Thursday, 30 October 2014

My answers to Jennie Riggs questions for Federal Executive candidates......

Jennie Rigg does an admirable service for members (that are conference reps) wishing to know more about the candidates they are voting for for Federal Committees. 

She's asked the candidates for Federal Executives some pertinent questions.

The link to her post of my answers is here  and in general Jennie's blog is worth a read if you are a Liberal Democrat, or even if you aren't and you want to know more about the party.

I've reproduced my answers here:

Are you standing for the first time or restanding? If first time what new thing do you bring that nobody else could; if restanding, what about your record are you most proud of that you think should make us vote you back in?

I'm standing for the first time. I'm very passionate about One Member One Vote and think this would be a step change for the party. Over the years I have been in the party I have observed frustration and confusion in new members when they are told "you can vote on policy" only to find they can't as they aren't a conference rep!

Are you standing for any other committees, if so which ones; and if elected to more than one how do you plan to divide your time?


Are you an active member of any SAOs, and if so which ones?


If someone asked you on the doorstep, the hustings or on TV to sum up in one or two sentences what the Lib Dems, uniquely, stand for – and then why anyone should vote for us – what are your answers?

The Lib Dems stand for freedom and equality of opportunity, enabling everyone to get on in life.

What is your view on diversity quotas for committees? Should they be extended to cover more than just gender, scrapped totally, kept as is or something else?

The Liberal Democrats have an issue with gender at the moment - this can be seen in replies on Lib Dem Voice to articles about feminism, and the poor representation of women amongst our MPs. Some of the responses over the recent sexual harassment scandal about the complainants were very disappointing and show we still have far to go here.

My view is that in this climate, gender quotas should at least be considered. It may be that it should be extended to other areas of discrimination - such as ethinicity, where we also have a problem, and disability, which should be taken in turn.

Secrecy rules prevent the party knowing what committees are doing. What will you do to communicate with members; and in what circumstances is confidentiality justified?

On Federal Executive, several members have usefully used social media to share items from the FE meetings. I would also do this. I would also have Skype or Google Hangouts after the meetings for members to make representation to me and ask questions about what went on.

Confidentially may be justified for issues of party strategy - depending on the context. However I believe passionately that more could be done to provide reports to members - I think there is too much erring on the side of caution here.

As the party has now backed the principle of OMOV, how will you ensure all members are represented, not just those who can afford to go to Conference?

There are two issues here. Firstly OMOV is not just about voting at conference, it's about voting for the members of the committees as well. So in this case all members *will* be represented.

On the issue of voting at conference, at this time remote voting is not part of the proposals, tho I know a number of members are in favour of this - as the Pirate Party succesfully holds their conference online, and as we move forward with technology - tech savvy party members see less and less objections. However on the other side, I also listen to members that have concerns about conference losing revenue.

I would examine the accounts available to me to see how much money comes from the fees for members, compared to what exhibitors and others are paying.

In this case I would propose a charge to vote online, to recoup some revenue and pay for admin and set up costs, but that would be below what the conference fee is at present.

I feel there are other benefits to going to conference such as the networking opportunities, speaking at conference, raising your profile, dealing with the media, training and socializing - that many members who can afford to go to conference will still enjoy. Analysis of how these benefits appeal to people and how much revenue is dependent on each would help inform my decision

In summary, I think the party needs to move forward, not back. Our USP (unique selling point) compared to Labour and the Conservatives is that we can contribute to policy. Therefore it makes sense to extend this to as many people as possible - getting the balance right with keeping conference viable financially. A difficult balance but I'm sure it's achievable with the right strategy.

If police accreditation to attend conference was proposed again, would you support or oppose it and why?

I wasn't comfortable with police accreditation. It's again a complicated question as one could see the security concerns that led to the initial use of police accreditation.

However many people (especially some within the trans community) suffered problems and weren't able to attend conference, which seems exclusionary and against Liberal Democrat principles. I believe I would oppose it, but would listen to the arguments for and against first.

What is your view on electoral pacts? Should the party make them, and if so, who with?

I don't think our party should make electoral pacts. It seems disingenuous before the election and where the people have not had a chance to vote on our manifesto, to organize "back room deals".

These days I feel we have enough distinction from the Conservatives, Labour, the Greens and certainly from UKIP, to offer a clear manifesto to the British public. Within coalition we've learnt to speak out where we differ, and I think that has strengthened our position, tho we've clearly made some mistakes along the way - hopefully as a party we have learnt from them.

How should the FE change the way it operates following the motion passed in Glasgow censuring the Federal Executive?

Presuming this question is regarding the decision regarding gender quotas which was overturned at conference and saying that the FE had acted outside it's powers?

In general I think the constitution requires a lot of expertise to understand. I will be working to make sure I understand it ahead of the election, so if I am elected I am in a position to make better decisions regarding it. If not elected it can help me as a member understand better what the party attempts to do. My view is that at present, because admirable attempts are made to reform the party (not necessarily this one) but those who seek to prevent those reforms can use the constitution against reform. I don't think this is the use to which it was intended, but think part of the answer must be to make the FE more informed about the constitution itself, and powers and remits within it.

I think legal advice on the constitution needs to be a regular feature of Federal Executive meetings. Reports should be prepared on the ramifications of decisions proposed, and examined by the entire group. Perhaps the Lib Dem Lawyers association would be able to help us with this, and I would reach out to establish a resource to be called on in this case.

What do you think needs to be said and done about the performance of the party Chief Executive?

Tim Gordon has been a good Chief Executive. His action and thoughts over the Rennard affair were timely and effective. I would like more to be done with regard to the Pastoral Officer - and if this is something he could lead on, namely establishing a clear and obvious process for internal party complaints, I think this would be very good for the party.

The Chief Executive needs to establish us as a professional organisation - I think there have been some growing pains as more focus has been on us since we are in government, and some bad mistakes in the past have been revealed. It would be good to learn from them, and unforgivable to repeat them. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

I'm standing for Federal Executive.... on a platform about One Member One Vote (OMOV)

I'm standing for Federal Executive as I want to improve the representation in policy debates and for committees in our party. As I've blogged about before, it can be a confusing and difficult process for a new member (or not-so-new member!)  to get selected as a conference rep, yet we insist on telling new members that they "can vote on policy" - yes if they jump through a number of hoops at the correct time of the year, they can. But many new members don't know about those hoops.....

I was speaking to a new member in another local party this weekend, who like many, joined through the website. He referred to the fact he'd voted Lib Dem for years and did now want to get involved. The intricacies of the conference system were a complete mystery to him

I was also campaigning this weekend, in my own local party and had to explain again the labyrinthine system to a party stalwart of many years standing who didn't have a clue why they couldn't vote on policy or for conference reps. 

The final person I spoke to was fully versed on the system AND happened to be a conference rep. I hope I persuaded them to vote for me. However their concern was that the party should spend time campaigning, and I was able to share that if we were able to lighten the membership officers' load a little by meaning they didn't have to maintain a list of conference rep, and take some of the flak off them when people get disenfranchised as the rep updates don't get to HQ on time, then the volunteers that we ask to do this job would have more time to campaign.
I wonder if you can recognize yourself in any of these party members?

So, all in all a good weekend getting a variety of different views on the whole OMOV situation. I really enjoy talking to party members so please let me know in the comments about your view or experience - or alternatively email me 

on or Twitter on @LouiseShawLD

You can also find me on Facebook - please Like the page here at as there are several resources on there including my speech to conference on this matter :)