Thursday, July 17, 2008

Can we have a proper debate on the party constitution, Mr Clegg?

Yesterday's Times had a report claiming:
Mr Clegg, who became leader in December, plans to turn the party's traditional structure on its head, centralising all decision-making under a new “chief officers group” and diluting the roles of its committees.
Interestingly, the report was predicated on the supposed fact that all the good things in the current Lib Dem constitution came from the SDP and all the bad things came from the Liberal party.

That gives a pretty big clue as to who has been briefing The Times.

In response to this report Nick Clegg had a short article on Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday evening. It was intended to counteract the Times's claim that there is a rift between Nick and Chris Rennard, the party's chief executive and chair of the general election campaign - not that this is the first time such a rift has been alleged.

Unfortunately, as Lib Dem Voice commenters are pointing out, there are two major problems with Nick's article.

The first is that it does not tell us what changes Nick proposes to make. He implies that they stem from the report of the Bones Commission, but that report has not been released to party members. All we get from Nick is:
I think it made sense to deal first of all with the issues of improving our ability as a Party to make decisions in a streamlined manner – clearer, faster and more transparent systems are needed if we are to continue to grow as a Party.
A lot of buzzwords there, but what do they mean in practice?

The second problem is that Nick's article begins with the words:
The next general election may be only a matter of months away. In the seven months since becoming Leader I’ve been concentrating on making sure that the Party is ready for the election whenever it is called.
You what?

Nick is leader precisely because it became clear last autumn that the next general election is a couple of years away. If we thought it was likely to be called in a few months then Ming Campbell would still be leader.

While a party has to make contingency plans, the idea that Gordon Brown is about to call a general election seems pretty silly with the polls the way they are. He is committed to a strategy of hanging on grimly and hoping something turns up.

This does make Nick's opening paragraph sound uncomfortably like a scare tactic designed to help the leadership bounce the members into supporting the new proposals - whatever they are.

Let's have those proposals published and a proper debate on them without phoney talk of impending general elections.


Letters From A Tory said...

Clegg knows that the ancient and ineffective structures within the Lib Dems have to be sorted out before the party can start moving forward, but he's going to have to p*** off some people along the way.

Jonathan Calder said...

Hmm. I wonder how closely you have studied the constitution of the Liberal Democrats.