Sunday, October 31, 2010


My Key Questions For the Next Lib Dem President

Are you a Liberal Democrat member? Then, if you haven’t already, vote – and ask questions. Here are mine to the Presidential candidates:
“Increasingly, people say of politicians that ‘They’re all the same’. This is an even bigger danger now we’re in coalition. So I’d like to ask two simple questions to get two very brief answers from you about what really fires you up and about what you hope will inspire other people.
“In just a sentence or two, what do the Liberal Democrats stand for?
“And in just a sentence or two, why should people vote Liberal Democrat?”
I’ve also asked a ‘nasty’ question individually tailored to a candidate or two, but more on that story later.

All Liberal Democrats should now have received ballot papers to decide the next Party President, in effect the deputy leader of the members, and elected by one person, one vote (no Labour-style vote-rigging by interest groups or MPs’ votes worth 6,000-times those of ordinary members). If you’re an elected representative to the main party’s Conference, you’ve also got ballot papers for the party’s crucial committees. Turnout for both these sets of elections is usually poor. If you can vote and don’t, ask yourself – why can’t you be bothered taking part in democracy? Come on. Get off your arse, get out a pen, read the manifestos, scribble what you like and don’t like about them to make up your mind, fill out your ballots and get them in the post. When the party’s at the most crucial crossroads since the day it was founded, this is literally the least you can do.

I’m not pretending to be the most animated member in the world. In fact, there are plenty of things I’m crap at. I did some interviews last month that I’ve still not written up (being both more ill and more low even than usual through this year), which included the answers to those questions above. But I’d be utterly ashamed of myself if I didn’t even vote, and you should be too. Seriously – if you’re in a political party and you think voting doesn’t matter, where is your brain?

Don’t Know How To Vote? Why Not Look For Some Politics

I’m not even standing for the Federal Policy Committee this time, so I can write this sort of post (though ludicrous internal election rules mean I can’t say who I’d vote for). And if you’re having trouble deciding, with a sudden rush of people who are standing now we’re in government, I can’t say fairer than ‘read Nick Barlow’s blog’.

When I used to stand, I’d make sure I put three things in my manifesto, and look for them in others’: what I’ve done (my experience); what I want to do (what sort of things would I do were I elected to FPC); and why I want to do it (my political philosophy). I can’t say anything about any individual candidates (even those ignorant enough to suggest you vote with an “X” in an STV election), but you might at least consider those, depressingly in a minority, who actually put some politics into why you should put them into a political post. If all they can say is ‘Here is my wonderful CV as a time-serving non-entity and I want another line to fill it out with,’ what the fuck are they standing for (in both senses)? Particularly for the FPC, where I’m old-fashioned enough to think political ideas, positions and philosophy matter.

But back to the Presidential elections.

Question Authority Before You Vote For It

Last month, I wrote about the upcoming Lib Dem Presidential election, and what the job involves. Since then, it’s got a little less interesting, with a putative four candidates down to two on the ballot paper (though I’m happy to report that the one who was getting nominations by deceit is one of those who’s dropped out). It’s still, though, a hard-fought and exciting election between two heavyweight candidates.

Whether Tim Farron or Susan Kramer gets the job, each has it in them to be a brilliant President. In fact, in the past I’ve said of each of them (in different years) that I’d have liked to see them as Deputy Leader – a very similar job description, albeit elected by the MPs rather than the full membership. But just because I think both of them are outstanding doesn’t mean that I don’t think both need intense scrutiny before the election.

That’s why I’ve put the questions I’ve published above to both of them – and I’ll publish their answers to both tomorrow, along with a ‘nasty question’ and a special guest Presidential appearance.

In the meantime, why not get your thinking cap on about your own questions? What do you want to ask them? How do you want to test them?

You can take a question to your own hustings and challenge them there – I have two more I’d like to ask, on top of the ones I prepared earlier. You might also like to check out the Number One Priority for the next Party President from Jennie Rigg, who was just a handful of nominations short of being the third competitor in the race, and whose question might be more pertinent than most.

If there isn’t a hustings you can get to, send them your questions directly – Susan on Twitter and on her own site, and Tim on Twitter (twice!) and on his own site.

If you’ve been receiving e-mails from the candidates, you’re probably already sick of them. If not – and for some reason, though the Lib Dems certainly have my addy, I only get about one in four of the official party e-mails, and haven’t had any for the Presidency – you can read their initial pitches on Lib Dem Voice.

Both Susan and Tim have also given several online reasons to camera as to why they should be elected, of which these are the principal ones:

Tomorrow, then, you can see their answers to me. And if I’m in the right mood the day after, I might say what I think of them and who I’ll be voting for… Or I might not! But I will definitely be voting.

This time, though there’s plenty of crossover, I think Tim and Susan offer a real choice between different ideas of what the President should do. So get off your arse, pick up those ballots, fill them out and get them in the post.

PS Just imagine I’ve written an exciting piece about a scary Doctor Who story for Halloween too, eh?

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