LDV members' survey: last chance to vote

by Stephen Tall on September 6, 2008

If you are a registered member of the Liberal Democrat Voice forum – and any paid-up party member is welcome to join – then you have one last opportunity to make your views known on a range of current issues in our September members’ survey; including your first chance to say who you want to be elected party president.

It should take no longer than 5-10 minutes to fill in. To complete the survey simply log in to the members’ forum, and click on the topic ‘LDV MEMBERS’ SURVEY: SEPT. 2008? under the General category. The results will be published here on LDV next week.

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The party seems to drift further and further to the right on tax and public services without my having any sense that the party membership really support that Although I have been a member for years I am hard put to it to think I will vote Lib Dem next time. Although we are told that the party has a democratic structure I don’t see that I have ever had a vote on any of this. If conference makes decisions then thats much the same as Labour isn’t it, Greg Dring

by Greg Dring on September 6, 2008 at 3:38 pm. Reply #

Greg,

I can only assume from your comment that you’ve never been to a party conference. Is that because you can’t (for work reasons)? Have you ever attended your local party AGM? That’s the time when you get the opportunity to vote for your conference representatives. Did you know you can become a voting conference rep and be able to vote in the party’s bi-annual internal elections even if you don’t actually attend conference?

I agree that the party’s policy making structures could be more democratic outside of party conference, but I don’t think you can claim that the party had taken a rightwards drift without the membership’s approval (actually I doubt the rightwards drift, but perhaps you are talking about some of the rhetoric in the Make it Happen paper which has yet to be voted on by conference).

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 5:06 pm. Reply #

“I don’t think you can claim that the party had taken a rightwards drift without the membership’s approval (actually I doubt the rightwards drift, but perhaps you are talking about some of the rhetoric in the Make it Happen paper which has yet to be voted on by conference).”

That’s all very well in theory, but of course once the leadership has very publicly nailed its colours to a mast, that mast is not likely to be chopped down at conference.

The real problem is that – subject to correction – I don’t believe Nick Clegg said anything during the leadership campaign about the party focusing all its attention on cutting taxes, or about wanting to cut the overall level of public spending.

Given the closeness of the result as things were, I don’t believe for a moment that he would have been elected if he had been honest about his intentions.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 5:18 pm. Reply #

If conference cares about it, conference will vote down this proposal. The key word there is “if”. There are already maneuverings to this effect. I accept that is an if, but I’d rather have a party leader advocate things than simply behave like a party chairman whose role is to implement whatever the wider party decides.

No democratic system is immune from the actors within it being apathetic and resigned to doing their leader’s bidding. What alternative do you propose? Mind-reading?

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 5:40 pm. Reply #

“What alternative do you propose? Mind-reading?”

I honestly don’t know how I could have made it any clearer what I was objecting to. If you look for the sentence in my post beginning “The real problem is …” you may be able to work it out.

Or if you spent a bit less time being sarcastic and a bit more actually reading what has been posted.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 6:04 pm. Reply #

I don’t take lectures from anonymongs and I certainly don’t need a lesson in basic English comprehension from you.

You wrote: “that mast is not likely to be chopped down at conference.” I replied that “if conference cares about it, conference will vote down this proposal.” And you still haven’t offered an alternative.

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 6:23 pm. Reply #

James Graham

Well, considering I’ve actually directed you to the relevant sentence of my original post, I really _can’t_ do any more to make it clear to you.

By the way, what does “anonymong” mean? Is it some kind of Down’s Syndrome reference? If so, I think it’s pretty offensive, even by the standards of these boards.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 6:36 pm. Reply #

No, it’s a reference to your anonymity and the preponderance of anonymous posters on blogs to troll – a perfect example of which is your last post.

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 7:21 pm. Reply #

James Graham

It doesn’t surprise me at all that any attempt at serious discussion here is greeted with a stream of sarcasm and personal insults – that’s the nature of unmoderated Internet forums, after all. But it really is a bit rich when the bloke coming out with the abuse accuses his target of being a “troll”!

If you have any sensible response to my point about Clegg’s conduct during the leadership campaign, then by all means make it. But childish insults are really no substitute.

And for your information – as you don’t even seem to understand the meaning of the insults you’re using – I have checked, and the “mong” in “anonymong” is indeed short for “mongoloid”. Perhaps you might at least avoid using that one in the future.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 7:42 pm. Reply #

I’ve already answered your point, you just don’t appear to know what to do next.

We have a motion which we will be debating at conference next week on precisely this issue. Either the proposed wording will get passed, or an amendment will be passed negating it. One or the other – conference reps have a clear choice. End of.

