Liberator on the Bones Commission: "Clegg has just effected a power grab"

by Stephen Tall on July 31, 2008

There’s a must-read article in the latest Liberator taking a behind-the-scenes look at the clearly heated internal Lib Dem discussions of the Bones Commission into party reform. You can read it in full here.

Three things stand out:

1. That the report receives a general welcome (albeit some way down the page): “Much of Bones is sensible. Its central thrust seeks to deliver Clegg’s incautious commitment to get 150 MPs by the election after next. Its warning that resources need to be poured into a second tier of 200-odd winnable seats will be widely welcomed, in particular by critics of the current targeting strategy. It also, at least in theory, calls for a substantially greater role for the English regions and has resisted pressure to either abolish the English party or strip local parties of their powers.”

2. That does not mean it’s uncontroversial. Liberator criticises what it describes as the sidelining of the party’s part-elected Federal Executive in favour of an unelected ex officio Chief Officers Group. The article also predicts a row over the proposals when the English party executive meets to discuss them – this meeting has now happened, and I understand the Bones Commission proposals were rejected there.

3. That the party (as distinct from the Commission) has made a mess of sharing the Bones proposals with members: “the way in which Bones has so far been implemented does not bode well. Not even FE members were trusted with copies until it was too late, and the first most party members knew about it was a story in the Times (16 July) that posited a rift between Clegg and Rennard, an unlikely eventuality given that Rennard is treated as semi-divine by most party members.” This echoes a criticism I made on Lib Dem Voice last week. Of course the party has to observe the courtesies of reporting first to the bodies affected, but rumours spread much quicker in the internet age – and funnily enough the internet isn’t a bad place for dispelling those rumours either. That the Commission’s report has been so shrouded in secrecy has added unnecessarily to its mystique.