Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Constitutionals

. Liberal Democrat Voice carries a report from The Times that Nick Clegg is planning a radical overhaul of our constitution. The first thing that struck me about the report is that it was a little light on specific details and contained many 'motherhood and apple pie' buzzwords like 'streamlining' and 'effectiveness' mostly coming from Clegg's 'allies' in the report. Expect plenty more of those when these proposals are being pitched to the membership.

On that level it is a bit hard to comment specifically. It seems to me that The Times is indulging in a little bit of mischief making in suggesting that these could be a result of a tussle between Clegg and Lord Rennard. Given that we know little in detail there may well be eminently sensible and democratic grounds to oppose the proposals aside from personal antagonism.

Of course, any party has to grant it's leader the space to actually lead; that should be taken as a given. However, political parties are based on a co-operation and any leader is ultimately a mere representative; not a dictator who is there to pursue his own personal policy aims. It may well be that decision making needs to be 'streamlined' but the devil is in the detail and it is ironic that this 'streamlining' seems likely to occur through the addition of something on-top of the committees.

If the leader has to have space to lead then there also must be space for creative dissent and mechanisms through which members can exercise clear control over policy. It is, as with alot of things, a question of checks and balances; the acid test of these proposals should be whether they maintain that balance; there is no point winning more seats is the party doesn't grow as a whole and it's structures must reflect that fact, we wait and see if these proposals are the way forward to achieve that goal.

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