It isn’t complicated, so I can only presume that your repeated attempts to claim that your “killer” argument goes unanswered is due to some pathetic need on your own part.

As for insults, if you were to have the decency to announce your identity I’m sure I could come up with a bespoke one for you. And that’s a promise.

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 7:50 pm. Reply #

James Graham

“I’ve already answered your point …”

???

As I’ve said twice before, I honestly don’t know how I can make my point any clearer, if you really haven’t grasped it.

Is there any chance it will penetrate if I repeat my post with the relevant part in big, bold, underlined letters?
__________________________________

That’s all very well in theory, but of course once the leadership has very publicly nailed its colours to a mast, that mast is not likely to be chopped down at conference.

The real problem is that – subject to correction – I don’t believe Nick Clegg said anything during the leadership campaign about the party focusing all its attention on cutting taxes, or about wanting to cut the overall level of public spending.

Given the closeness of the result as things were, I don’t believe for a moment that he would have been elected if he had been honest about his intentions.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 8:07 pm. Reply #

Oh dear. Big and underlined worked OK in the preview, but didn’t make it to the final version. Not much chance of boldness alone being effective, I fear …

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 8:08 pm. Reply #

If Clegg didn’t call for a specific policy change, he can’t claim to have a mandate for change. I know that. Clegg knows that. He has to go through conference. Even if he had called for a policy change, he would have to go through conference. Why do you have so much difficulty understanding that basic fact?

He didn’t say enough about policy during the leadership election – that is widely recognised and is largely why he only had a 500 vote majority. Tellingly though, Chris Huhne isn’t opposing the tax cut agenda and indeed, he was one of the main architects of the tax switch. If the result had gone the other way, we would probably be having the same debate right now.

Lesson: policy is not decided in leadership elections. Leaders are decided in leadership election. Do you need a diagram?

Now. Are you done slapping me round the face with a red herring?

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 8:26 pm. Reply #

“Lesson: policy is not decided in leadership elections. Leaders are decided in leadership election.”

Oh, come on! No one can really be as naive as you’re coming across.

The point – yet again – is that in the real, grown-up world we all know that conference is going to be extremely reluctant to oppose policies that the party leader has already announced with a great fanfare of publicity.

And that is precisely why your proposition that leadership elections have nothing to do with policy-making is so nonsensical. Because the leader will always have a huge influence on policy, and there will always be a presumption that conference will fall into line.

The only way this radical change of policy could really have been legitimised would have been if Clegg had openly declared his intentions in the leadership campaign. If he had done that and won, then he would have had a clear mandate for the new policies.

As it happened, the membership was in the dark about his intentions when he was elected, and you know as well as I do that conference has no realistic option but to rubber-stamp the new policies now.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 8:49 pm. Reply #

Pathetic and utter nonsense. Since when has conference had “no realistic option” but to back the leadership? I’ve voted against the leadership “line” dozens of times over the years, and defeated them on most occasions (I won’t be voting on this occasion as I’m not a voting rep). Conference has a long history of putting leaders in their place, and proving itself to be right.

Given that you are afraid to admit to who you are, and think everyone else is as cowardly as you, perhaps you should change your monicker to “Clegg’s Craven Friend”.

by James Graham on September 6, 2008 at 9:03 pm. Reply #

“Pathetic and utter nonsense. Since when has conference had “no realistic option” but to back the leadership? I’ve voted against the leadership “line” dozens of times over the years, and defeated them on most occasions (I won’t be voting on this occasion as I’m not a voting rep).”

Hmmm. I’m sorry, but I really can’t believe you’re having as much trouble understanding plain English as appears from your posts. You must be doing it deliberately. And it really does make attempts at sensible discussion pointless.

Of course I didn’t say conference never voted against the leadership line.

Here’s what I said again, with some parts put into bold to help you understand (though I realise it didn’t work last time!):

… in the real, grown-up world we all know that conference is going to be extremely reluctant to oppose policies that the party leader has already announced with a great fanfare of publicity.

…you know as well as I do that conference has no realistic option but to rubber-stamp the new policies now.

Of course, “the new policies” refers to the policies we are discussing, and “now” means this year.

Anyhow, if you can suspend the stream of insults for long enough, I’d be interested to hear of an instance – any instance – when a newly-elected party leader has publicly announced major policy initiatives comparable to these, only to have them rejected by conference.

You know as well as I do that it is simply not going to happen.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm. Reply #

Hilarious.

It seems CCF thinks the leadership has a minutely detailed plan for every aspect of the world which he/she feels burdened with an expectation to to meekly comply with.

