Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Improving membership

. Liberal Democrat Voice is running a series of articles by the three candidates for party president on how membership can be improved. All three candidates have take different approaches. Lembit Opik seems to want to focus on the recruitment and training of existing members in the recruitment process. I can see the uses of this approach but, having worked in sales, am less keen on his idea that we should;

"negotiate specific targets with local branches."

He is right that a target that is personally owned can be hugely motivating but it can also be hugely demotivating and lead to a wrong focus and mindset. It all becomes about making the target and, without naming names, I have been in situations where I have seen people commit what technically constitutes fraud to reach their targets. My feeling is that this approach would lead to a focus on quantity over quality.

Meanwhile, Ros Scott wants to focus on the opposite, basically on improving the quality of what membership offers. Her proposal that members should be enfranchised using e-mail and electronic voting is a good one. She talks about wanting us to;

"sound less like a political party and more like a movement"

but doesn't really offer any route to that end. Talking about Obama is all well and good but what Obama actually represents is a coalition of movements united around a charismatic leader and a feel good sentiment which makes it all 'hang-together'. I rather feel you cannot 'sound like a movement' in that sense. I am all for us being more radical and challenging though and it shows the correct focus; on the quality of our message not meeting set targets like Lembit.

Chandila Fernando thinks the solution is easy; abolish membership then there is no membership problem. His idea that supporters could 'sign a piece of paper' which would then after a constitutional change 'enfranchise' them is risible. 'Open primaries' are a dreadful idea too because as we know from American primaries the supporters of opposition parties often cross the line and vote for the candidate they would prefer their party to stand against. Perish the thought of it ever applying to a party leadership election.

Setting a 'tenure' which these supporters have to pass to get voting rights changes nothing. It merely means infiltration has to wait a few months or even a year at most. However, we all know who Fernando's proposals are designed to benefit don't we...and it isn't the Liberal Democrat party.

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