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One member one vote: Whats not to like

March 4, 2014 2:36 PM
By Sue Doughty in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

As many members will be aware, votes on policy, and for members of the committees who run the party are in the hands of the conference representatives elected by local parties. In other words, your ability to vote depends on your contacts back home. There were good reasons for this once but in this day and age it is time to take a fresh look which is why the Internal Democratic Reform Group of the Federal Executive wants to hear your views.

At present the only all member votes are for the Party Leader and the Party President, and we hope also for members of the Interim Peers Panel when this motion comes before conference.

With at least two thirds of the party now joining on line we need to be sure that they are engaged at all levels of the party. They join because they want to get involved in Liberal Democracy and yet in areas with a weak local party, or indeed where the same people are always elected as conference reps their opportunities to participate in policy making are very limited.

Use of the internet makes it much easier to keep costs down for expensive internal party elections although of course the traditional postal vote is still needed too. At Conference where we vote on our policies it would be much more meaningful if every member who attends conference were able to vote rather than just those with that magic pass. The strong traditions of our party have been well looked after by members who attend each year, perhaps because they have the time, but we must do more to involve newer members and to draw on the strong life experiences which they bring.

It is a fact that conference is expensive, in terms of money, annual leave and time away from home and other responsibilities. In the long term we need to consider how this could be addressed in a cost effective manner to meet the needs of all members. There is also the issue that some people can only come for the weekend or indeed might only want to come for a specific policy debate and whether changes could be made by the Federal Conference Committee to the way we charge for passes.

Conference Representatives will have received our consultation paper and other members can find it here.

We are holding a consultation at York on Saturday at 13.00 in the Conference Centre. I hope as many people as possible will be able to come along and contribute but I would also appreciate written comments from party members to reform@libdems.org.uk . There is also a survey on the website that you can complete.

* Sue Doughty chairs the FE Working Group on Democratic Reform. She was formerly the MP for Guildford