These are the elections for the International Relations Committee, which works with our sister parties around the world; Conference Committee, which organises and runs conference; Federal Policy Committee, which administers our policymaking and the Federal Executive, which makes all the big decisions. We are also voting on who the Leader should nominate for the House of Lords when he next gets the chance and for something called the ELDR Delegation who are a group of eight people none of whom will ever be seen or heard from again.
I say "we" because back in May I decided to go to the special conference in
During the recent Labour leadership contest there was, rightly, a lot of commentary about the strange mechanism of the various electoral colleges and the end result in which a leader was elected without the support of either members or MPs. That could never happen in our party. Every conference season the point is made that only Liberal Democrats allow rank-and-file members to decide policy. We are rightly proud of our democratic structures. But are they good enough?
I have come to the conclusion that we simply do not need the institution of "conference reps." At one time this system was necessary to prevent a few active local parties from overwhelming the rest, but today when conferences see upwards of 2000 attendees from every corner of Britain and dormant areas are the exception rather than the rule, this is not the case. All this system does is to create extra administration for local party officers and Cowley Street staff and place a barrier between Lib Dem members and their right to decide party policy.
So I make three proposals:
• Let every member vote for the party's committees at the same time as they elect the president.
• Let any party member who registers for federal, state or regional conference vote at that conference. We don't need elections to pick out "the right sort of people."
• Host the candidates' manifestos online along with electronic voting to save sending out an entire tree to each voter.
That last one's just something I thought of as I was typing and I surveyed they sheer tonnage of paper used for the manifesto booklets! There's a LOT of it!
Unlike most of the membership I'm not currently standing for anything, but I hope those who are eventually elected will take this all to heart, or at least give me a good reason why not.