Well we don’t operate a top-down authoritarian party structure in the LibDems, we must be being confused with one of the other parties.

If the objection resides wholly on a percieved ‘swing to the right’ because there is a move to prescribe tax cuts, then CCF is ignoring the current state of the economy and is unwilling to engage in the debate over whether the Treasury is following a policy of financial prudence, perhaps we could point out that reducing tax rates can actually raise Treasury income.

So, firstly, I would question CCF’s democratic credentials in his/her willingness to engage and participate and, secondly, I would question whether the dogmatism he/she ascribes to is actually liberal.

I also hope CCF feels able to respond.

by Oranjepan on September 6, 2008 at 9:42 pm. Reply #

Oranjepan

The original poster’s stated objection was to the fact he hadn’t had a vote on the shift in policy. Obviously the argument about the merits or otherwise of that shift is a different one.

As for your paragraph about “democratic credentials” and “dogmatism”, I must admit I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 9:58 pm. Reply #

CCF, Greg Dring’s opinion has been comprehensively untangled.

He is perfectly correct that no specific question has been put to him – because it hasn’t been put to him, yet.

That is what conference is for and that is what will happen at conference.

And because we are in the pre-conference period it is why this issue is being raised here and now.

You can’t slag off a process for excluding you whilst it is ongoing and there are still more ways and means for you to get involved – it’s up to you to make your voice heard, because the party does everything we can to provide fair space for contributions.

The difference is that our conference actually matters for doing real party business on behalf of our membership, whereas Labour and Conservative use it as a stage to rubber-stamp the back-room deals they’ve cobbled together in order to promote their leadership.

It’s a subtle but significant difference which is hard to pick up unless you attend.

So talk of ‘drift’ is only applicable as a criticism of the lack of Labour and Conservative party leadership, while talk of any ‘change of direction’ in our party is a positive move to ever more accurately reflect the wishes of our membership.

by Oranjepan on September 6, 2008 at 10:51 pm. Reply #

Oranjepan

I take it from that that you’re a regular attender of party conferences?

If so, I’ll ask you, as I asked James Graham, if you can think of a comparable instance of the leadership line being rejected in the past.

I’m thinking of a central economic policy, which was announced by the leader with a fanfare of publicity, and then dropped as a result of being rejected by conference.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 11:22 pm. Reply #

I think this is unnecessarily bad tempered.
I agree with CCF, who is not me by the way, that Clegg would have had some democratic legitimacy for his position on taxation had he said that was what he believed during the leadership campaign.
What he did instead was say nothing about it, and then suddenly announce the new policy without any prior debate within the party. To be specific, because of course we agree with the Green tax switch, the new position is that we are now committed to supporting an overall reduction in the tax burden, and cuts in expenditure worth £20Billion (although I get lost with all the clarifications of what this exactly means).
Now for those of us who have never supported such a policy before, and have had no opportunity to get involved in the decision making process that came up with this policy, we are now in an invidious position. There is no desire on my part to want to “defeat the leadership” at conference with just 18 months before the next general election. The obvious reason why Chris Huhne has not spoken out against the policy (which if he thought it was a good idea, he could have proposed it himself in the leadership election), is because he is in the shadow cabinet. To speak out against, he will have to resign. That is a high price to pay, and I understand why he has not done so.
This fundamental policy shift was not proposed by the leadership for debate at conference. Linda Jack is on the relevent democratic party body that should have been consulted on this, but she says she was not (and presumably the same applies to others as well).
This shift was announced unilaterally by a leadership clique based on the calculation that in doing so conference will feel obliged to accept it.
Even the conference motion being presented in support of Making it Happen makes no reference to the taxation proposals, and as a result it is very difficult to amend so that it does.
The reason for this is alarming. the party leadership are happy about all of the media attention this shift has had, but they do not want to debate it within the party.
However I am aware of an amendment being proposed anyway. It remains to be seen if conference committee allows it to be debated.

by Geoffrey Payne on September 6, 2008 at 11:28 pm. Reply #

Geoffrey Payne

“Even the conference motion being presented in support of Making it Happen makes no reference to the taxation proposals, and as a result it is very difficult to amend so that it does.

However I am aware of an amendment being proposed anyway. It remains to be seen if conference committee allows it to be debated.”

Thank you for clarifying this. I must admit I wasn’t aware of it – I had taken at face value the assertions that conference was going to be given an opportunity to vote on this.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 6, 2008 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

Within a short space of time we will know whether it will be or not. There is no point debating this matter until then.

by Geoffrey Payne on September 7, 2008 at 12:10 am. Reply #

If so, I’ll ask you, as I asked James Graham, if you can think of a comparable instance of the leadership line being rejected in the past.

