Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's the point of FPC? Ask Nick Clegg!

On FPC we have spent a good deal of time debating the pre manifesto. A couple of weeks ago we had a marathon 4 and 3/4 hour jobby. We are no spaniels eagerly rolling over for our tummies to be tickled. Most of us have been elected by our peers on a clear mandate, one we abandon at our peril. Of course, we all want to be helpful to our elders and betters, but, none of us ever forget - this great party of ours still retains a legitimacy that the other two Tory parties have abandoned - namely democratic decision making. But, I wonder, for how much longer? How long until we have moves to sideline FPC and more importantly conference? How long before time for debate is reduced even further to make room for fripperies that ensure we don't ever again debate anything as controversial as fairground goldfish and abolishing the monarchy? And all in the name of giving our parliamentarians "wriggle room" - space to say what they want to when they want to without let or hindrance from them tiresome activists!

I raise this issue as I was slightly taken aback this morning to here Nick Clegg talking about "aspirations" and reducing the shopping list of policies as he launched our pre manifesto. Most alarming was hearing him apparently threatening to abandon two of our flagship policies, abolishing tuition fees and free care for the elderly. Was this what FPC agreed? NO. Is it likely that this will be agreed by our SOVEREIGN DECISION MAKING BODY - FEDERAL CONFERENCE? NO NO NO!!!! So why did he do it? I hope to get the chance to ask him tomorrow when he comes to Luton - watch this space :-O


Tim Leunig said...

Since I am not a conference rep, I got to vote in the leadership election but not the FPC one. So Nick has a bigger mandate than FPC members. I think he is right to use that sometimes.

Matthew Huntbach said...

In the current economic situation it is right that policies should be put in priority order. Our party's policy making system does not have to take into account the need to balance what is desirable with what is possible, in particular considering the detailed budgetary requirements, in the way elected Parliamentarians should.

It is also the case that the national media tends to distort the message, reporting of our party always has place an over-emphasis on its leader.

Having said that, it is up to Nick to correct any distortion and to say so if he has been wrongly reported. It would be good if he could make clear that this prioritising is to be done in co-operation with the party's policy-making system and not in antagonism to it, and that anything he says is to be taken as suggestions and not orders. Past leaders have sometimes seemed to relish setting up a fight with the party, with the media cheering them on against supposedly loony activists. It's a pattern which was established with the left-right battles in the Labour Party decades ago, we get it partly because our party has some roots in that battle, partly because journalists are lazy and ignorant so like to fit stories into established stereotype patterns because that makes it easy.

It would be a mark of Nick's maturity if he could rise above this, and use the opportunity to make clear we are a democratic party whose leader welcomes the support and advice given by those who voluntarily give their time and money to it. Presenting the party in this way and so re-awakening the idea of participatory politics rather than leaders-in-Westminster politics will help turn back the anti-politics mood which the MPs' expenses issue stoked up and which could get so dangerous if it carries on building up.

Liberal Polemic said...

The question in your title is one that Lib Dems ask frequently.

Usually rhetorically!