7 If we believe in power being exercised at the lowest level possible, how do we make sure that decisions are made as close to members as possible?

Abolish the English state party. Also, actually pay attention to policy and business motions passed at regional conferences at federal level instead of just ignoring them. Have local party AGMs a month before regional conferences, and regional conferences a month before autumn federal conference, then the local feeds up to the regional and the regional feeds up to federal in a visible way. The current structures lead to local party AGMs and regional conferences being, or at least appearing, somewhat pointless.

Q8 What should our strategic priorities be in determining the party’s structure?

SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-limited). Make sure the party works for all of it’s component parts, and that everything is comprehensible and transparent to all. I fully believe that at this point, this will involve a complete root and branch restructure of the entire party.

Q9 What powers or decision making within the party could be placed at a more local level than at present?

Anything done by the English party, which as I said before, should be abolished.

Q10 How can we ensure that there is, in our governance, greater:
a) selflessness
b) integrity
c) objectivity
d) accountability
e) openness
f) honesty?

Transparency at all levels. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Q11 Are there any other principles that should underpin our governance?

Justice.

Q12 How do we balance the ideal of transparency against the need to prevent information useful to our opponents reaching them?

Information is always going to reach our opponents. You can’t prevent that. The way the current system works is that sometimes information reaches us VIA our opponents because of the misguided attempts at secrecy.

We need to live our ideals, and that means transparency should not be an unattainable ideal, but a maxim to live by.

Q13 Which levels of the party should have public-facing activities and which should not? What are these activities?

Public-facing should be the rule, not the exception. I can understand that some (e.g. financial, disciplinary or otherwise personal, etc.) information can be sensitive; however even this can be released in anonymised form. if it is something which our opponents could use against us then maybe there could be a time limit, but this should not be something that can be used by people to avoid accountability. Much of the work of all the federal party committees and the entirety of the English Council seems to be an exercise in avoiding accountability.

If we can’t run our own party in a transparent and accountable way, what hope have we of ever getting the country to be run that way?

Q14 Should the party consider having more direct public (i.e. non-member) input into the organisation, and if so what form would this take?

Probably not. Focus Groups killed the Labour party; we don’t need to follow their mistake. It’s hardly difficult or expensive to join up if you want to affect the party.

Q15 Are there some basic principles we should use when amending our governance structure? Please note this is not a request for which committee to abolish! We want to understand what members want to know or monitor, and how you can feel that this is your party.

Transparency and communication. Again. Members cannot make informed decisions if they are not kept informed.

Transparency goes down as far as things like geography, as well as actually telling members what goes on. Which counties are the western counties? What counts as East of England? Enquiring minds want to know, but it’s ridiculously difficult to find out. Local and regional party constitutions should be published, as the federal one is.

I’m glad I already told you to abolish the English party several times - this means I don’t have to repeat that here ;)

Q16 Do you want to see minutes of every meeting on the party website, reports on Lib Dem Voice and other blogs of party meetings? How should the party manage this openness of information with the few matters that are genuinely confidential?

Yes yes yes, and yes. The few matters that are genuinely confidential can be reported in anonymised ways, such as “the party carried out x number of disciplinary procedures, of which y found in favour of the complainant and z in favour of the defendant”. Or “the party received significant funds, which will be divided between a selected number of target and development seats for campaigning purposes”. Or “FCC agreed a date and venue for the next conference which will be revealed in the fullness of time”. All of these ways of saying things tell people what was agreed without revealing enough detail for it to be of use to opponents.

Q17 Should the party devolve more resources to ensure effective capacity-building and campaigning skills in states and regions?

YES (but not the English party which should be, as I have said, abolished).

Q18 Will activists return to a more active role in local parties and regions, and how do we ensure that they have the right skills?

They’ll have to. When doing a skills audit of members, actually pay attention to the data you get back. If there are not relevant people with the right skills, train them.

Q19 How do we best maximise the wide range of diverse skills which members have?

Train them. The party (well, ALDC) is very good at training people in campaigning techniques, but rubbish at training them in anything else. People need training in all sorts of things, and not on the basis that training is currently offered, where the party passively offers training at conferences for people to turn up to if they like.

