Thursday, November 20, 2014
Questions to the Presidential Candidates - Response from Daisy Cooper
Having asked all the Presidential candidates a series of questions I have had a reply from Daisy Cooper - her answers follow:
Q: "You have been putting forward some bold ideas for reform of the party, however, you have been part of the FE omnishambles - what guarantee do we have that you will be able to carry out your reforms of our internal systems and structures."
If I'm elected as President, I will have a mandate to pursue the ideas which I have set out during my campaign. It’s also clear from the manifestos of those running for election to FE that there is a real appetite for reform. I will work closely with FE sub-groups that I will establish (with co-opted members where necessary) and bring all proposals to Conference for debate and decision.
Having just finished my first term on FE, I understand the challenges it faces.
The FE is hamstrung in its mandate to “direct coordinate and implement” because it has almost no levers for doing so. There is currently no “whole party strategy” against which FE can monitor progress, but there should be. FE appoints the CEO but does not have the power to manage her/his performance – it should. The CEO her or himself must have the power to take decisions for which s/he can be held accountable.
There are no criteria against which FE members are elected. We could consider introducing a system in which FE candidates run for election for one or more portfolios – such as membership, campaigns or governance – in order that they can demonstrate their suitability for scrutinising these areas (currently members choose the basis upon which they want to run for FE pursuing their own interest, not necessarily what the party needs).
I also think FE has learned a number of lessons including seeking expert constitutional advice where necessary; working more closely with FCC on conference procedures; and allowing more time - and being more transparent - about any up-coming decisions or motions.
Q: "Which current coalition policies which have been supported by our parliamentary party but are at odds with party policy would you be prepared to challenge the leadership on?
For me, tuition fees and the bedroom tax are the two big ones. On tuition fees, we should never have broken our promise. In my view, the bedroom tax was the biggest mistake we've made in government as the warning signs were there, both inside and outside the party, and for whatever reason those views were not heard or listened to. As President, I would be a lightning rod for members' views, particularly on these critical issues where the parliamentary party are considering voting against party policy.
On the NHS and secret courts, I believe there were others in the party with greater detailed policy knowledge to challenge our parliamentary colleagues. As such, I would have used the authority of my position as President to facilitate meetings and communication with the leadership.
Q: "Given that only around 25% of our current membership would support another coalition with the Tories - who would you prefer to be in coalition with? (and wait and see is NOT an option!)"
I genuinely believe that giving either "Labour" or "Conservative" as the answer will damage our party and our prospects.
I'm one of those within the party that wants us to have a distinctive radical manifesto to promote on the doorstep - I do not want to fall into the trap of talking about what we have in common with the other two parties, when we should be saying why and how we're very different to both.
In the event of coalition negotiations, we should start with the arithmetic but quickly move to our values (you'll recall that at the last general election we talked only about working first with the party that "had the most seats or votes").
Notwithstanding, I think that the announcements at the Tory party conference in September - particularly on further cuts to welfare and further tax cuts for the rich - will make it VERY difficult for us to consider a formal coalition with them. The Labour Party has proposed very few policies and is yet to show any interest in coalition either.
Q: "And finally - I have outlined my ideas for reforming and rebuilding the party - if elected are there any of my ideas that you would be prepared to consider?"
I know that you've suggested a range of measures, including term limits for Federal Committees, wider electorates, and more creative use of technology. You've also suggested that our fundraising communications need to be better coordinated, and less frequent.
All of them are likely to have advantages and disadvantages. I'd happily put all these ideas on the table for discussion, initially by FE sub-groups, and then for debate and decision by Conference.
I like Daisy's approach to reforming FE - and if elected I hope she gets her ideas through. I also appreciate her honesty and agree with her analysis about where we went wrong, particularly on Tuition Fees and the Bedroom Tax. Where I part company with her is on her reluctance to state whether or not we should enter into another coalition with the Tories, in my view this would decimate the party. If the SNP can be honest about this why can't we? All we do by refusing to comment is reinforce a public perception that politicians are duplicitous.