New leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK

The Liberal Democrats would be the party I would probably support if I lived in Britain. They’ve just completed a ballot of their members to decide a new Parliamentary Leader, after their previous leader resigned. They’ve had a little bit of leadership instability in recent years, but my interest is more in the mechanism they use to decide a leader. In this case, their new leader is Nick Clegg who beat Chris Huhne by the incredibly tight margin of 20 988 votes to 20 477. I suppose I really should point out that I mentioned Nick Clegg as a future party leader in this post back in January 2006.

When the Liberal Party in Australia decided its new leader after the recent election (in what seemed to me to be an incredibly rushed fashion), I noticed a couple of comments suggesting it would be worth them trying a different way of deciding the leader, by giving the members some sort of say in the decision.

The Australian Democrats have done this for thirty years, letting all party members have a vote in deciding parliamentary leadership positions. I think it is a system which has a lot going for it, even though it has been much mocked by Australian press gallery commentators over the years. Despite the mockery, it is interesting to note that all three major parties in the UK allow their membership significant input into determining the parliamentary leader of their party.

It does take a lot longer than just holding a meeting and having a vote, but the benefits are (a) it gives much greater value and meaning to being a party member (b) it gives the parliamentarians a much better idea of what their party members actually think and believe and (c) it requires the leadership contenders to have to outline in much more meaningful detail what they believe and where they plan to take the party.

I think the Liberal Party in Australia would have benefited from a public debate and discussion amongst its leadership contenders as to what their party stood for and where it should be going.

The Liberal Democrats conduct this process in a very open way – even more so than the Australian Democrats in some ways – including the release of full member voting figures, widespread use on websites for member debate and engagement with parliamentarians, and member meetings around the country.

As I’ve noted in the past, many of their MPs and party members have been heavy users of blogs, which has extended in recent times to networking sites like Facebook. (In what must have been a moment of prescience, I became Nick Clegg’s Facebook friend a couple of months ago.) This includes Liberal Democrat Voice, which is an unofficial website run by party members allowing open debate on pretty much anything. See this post, by Peter Black, a Liberal Democrat member of the Welsh Assembly, liveblogging the announcement of their leadership ballot as an example of something you’d never see in Australia from a major party MP.

In the USA, with their system of public primaries, candidates have to take their message direct to the entire public. In that sense, their system is much more democratic and does mitigate against lead candidates being able to campaign inside a media bubble without any meaningful public contact (as noted in this post). However, their system has some other horrendous features which in other key respects makes it barely able to be called a democracy – not least the total lack of independence of electoral officials, boundary determination and electoral rules, the requirement to raise obscene amounts of money, and the stone age first past the post voting system (something the UK still suffers from too).

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16 Comments

  1. I was hoping others would of commented on this,so I could place myself somewhere.Been to Washington Times on-line the 19th of Dec.where a report of the planet getting cooler is presented.[via DavidIcke.com]So the understandings go in all sorts of directions,and,are not easy,my problem with the Australian Greens is how easily they locked themselves into the climatic environment when conservation problems exist still.And the economic matters seem to be in the hand of inflexible bullshit artists..our American friends seem enthusiastic about creating new obsolete forms of.Being a baby-boomer is sensed by some to be rigid in opinion,I can see why you befriended the LIB-DEMS Andrew,but, I will be struggling to keep the use of the computer up next year,and what I have found out about what seems to be going on..I am not that confident about the rest of my life.In Australia I cannot help but think how stupid the ALP is! So indirectly all those who vote for them regularly also,which isnt a wonderful state of mind to be in,more so, at the moment they seem to be more substantially better off materially.So another call upon the Brits via Lib-Dems confident and hopeful reminds me of Blair, with different facial characteristics,and, probably less of a need to be dishonest about the limitations of such.Reasoning well and clearly is a worthwhile thing to do and hear,in Australia with the ALP we have the repeat button being played.Timely confidence and hopefulness really is the right oil all the time.No point being confident if you have never seen a tide before and what about when it will return and how!?And the moonlight and nautilus shells may give a more ancient perspective to be readied.My real fear is the political cheat,and there are many,ready to claim the nautilus shell they have profound wisdom about,and they have studied moonlight in all its manifestations!?Thus talk in my ear until I cannot hear myself,or great silences like the shell,& mysteries so well known repeated.

  2. See this post, by Peter Black, a Liberal Democrat member of the Welsh Assembly, liveblogging the announcement of their leadership ballot as an example of something you’d never see in Australia from a major party MP.

    Yeah but the Welsh Liberal Democrats aren’t exactly a major party in the Senedd, and the announcement was broadcasted live on TV and internet anyway.

  3. Interesting how Howard claimed to govern for “All Australia” with such a restricted method of choosing parliamentary leader. The Democrats’ parliamentary leadership ballot is one of the things I most admire about your party, Senator.