You shouldn’t be allowed to be a party officer without certification that you are capable of being a chair, or a treasurer, or whatever. It should not be outside the realms of possibility that between the local AGM and being elected and taking office in the January people could have training on what their role entails.

Q20 Should we look at a clear career pathway and progression for staff, giving them an opportunity to work in a range of areas and fostering transferable skills?

YES. The fact that you are even asking this question is indicative of SO much, and I know for a fact that the party has actively resisted giving staff transferrable skills in the past to stop them being poached. This must stop.

Q21 The party has members with a range of skills and experience. How can the party encourage the sharing of knowledge and skills among and between volunteers and staff to ensure that the party and both its paid and volunteer workforce benefit?

Actually pay attention to the data you get back from skills audits.

Q22 What do members and the party need to do to increase the level of skills of activists?

Train them.

Q23 What more do we need to do to embed a new culture within the party?

Live it and breathe it yourselves. Stop trying to stamp it out because it’s difficult or uncomfortable. Oh, and abolish the English party.

Q24 Should we change the way our discipline structures work to streamline and simplify them?

Sort of. Streamlining and simplifying should maybe be a goal, but actually having discipline structures that work towards a goal of justice for all concerned might be a better goal. Thus:

  • The party should have a clear disciplinary structure in which everyone knows who is responsible for what, or at least who to ask who is responsible for what

  • Anyone who is on a disciplinary panel should have had at least some rudimentary training on being on a disciplinary panel

  • Anyone who is on a disciplinary panel should be aware of both the rules of the party and the legal framework the party works in, and be following the principles, rules and legal obligations of the party.

I, personally, have been present at several disciplinary procedures and twice asked to conduct them. The only training I have had is my law degree and bar vocational training. This is two more items of training than anyone else involved in any of the procedures I mention. This is so far beyond Not Good Enough that I don’t even know how to put it into words.

There is no justice for either complainants or defendants in the shambolic, ad hoc, rulefree environment of our current disciplinary procedures, and frankly, as a Liberal who believes in the rule of law it disgusts me.

Q25 How do we make sure that systems of accountability are properly in place at a local, regional, state and federal level, so that reporting and monitoring procedures work for members?

Actually attempt to have some systems of accountability? I don’t think saying “oh, maybe we should have emailed people about that” counts as a “system”, myself.

Q26 What do members want from the complaints and disciplinary processes?

Justice to be done, and seen to be done.

Should there be a stronger focus on early mediation and speedier resolution of problems?

Possibly, but not at the expense of justice.

Diversity
<snip>
Female/BAME/ Disability/ LGBT+
ONS Figure 51% / 14% / 18% / 2%
Westminster Candidates 26% / 9% / 5% / 6%
Federal Conference 34% / 5% / 13% / 15%
Regional Conference 35% / 8% / 14% / 11%
Local Party Officers 26% / 7% / 13% / 18%

Where do these figures come from? I, as a local party chair, have not to my knowledge filled in a diversity form. Am I counted in the 18% LGBT+ Local Party Officers? I should be, given that I’m bi and out, but I don’t know in what way the party has got its information. Either there is some dodgy data sharing going on, or these are just guesses, or something else. This goes right back to my theme of transparency.

Q27 What can members and the party do to embed our values about diversity into the party?

Don’t give free passes to high up Lords who sexually harass people. For a start.

Q28 What more should the party do to support and help those from groups with protected characteristics and those underrepresented in parliament?

Don’t give free passes to high up Lords who sexually harass people. For a start.

If you want to increase diversity, I favour the Gadsden model: Don’t pick under-represented characteristics to rule in, pick over-represented ones to rule out. So, for example, if you already have one cis het middleclass white man, then anyone else applying has to demonstrate that they do not fall into one of those categories.

Q29 What should the party do to make this happen?

Don’t give free passes to high up Lords who sexually harass people. For a start.

Q30 Should the party look at specific arrangements to ensure that party bodies, candidates and the leadership of the party are more diverse?
(a) For example, should the party ensure that committees at all levels have at least one third women members, and a percentage of BAME members that reflect the community at that level (e.g. Federal Committees: 15%, England 13% Scotland 5% Greater Manchester 21%)?