1994 – party debates motion on setting up a Royal Commission to review drugs policy. Motion carried, despite clear steer from leadership. Ashdown storms off stage.

1998 – party front bench argues for abandonment of minimum wage policy (also adopted in 1994). Defeated.

1999 – motion on HE policy calling for benefits to be restored to students. Passed. Both members of front bench education team speak against it in the debate.

2006 – party debates policy on taxation. Proposal to abandon line on a 50p rate on incomes above £100,000 passed – endorsed by leadership. Big debate. Broad consensus that the party had had a proper debate and that people had voted on the principle, not out of some craven desire to keep the party happy.

2006 – party throws out local government paper.

2007 – party rejects proposal for Community Land Auctions despite clear steer.

By and large we have grown up debates in this party. We do give the leadership a bloody nose now and then. We also – wait for it – happen to agree with the leadership every now and then. Just because some brat hiding behind anonymity thinks it is impossible for the rest of the party to act in anything less than a craven manner, it doesn’t make it so. As Geoffrey Payne suggests, this entire debate is pointless until we’ve had the debate next week.

by James Graham on September 7, 2008 at 12:24 am. Reply #

“Just because some brat hiding behind anonymity thinks …”

Your arrogance and rudeness really are beyond measure, aren’t they?

And how typically dishonest of you deliberately to omit the following sentence of my post – “I’m thinking of a central economic policy, which was announced by the leader with a fanfare of publicity, and then dropped as a result of being rejected by conference” – so that you could regale us with the irrelevant minutiae of Community Land Auctions and local government papers.

Any attempt at meaningful, honest or even civil debate with you is indeed pointless, whether before, during or after conference!

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 7, 2008 at 12:31 am. Reply #

There is no need to be civil to someone who to all intents and purposes does not exist.

And you may argue until you’re blue in the face that drugs policy and HE policy are utterly irrelevant issues on which political parties are not judged, just as you can argue that dropping the 50p rate policy isn’t “central economic policy” but all you have is smear and supposition.

Come back with something more substantive – and a name – and perhaps we can talk about civility.

by James Graham on September 7, 2008 at 12:36 am. Reply #

You can add in:
1994 – Party supports minimum wage despite Alex Carlile stating that the entire parliamentary party supported an alternative option

1996 – Student finance policy heavily amended despite opposition of Education Spokesman

CCF is right to an extent – Leaders tend to get their “own way” at conference because some people give great weight to supporting what they say. But the idea that conference is the Leader’s patsy would certainly I think be greeted with hysterical laughter by previous three leaders.

by Hywel Morgan on September 7, 2008 at 12:48 am. Reply #

Leaders tend to get their “own way” at conference because some people give great weight to supporting what they say.

I don’t dispute that – indeed it is how it should be. What I dispute is that individuals line up at conference and knowingly vote for policies they believe is wrong because they feel they have “no option.” This is tantamount to calling 2,000 people a bunch of schmucks.

by James Graham on September 7, 2008 at 12:54 am. Reply #

Hywel Morgan:
“But the idea that conference is the Leader’s patsy would certainly I think be greeted with hysterical laughter by previous three leaders.”

But of course, no one here has suggested that conference was the “Leader’s patsy”. What I said was what we all know – that Clegg’s new economic policies are not going to be rejected by conference. Apparently they may not even be debated.

Please bear in mind that James Graham has been systematically misrepresenting what I have posted throughout this thread. That’s during the brief intervals when he hasn’t been calling me names.

But I suspect any attempt at rational discussion here really is pointless.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 7, 2008 at 12:57 am. Reply #

What I said was what we all know – that Clegg’s new economic policies are not going to be rejected by conference. Apparently they may not even be debated.

But we don’t “all know” that – indeed it is being debated at 2.50pm next Monday. I’ve seen at least one amendment doing the rounds; I’m sure there are others. So what you are saying now is that the Conference Committee is going to censor it, which is yet another pretty major accusation you are making which does not appear to be backed up by any evidence.

And that isn’t what you were saying originally, what you said was:

“You know as well as I do that conference has no realistic option but to rubber-stamp the new policies now.”

An assertion which again, you are not backing up with any evidence.

As for misrepresentation – people can read this thread and draw their own conclusions. It is a bit hard to misrepresent someone when what they’ve written is there for all to see. But the fact that you’re changing your story now does suggest that you know you don’t have a leg to stand on.

by James Graham on September 7, 2008 at 1:17 am. Reply #

Thanks Geoffrey Payne for your calming and rational words. But we’re not out of the wood yet. If we announce that tax policy is our Big Idea, and we then show at conference that we can’t even agree amongst ourselves, we won’t exactly look good!

