My Response to the “Consultation” on Changes to the Lib Dem Constitution

I have a very simple response to the proposals by a “leader” who got the job without actually being elected by the members of the party, and who is now trying to ensure that party members never again get to elect a leader.

I think these proposals are *grotesquely* wrongheaded, for the reasons set out in . They amount to turning control of the party over to whichever special interest has the inclination to set up a botnet (and no, the supposed “safeguards” suggested, all of which would be trivial to circumvent, would do nothing at all to mitigate this. If the party can check that names are on the electoral register, so can any malicious actor).

This would be a bad idea even at the best of times, but at a time when interests opposed to everything the Lib Dems claim to stand for are known to be engaging in cyberattacks, one might as well just hang out a sign saying “the Lib Dems welcome our new authoritarian Russian-backed leadership!” and have done with it. (I am no believer in grand conspiracy theories, but I think extending open-handed invitations to have our electoral system compromised would *invite* conspiracies).

I think that even more than the proposals themselves being misguided, foolish, and potentially deadly to the party, the way in which the party is being railroaded into them is insulting to the party membership and the party’s traditions of internal democracy. And even more than that, I find the idea of spending more than £50,000 on this monument to one old man’s ego by holding a special conference on the proposals — at a time when one can barely go five minutes without another begging letter purportedly from a party luminary because the party is so short of funds — nothing less than obscene. 

I might have been persuadable to vote for a very amended version of these proposals — without the ludicrous idea of the botnet actually getting to choose the leader — were they brought to a normal conference as part of the normal order of business. But given the revelation that these are intended to be brought at a special conference — which will cost the party money and will likely also cost the individual attending members money many of us can’t afford, for a navel-gazing constitutional change that is in no way an emergency, and which seems designed to ripen the party for a takeover by illiberal Labour “centrists” if not by much worse elements — I will firmly oppose even those parts of the proposals which might, in isolation, otherwise not seem as utterly ludicrous as the proposal to turn over our party leadership to hackers does.

These proposals are being presented to us as faits accompli by a leader who was also presented to us as a fait accompli, and we are being asked to pay to give away the party to whoever can be bothered to take it from us. This is mismanagement at an epic scale, and proves that the party constitution *does* need to be changed — to take the power to make stupid decisions like this away from the unelected grandees who pack federal committees, and to ensure there is proper democratic accountability among those committees so we are never again threatened with having what’s left of the party democracy turned over to any of the party’s enemies who wants it because of one man’s folly.

I harbour no illusions that this response will make the slightest difference to anything — it’s very clear that consultation responses will be cherry-picked to present the predetermined conclusion that Vince Cable is the wise sage whose bright idea of a cargo-cult invocation of Canada will save the party — but at least if I respond like this you can’t say absolutely no-one opposed this.

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4 Responses to My Response to the “Consultation” on Changes to the Lib Dem Constitution

  1. plok says:

    Horrid prospect! In Canada the Liberals consider themselves the natural aristocracy to the point where our Conservatives think they’re rustic rebels, no one should wish to replicate this witches’ brew of centric sameness Hunger Games bullshit, all it does is kill millions every year!

    If the LibDems implode into conformist appeasement this way, all you friends of mine will have t form a new party, won’t you.

    My advice: steal the songbook too.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yeah, sadly fetishising Canada is the in thing to do in British politics now, because no-one here really knows anything about Canada except that they speak English there and seem quite nice and have the Queen. So the main argument for the evil immigration paper at conference this year was “it’s like the Canadian system!” because nothing Canadian could be horrible, every argument made in the Lib Dems for any kind of change to the party has people saying “so we can be like Trudeau!”, and meanwhile on the fascist side of things all the headbangers who want to completely destroy the country with Brexit keep calling for a “Canada-style deal” with the EU.

      It makes a change from the US-fetishism that happens every time they have a youngish handsomeish Democrat President, I suppose…

      • plok says:

        I keep seeing people talking about the Liberal Party of Canada like they’re somehow in solidarity with parties animated by liberalism the world ’round, and I always have to look again to make sure that’s really what I saw. There are many ways in which Trudeau has overperformed, by the standards of PMs in my lifetime, which makes the disappointments that much more stinging…

        But good or bad or something in the middle, he’s a Liberal, not a liberal.

        Better than being a B.C. Liberal (we have our own Liberal party provincially), which to say “straight-up being a Tory”. It’s complicated here, they switch names and policies with some frequency. Canada is to some degree based on a number of legal fictions…

        I mean, I like us, but we shouldn’t be anybody’s model.

  2. glyncoch says:

    Great article. I replied to the consultation to the same effect – though perhaps slightly – I hope – more diplomatically¬ I did point out that Labour had shown where this might go with Militant Tendency and now Momentum. I was going to mention the Tory troubles, but apart from the ERG, and UKIP tendency, which seem to have been there forever, I’m not sure that anyone wants to actually join them.
    One thing that puzzles me is that with our relatively low member ship fees, why would waiving our membership fees make any difference? If these free-loaders are going to give us contact addresses, e-mails etc, I cannot see any reason at all why they would not stump up their subscription.. (On what incredibly cheap device are they going to receive e-mails? I want one of those!) And why do we want half committed supporters? These people can afford smart phones and God knows what luxuries these days often even while pleading poverty….sorry I’m beginning to sound like an angry old man…but then this angry old man joined in the 1970s, when £10 a week for over 120 hours work was not unusual, and we had to save for months to buy a simple Transistor Radio.

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