Memo to the party re: Bones Commission – time to get with the Internet!

by Stephen Tall on July 24, 2008

Last week, the Lib Dem blogopshere lit up following a report in The Times alleging that the Bones Commission on reforming the party’s structures would “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.” Nick Clegg himself addressed some of the concerns in an article for Lib Dem Voice last week.

Inevitably much of the speculation is just that, as few outside of the party’s inner circles have yet seen the report. And fair enough, to a great extent. After all, the report was jointly commissioned by Nick Clegg, the party’s chief executive Chris Rennard and Lib Dem president, Simon Hughes – it’s right that they and the party’s Federal Executive Committee should see it first.

Yet nature abhors a vacuum – especially in the hyper-connected internet age. And unsurprisingly those who are suspicious of what might be proposed are treating the silence as ominous.

The party may not yet feel able to publish the Commission’s report – though I can assure them that Lib Dem Voice would be more than willing as soon as is desired! – but the very least that should be done is an update on the process of publication. Look at the party website page on the Commission, and you will see no update since the closing deadline for submissions on 8th February, some six months ago.

We are assured there are extensive plans for publication – eg, an article in Lib Dem News and a full debate at conference. But the party needs to think more carefully about how it can make better use of new media communications not only in consulting, but also in informing party members in timely fashion – whether through the website, or an email to members – of what’s happening when our internal processes are discussed.

To be clear: I am sure that all those involved are keen for a good debate on the Bones Commission to take place. The question is how that’s best done. And I’m not sure the party has in this case assisted the Commission itself or party members in ensuring the proposals can be debated on their own merit.