Cameron, frankly, has handled this better. He knows that tax is a divisive subject within his party. So he has avoided any extreme stance or over-detailed commitment, and he has made it clear that tax policy is not his Big Idea. He has cautiously taken the lead within his party by throwing out gentle hints and thereby making sure he can carry most of his party with him. Clegg has not.

So now it’s down to our leadership to seek unity. The elements of a rational concordat are all there waiting to be picked up. We have it agreed that an overall cut cannot be a definite commitment. We also have it agreed that we will halt and reverse Labour’s tractor-production big-government spending juggernaut. Our Big Idea can and should be subtly recast to emphasise the commitments we can all support – fairer tax and greener tax.

We shouldn’t stifle debate, nor can we expect a volte-face from our leadership. But we simply can’t afford a wholly unnecessary row – especially as a principled agreement should, I believe, be well within our grasp. It is our leader’s biggest test.

by David Allen on September 7, 2008 at 1:24 am. Reply #

“So what you are saying now is that the Conference Committee is going to censor it, which is yet another pretty major accusation you are making which does not appear to be backed up by any evidence.”

This is absolutely ridiculous. Anyone capable of reading English can see I said no such thing. Surely it must have been clear to you that I was referring to what Geoffrey Payne said – “It remains to be seen if conference committee allows it to be debated.”

As for this nonsense about “changing my story” because I referred initially to the likelihood of conference approving the new policies, and latterly to the unlikelihood of conference rejecting them, I really think that must be one of the most fatuous comments I’ve ever heard.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 7, 2008 at 9:39 am. Reply #

Re leaders and Conference – undoubtedly there are some who will just vote for what the leader says – that’s the only explanation for the vote for the appalling Trident fudge after the equally appalling performance by Campbell.

It will be up to Conference Committee to take amendments, but the motion appears structured to give amendments a chance. It would be a disgrace if what appears to be a major shift in policy was achieved without Conference being able to debate or amend it.

by neverapriest on September 7, 2008 at 12:12 pm. Reply #

Gentlemen, gentlemen, time to take a break for light refreshments, methinks.

Let’s see where we are. There will be a debate at Conference. Given that there are evidently strong views on the issue, and that only ten conference representatives are needed to propose an amendment, I would expect a string of amendments.

In turn, Federal Conference Committee will come under pressure, if there are enough amendments, to include at least one for debate. The secret, surely, is to open up their deliberations. A question to FCC on what they’ve done in terms of numbers of, and treatment of, amendments will clarify whether they’ve bowed to pressure from the leadership. If they’ve done that, then we should vote them out – remember, we can, if we care enough, do that.

That said, I’m fairly confident that FCC will tailor the debate to fulfil their obligation to ensure a balanced debate.

As for the policy itself, if we don’t like something, and we really believe it to be wrong, just turning up to vote against it is not enough. A campaign needs to be run (and I suspect that the skills should exist to do that…). And that, CCF, is where you, and anyone else unhappy about the proposals, come in.

Oh, one last thing, CCF. The anonymity bit winds James up, although I would tend to eschew the vituperation. On the other hand, it does tend to lower the perceived credibility of the author. You may have good reason to preserve your anonymity, and I respect your right to do so. However, it comes with a price and, as long as you understand and accept that, all will be well. I fear that a degree of hostility from the more partisan is part of that price, unhelpful though it may be.

by Mark Valladares on September 7, 2008 at 12:16 pm. Reply #

Can I just clarify, at FPC we debated Making it Happen, a document that apart from a couple of obvious exceptions I think is excellent. I raised the issue of taxes and my objection to talking about tax cuts without saying where they would come from,and was told this was just to headline a “direction of travel”. At no point was there any suggestion of the position Nick is now taking. Of course I supported Nick and will continue to do so, that doesn’t mean I’m not up for a fight on this. What really p…s me off is the obsession with tax. Tax is a means to an end not an end in itself…..I should be looking for my medal for Operation Banner next week but I fear I feel a blog coming on!!!!

by Linda Jack on September 7, 2008 at 12:16 pm. Reply #

James Graham: “There is no need to be civil to someone who to all intents and purposes does not exist.”

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say what I think you really intended was that you think the best and most effective way to respond to passive aggression is to attack it.

This point is debatable, whereas what you actually said was false – politesse is good politics.

by Oranjepan on September 7, 2008 at 12:18 pm. Reply #

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