My “It’s 8th May 2015” scenario-question to the Lib Dem party president candidates – Liz Lynne responds
by Stephen Tall on November 4, 2014
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the forthcoming election for the Lib Dem party presidency – the post about to be vacated by Tim Farron – between Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper and Liz Lynne.
Here’s the question I said would ask all three of them (my post offers fuller background about why I’m asking it):
It’s 8th May, 2015. The Lib Dems have lost some MPs but are still a force to be reckoned with in the House of Commons. Nick Clegg announces he will step aside to let a new leader take over. No single party has an overall majority. What will you do in the next 7 days to maximise Lib Dem influence and keep the party united?
Finally, here’s Liz Lynne…
You ask what I would do in the first seven days. It would depend very much on whether you are saying that the leader has announced he is going to stand down or is standing down with immediate effect. If the latter then obviously it would be more difficult as the deputy leader is not going to be there, as you said he is standing down along with the Chief Whip. The Chair of the Parliamentary Party is also not standing again.
The first thing I would do it is make sure that a mechanism is put in place so that the MPs can elect a temporary leader until the election process for any leadership contest can start.
If we are going into coalition talks as well at that stage we have to be aware of article 15 of the constitution. As the leader has already appointed a negotiating team I assume that will still be in place along with the reference group that have been appointed in equal measures from the Federal Policy Committee, the Federal Executive and the Westminster Parliamentary Parties. The negotiating team under 15.3 shall report regularly to the leader and the reference group and shall have regard to their respective views. As it says have regard to rather than seeking approval it does mean that even if there is no leader the negotiations can still go ahead. Even in 15.4 it doesn’t expressly mention anything about the leader agreeing but does say that if as a result of these negotiations the Commons Party determines, after further consultation with the Federal Policy Committee, the Federal Executive and the Parliamentary Party in the House of Lords to support a government which contains members of one or more political parties, it shall seek the approval of conference by submitting a motion to that effect to be approved by two thirds of those voting and present.
In the first seven days I will have to make sure that the constitution is adhered to in every way. As required by the constitution I would have to be the public face of the Party explaining to people outside the Party what the situation is regarding both the leadership question and any coalition talks.
Apart from safeguarding the constitution I believe in those first seven days my main task will be to keep the Party in the country informed of what is going on and make sure constituent parts of the Party are consulted widely. Part of this consultation has to be with the regional and state party chairs. I would already have put a mechanism in place so that constituency chairs and their members could also have a way in to the process in order for them to give their views to the reference group.
As soon as I became President I would have looked into the feasibility of asking all local parties to have meetings to expressly consider what their red lines might be in the event of coalition talks. The chairs of the local parties would then be required to feed that information back to the regional chairs who would then communicate those views to the centre so that the negotiating team would be aware of the views expressed by the wider membership. Although constitutionally they would not have to abide by those views that had been expressed, it would give a clear indication to the negotiating team whether any future agreement would be passed by conference.
I would also have tried to make sure that we had had a consultative session at the March conference for the negotiating team and the reference group to not only hear the views from the regional and state parties but also the views of people at the conference.
I will make it a priority immediately after the election that all candidates whether for the General Election or Council elections are contacted and thanked for all their hard work.
To sum up in the first seven days my job will be to make sure we have an interim leader in place, that the constitution is adhered to in any coalition talks and that the members in the country are consulted and kept in the loop.