  4. Letting the party members have a say or actually determine the leader has the unfortunate possibility that during times of difficulty for the party, the MPs and Senators may not actually support their leader… contributing to the implosion and later electoral defeat of the party…

  5. Kyle, there are plenty of examples of tension within the ALP and Liberals of having a leader elected by the parliamentary party who did not enjoy the support of the whole party. The federal ALP’s infighting led to major unpopularity. Look at the Qld Liberals and Tim Nicholls’ constant challenges after they dumped Quinn in favour of Flegg.

  6. The Benazir Bhutto story continues,without autopsy,and two divergent views of why she is dead.The government choose,wether factually or not,death by the result of injury sustained as a result and response to explosion.The close associates,rightfully or wrongly claim a bullet to the head and abdomen.Which leaves a few questions right open that are hard to typecast.For example,if the government view is a false account,of what happened,why if the attack was from terrorists would death by explosion result be more presentable!? Then there is the photo from the Interior Ministry.Assuming the question can lead somewhere,the differences of explosion to distract from bullet death becomes a obvious reality.That may not be so,if, the government for whatever reason ,and it could still be honest,is wanting the focus to take place on the explosion.The motivations of unpopular government officials,can be as much called plainly corrupt,or, just unpopular trying to make the trail lead somewhere by the explosion.What good would it do,to cover up the death by bullets,as the Pakistani government may have done!?Assume no dishonesty ,but real intent,something could stand out,that is a sort of pincer effect around the two central themes of evidence,whilst other matters like the disturbance of the crime scene seem to way against that.If in collecting evidence there is also a flushing out process,then is it taking place,around death by weapon or by explosion!?For security reasons the emphasis may have meant the explosion insistence,and copping in on the chin as liars,to get a result that is clear,precise and evidential.Musharraf cannot really take advantage of all this ,because of unpopularity,but, dealing with events as they happen requires some degree of concentration.Alternative motivations are easy to describe,but, insuring there isnt going to be a civil war with more than two sides involved,even if,you run a military dictatorship, must mean not always reacting like the expected.

  7. This is almost 41,500 votes. I haven’t looked around and seen if this was weighted in any way (the British Labor Party I think weights their MPs votes so they are worth much more than an ordinary member), but if not that is a pretty healthy membership.

    Labor and Liberal both have about that number of members here, with a third the population, but once one takes out the stacks and allows for the fact that even in a ballot as crucial as this there were probably some Lib Dems who didn’t vote it would suggest that the Lib Dems have a similar per capita membership to the potential parties of government over here. I find that interesting.

  8. I am finding it difficult to accept opinion about matters Pakistan this morning and the apparent to some ,failure of Musharraf.I have heard Bolton and a Professor from Boston,and how this strange l and s combo came about,is purely ABC.Then there is Sheahan,a know-all now about all things Pakistan ,to be found in the SMH. So I have to also accept that Pakistan because it has nuke weapons is more dangerous than India that has nuke weapons.I am also lead to believe that Taleban have been encouraged by the Pakistan military who no longer can control them,as they fight Indian troops.And as a loss of control suicide bombings have become part of the arsenal against India.So apparently there has never been a reason why the Pakistanis needed to defend themselves,and train others!?Even a mild character like Haneef had a baptism by fire in this nation,and one can assume that Indians and Pakistanis have understood each other better than Australians!I am a bit tired already of Zionist lawyers in the ALP and the attacks on Hicks seem really over the top.He is one Australian born individual who has tasted unstructured American justice!He isnt a well spoken lawyer that will not be affronted by the media,for finding some difficulty in sticking to the facts about a man as is.I dont like the idea of Boltons influence,and I think, people should just lay off criticising Musharraf until factual matters about one prominent persons death undergoes both Pakistani investigation,and,any help Musharraf agrees to use.The rest is irrelevant and speculative…and bloody disgusting.There is enough concern in a Talebans statement about a Pakistan citizen to consider that as hopeful!?Yet interpreting it as far away as in Sydney is destructive!There is much thatis being said that is plainly anti-Muslim in all forms rather than the problem of justice,which isnt always a border skirmish,and it is poor Indians fighting poor Taleban,and I have more respect for that than who maybe more morally right.

