The ideas and recommendations for changes to how the Liberal Democrats are organised and run contained in the Bones report are clearly built around the aim of achieving greater electoral success at Westminster. The remit of the Bones Commission was to develop and recommend changes to the Liberal Democrats in order to achieve what the report calls “the MP goal”. This is the target of winning 200 Westminster seats over two elections established by our Leader, Nick Clegg MP.
As a result of this it makes the all too common mistake of seeing community politics as purely a campaigning technique rather than the wider approach to politics that its originators intended. It seems to talk about local government in the context of getting more MPs and does not seem to want to acknowledge that Liberal Democrat achievement in local government can be an end in itself.
It attempts no real discussion of whether it is worth attempting to build and strengthen a wider “liberal movement” and what actions could be taken to do this. It is silent on the consequences for the Liberal Democrats of devolution within the UK and the role of Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, or indeed on the GLA. And it says very little about the development of liberal ideas, the strengthening of liberal analysis of the challenges facing the UK, or indeed the Party’s internal policy development process.
It wants to reorganise the Party so that all the activities we undertake are focused on the objective of getting more MPs elected.
In short, the whole approach that Bones takes is based on the assumption that the purpose of the Liberal Democrats is to get Liberal Democrat MPs elected to Westminster. Other possible purposes for the existence of the Liberal Democrats are not considered.
Some may say; “So what – that is how it should be”.
So let me be clear, I am not saying that this approach is necessarily wrong. It is entirely legitimate to argue that all other objectives should be ignored in favour of the objective of Westminster success. It is a matter of judgement and choice.
There is a very strong argument that it is the right choice.
What I do want to question is whether the Party as a whole has actually made this choice.
Before we go too far along with implementing the recommendations of the Bones Commission ought we not to check that everyone is happy that “the MP goal” is the goal that we have all agreed upon? I’m not sure we’ve actually been asked.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.