Over recent weeks there has been some fuss about the failure of the Liberal Democrat high command to publish the Bones Report on party reform. Yet I’ve notice that since the executive summary has been published it has all gone a bit quiet. On the blogs I have only seen one post of unqualified support and then this morning this. It only goes to show that people are far more interested in real or imagined conspiracies than they are in the detail of organisational change.
As someone who actually is interested in the detail, and who has long advocated reform of the party organisation and criticised the party for its absence of effective organisational leadership I think this is a shame. I gave a cautious welcome to the Bones Commission back in February and I continue to applaud Nick Clegg for taking this issue seriously. So whatever my views on the outcome, and they range widely, I continue to be supportive on the initiative. What we do need however is an ongoing debate around these issues.
My view of the report, or at least what is recommended in the executive summary that is the only thing we have so far been allowed to see, is very mixed. There is a lot that is excellent. Some really good ideas and some long overdue changes. There is also a lot that will be challenging. This is good. The party needs to be challenged and shook up a bit. However, there is also a fair bit that seems wrong headed. Some issues have been approached from the wrong direction and there are some recommendations that I think would be actively damaging to the party. There is also stuff missing. I’m afraid having read it through a couple of times part of my reaction has been “is that it?”.
I intend to write a number of articles looking at different aspects of the Bones Report shortly. I want to make my contribution to the debate we need to have. But to kick things off I thought I might highlight some of the juicier bits of the report.
So here, in some cases slightly provocatively put, are some of Bones’ recommendations:
- Money should be shifted from local parties to the central party
- There should be more control by the Party over MPs staff
- There should be external scrutiny of fundraising
- The minimum membership fee is to be increased
- The creation of a Technology Board
- All elected Liberal Democrats should “tithe” to the Party
- The creation of a Federal “roving campaign team” to troubleshoot local parties
- We should give up on the youth vote as they don’t vote or they don’t vote for us (I think this is what it says – I found the language in that particular section extremely unclear)
- The “diversity agenda” should concentrate on candidate diversity and nothing else
- Select a BME candidate and win £10,000
- The creation of the Lib Dem equivalent of the Tory “A” list
- The use of a “leadership academy” to take control of an improved training and development programme
- An enhanced network of regional press officers managed centrally
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.