Majority of Lib Dem members favour reform of party’s own voting rules

by Stephen Tall on November 12, 2012

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

56% support reform of party’s internal democracy

This weekend saw the publication of the Lib Dems’ biennial internal elections to the party’s federal committees. Here’s what our survey of party members says about opening up the electorate to the whole membership, and/or allowing all members to vote at the party’s federal conferences.

LDV asked: Currently Lib Dem local parties elect voting representatives annually in proportion to their membership numbers. All party members are eligible to attend and to speak at party federal conferences. Only voting representatives are eligible to vote at conference, however, and to vote in the party’s biennial internal elections to the committees which govern the party, such as the Federal Executive. Some members say this system of local parties electing voting representatives ensures better representation of the geographical spread of Lib Dem membership and prevents ‘power grabs’ by well-organised minority interests. Other members say the party’s democratic processes are too restrictive and should be opened up much further to all party members who wish to take part. What is your view?

    32% – I support the current system of voting representatives as it stands
    6% – I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote in internal party elections, but would allow any and all party members to vote at conference
    23% – I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote at conference, but would allow any and all party members to vote in internal party elections
    27% – I oppose the current system of voting representatives and would allow any and all party members to vote at conference and to vote in internal party elections
    11% – Don’t know

A spread of results with no single option receiving majority support. However, there is near-majority support among our survey of members for opening up the party’s internal elections to all members, with 50% voting for options 3 and 4 above. The proportion which would support allowing any member to vote at conference (33% – options 2 and 4 combined) is roughly equal to the proportion which supports the current system as it stands (32%). In total, 56% of Lib Dem members in our survey favour some reform of the current rules to open up the party’s processes more.

We asked those filling in the survey to say if they are currently a voting representative for the Lib Dems: 45% said they are, with 55% saying they are not. Here’s how the results above look when broken down between each of these two groups:

Current conference reps All other party members
I support the current system of voting representatives as it stands 40% 26%
I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote in internal party elections, but would allow any and all party members to vote at conference 6% 6%
I support the system of allowing only voting representatives to vote at conference, but would allow any and all party members to vote in internal party elections 26% 21%
I oppose the current system of voting representatives and would allow any and all party members to vote at conference and to vote in internal party elections 22% 32%
Don’t know 6% 15%

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s some difference between the two sets of results. The single most preferred system for current voting conference representatives is the existing one; for all other party members it’s fully opening up the party’s internal democracy. However, there’s actually not so much difference in terms of the aggregated results. A total of 54% of current voting representatives favour some reform of the current system, compared with 59% of all other voting members.

There’s some food for thought for our newly re-elected party president Tim Farron, together with the newly elected members of the party’s various governing committees!

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th and 31st October.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.