Coalition has exposed and accentuated the differences between two powerbases within the party: the leadership and it’s governing committees. And though both are elected, it feels to me as an ordinary member that I have no chance of influencing either.
I stand outside both at the moment, I'm not in the leadership and I don't contribute to the Federal Policy Committee, Federal Conference Committee or Federal Executive, nor would I stand a chance of being elected as I'm not well known enough. I'm a board member for Liberal Reform, campaigning for reform within the party, but writing from a personal perspective.
I want to change things, and don't exclude the Lib Dems from the need for that. I see that there are differences, and that both power blocs within the party claim sovereignty over the other.
This leads to a deadlock, and though we are praised for our unity, it doesn't feel like we have a distinct purpose or aim, as a whole – e.g. the Social Liberal Forum (who have many representatives on FPC / FCC) could sign up to "stronger economy, fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life" as a number of their aims could be included under that strapline. But I don’t see them reference this. SLF seem most concerned about “Osbornomics” and this to me appears we are more focussed on our differences than any shared purpose.
Therefore, coalition throws up the problem that the leadership and the FPC / FCC do not seem to be signed up to the same aims, and reference different agenda to get their point across – there seem to be people thirsting for fights in Glasgow over the 50p tax rate, our policy on tuition fees/graduate tax and welfare.
Is this the best environment to make policy? I'm not advocating "why don't we all just get along?" as I recognise debate and arguments can be good for giving everyone a fair say and allow us to settle contentious issues and move on to the policy of the future. But, people within the different factions looking at the other side as something to be suspicious of, does not make for good communication.
I believe the party's democratic deficit - the lack of OMOV (one member, one vote) for FPC and FCC - contributes to different stances from the leadership and the membership. Shibboleths exist such as "conference is sovereign". It quite clearly isn't when we are in government, which leads to members getting very frustrated when they lead campaigns, get issues debated at conference and then are more or less ignored. Plus, from the leadership a certain frustration is detectable about Lib Dem policy making not being “grown up” enough. I'm not unsympathetic to either view. They could both be right.
We elected a leader (through OMOV) who seems to have a different ethos than that of the FPC/FCC, (elected by conference reps). The electorate for the two different power bases is different and in addition, it may be that people look for different things in a leader (good communication skills) from what they do for elected committee members (people they agree with). It does appear though that in our president, Tim Farron, OMOV can elect a representative with both good communication skills for the wider electorate, and someone they want to represent them.
So I’d like OMOV for the FPC/FCC as aligning the electorates for both positions to a more democratic method, would be a step in the right direction, and almost imperative for a party with the word Democrat in its name.