I don’t think this solves the problem. It masks the problem. Plus it only works if we have a significant representation. Our EU representation is 100% female at the moment, for example.

(b) Should the party return to the ‘zipping’ mechanisms for list elections used in England and Wales for the European elections in 1998, which gave us 50-50 gender breakdown in the European Parliament?

see answer for (a)

(c) Should the party look at all women shortlists, and BAME shortlists in areas with higher levels of BAME residents?

see answer for (a)

(d) How do we encourage, mentor and support people from underrepresented groups in politics to put themselves forward for roles in the party?

Don’t give free passes to high up Lords who sexually harass people. For a start.

(e) How do we make democracy in the party available to all members? (For example some local parties provide grants to members on low incomes to help them attend conference; in the past grants have also been available for disabled people to help with the extra cost of accessible hotel rooms)

I liked the idea put forward at the policy review session of making small satellite conference venues in regions at, for example, cinemas so that people could watch debates and vote remotely while still having some semblance of checking who was doing the voting.

(f) How can the party best use former MPs, candidates and Leadership Programme members to improve the public perception of diversity in the party?

I think Tim is actually doing a really good job of showing how this can be done effectively in how he has assembled his core team. Perhaps others should pay attention?

Q31 Should the party ensure diversity in the senior leadership roles of Leader, President and Deputy Leader?

This entirely depends on what those roles are defined as. My understanding of deputy leader is that the deputy leader is the person who fills in for the leader at parliamentary occasions when the leader is indisposed. That role cannot, therefore, be taken by a non-parliamentarian. I suppose it could be taken by a member of the house of Lords.

The main thing that has annoyed me about the current vogue for an elected deputy leader is that it conflates many of the roles of the president with what people want from a deputy leader, and we HAVE a president who is a lady, and she gets ignored when we discuss power in the party. This is illustrative more of our attitude to women than what the actual roles are, IMHO.

The president, and deputy leader if we go down that road, should absolutely be paid positions.

Q33 Should a Deputy Leader be elected by the members or appointed by the Party Leader?

It depends on the role of the deputy leader we go for. If (s)he is just there to step in if the party leader is indisposed then I have no problem with it being an appointed role. If the role is more substantial then it should be elected, but it MUST be clearly defined, as must the role of president and leader.

Q34 If the Deputy Leader is elected, should the election for Leader and Deputy Leader be on a joint-ticket basis where possible?

Probably, but again this depends on the definition we choose for the role.

Q35 Should remuneration and expenses be made available to the President and/or Deputy Leader?

It should be a salaried position. What the salary should be is not for me to say, but it should be something a person can live off, and they should get travel expenses too. Otherwise we are massively restricting the number of people who can even think of standing.

Q36 Are party committees organised in such a way that all members who want to are able to take part? Can we use technology to help (as with telephone conferencing or Skype)?

No, and possibly.

Q37 Should we highlight the areas of responsibility for certain committees more clearly, and encourage members standing for committees to highlight their expertise in those areas, rather than the tendency to focus on campaigning experience?

We should tear up the whole ridiculous structure and start again from scratch, rather than trying to polish the poo. However, I accept the unlikeliness of that actually happening, so yes, transparency over what committees and their members do, and who has the right expertise for those committees would be welcome.

Q38 Should we actively encourage progression in party roles, especially for those from underrepresented groups?

Probably

Q39 If you have never stood for a committee, please tell us why.

I tried to run for president once...

Q40 Should we consider reducing the tiers of structures to simplify accountability?

Yes. The best way to make a start on this would be to abolish the English party entirely.

Q41 Should terms of office be streamlined, so that they are consistent within the party? If yes, what should the term be?

Yes. Given that we now have fixed term parliaments, 5 years (the length of a parliament) seems reasonable, but with no restanding. This should be for all party officers, committee members, presidents and the whole shebang. The term should probably start one year into a parliament though, and I’m not really fixed on it being five years, it just seems to make sense.

Q42 Should all elected officers and committee members have a time limit before they have to stand down for a period before putting themselves up for election again, or be time limited?

Yes, absolutely, always. And it should be the same time limit for all of them; what that time limit should be, whether or not it is staggered, etc, are up for discussion I think.
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