  9. Pakistan continued.This may even kill me,a likelihood of overuse of computer and whatever other coincidence,occurs to the poor.I have been to DavidIcke.com,whilst I appreciate some information there,I do not at this stage think his conclusion meets my expectations of formal and tested evidence.And Musharraf maybe more independent and thorough under pressures he may even see more clearly.If tensions reduce between India and Pakistan,there is no real reason to be friendly beyond just good relationships with the U.S.A. Are the Taleban ready to be double-crossed,by their own lack of insight,or are they more clever than what people will admit,because of inherent racism and elitism!?.Many countries are always on the brink of collapse,it cannot be said that Musharraf by actions, has not been concerned by riotous behaviour as yet, not readily describable as Taleban..and seem to be Bhutto supporters.So if Americans and possibly Jews are so concerned about Islamisation and collapsing friendly Democracies,it seems unlikely that whatever the Taleban think and do with India is being expressed over the last few days against Musharraf.And it seems tribal people are worrying to the powers of U.S.A. BRITISH and Israeli interests.Or are they assuming something or wanting Pakistan to be another place to offload old depleted arsenals!?Musharraf as symbol of Pakistan is someone ,for all his warts, may in fact,find himself unsullied by the assassination,and if Icke is right drop a large bucket of fermentable stuff known as excreta right into the laps of dangerous and war-mongering bastards ie. the British American Israeli secrecy,and India and Pakistan can protect themselves from that rot.I will just have to duck my head,and hope no apertures make me smile wrongly before taa taas taas.Tut tars.Goodnight!New Years Eve.Miss your opinions Senator.Australians dont seem very bright at this time of year.

  10. Pakistan continued.I think as I try to find in myself why it is that Musharraf appeals to me,that in fact, the processes of double cross are well and truly now established and working against Pakistan and its peoples..whatever they are and who they support.So if Musharraf had a plan to usurp the real outcome,he has now been double crossed.You could also say that the Party lead by Bhutto has also been double crossed.It is also true that perhaps , the American Senators,it has been reported have also been double crossed but,not effectively damaging to them at this stage of my understanding.Accept I suppose that Musharraf would not be so highly considered by them or vice versa.So a lack of genuine attempts by American Democrats have perhaps been foiled twice.I dont think he will,but Musharraf could come clean,but,then he maybe personally threatened physically by the same people who gave the Bhutto Party its leak.The other political parties and the Taleban ,are also double crossed by this ,because if double crossing happens to two parties who seem larger,in prospective voting outcomes,then the smaller parties are then double crossed by the perception of that process.I think if I was a Pakistani,I would be attempting outside of the political processes to show as a citizen that I am friendly to other citizens of Pakistan and by simple honesty,not the more complex form of people able to prove that one is.Because within the present bureaucracy and armed forces there is bound to be some very honest people whose real intentions are exactly Pakistani…whereas all this stuff may have partially outside influence and goals.

  11. I loved Nick Clegg’s acceptance speech , was very philosophical.

    The openness of the LibDem selection process is a great thing for democracy. I’m convinced now that membership ballots are the way to go. Appointing leaders through a closed process is horribly archaic and not the way we should be heading if we are to combat the horrendous, destructive and dangerous disease of political apathy.

    The LibDems are informally our sister party. I hope we can strengthen our links. The similarities are freakish, like here (second point, two-thirds down the page).

  12. Stephen

    The votes of the Lib Dem members are not weighted, AFAIK.

    According to this site, there were nearly 65 000 ballot papers issues, which I presume means there are at least 65 000 party members (perhaps more, as I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a restriction of some sort of members not being able to vote until they’ve been in the party for a short period).

  13. I am off subject a bit as usual compared to others here,there doesnt seem to be any blog that I have found yet for my particular senses of subject.Laura Chipp cops a hiding,according to the person delivering it,in the SMH.I dont think he even makes a valid point,and Ialso think he actually knows that,seeing it is unlikely Laura will be given a chance directly to respond.Certainly having opinions is a time dimensioned reality with the media,because it is all costs apparently,for them.Costa of the Chosen One of the State ALP considers there hasnt been any debate on privatisation of electricity,and the unions are invariably wrong,because super funds go into power stations development overseas.Whereas poor Costa ,once unemployed,before Bob Carr spotted him as new Labor Buddha,hasnt got all that accumulated stuff!?And the State wants to really deliver Core Services.No doubt ,his mum, still thinks he is a apple..and the unions are always a bit rotten,even though he cares for them.So everyone including the Unions must accept the objective apple of Professor Owens.And there will be no worries about paying bills in the future for the poor and even retired electricity workers…and as the word baby boomer is automatically attached to the retired…it means the older workers,and his mum is displeased by them,just cannot get the figures right.I wonder if the laws of the land allow them,the workers to use their super-duper to invest in the grid,rather than overseas interests which doesnt sound like common sense to me for all users.Having money to do things apparently is justifiable squibbing about keeping things Australian.Perhaps executives and Professors are overpaid…and need to get jobs.We are all apparently happy with the Snowy Mountain lot too!?

  14. There really is a need for Democrats in Victoria and N.S.W.As it is plainly obvious that both N.S.W. and Victoria are not dealing well with issues,including the matter of power line etc. ownership and the matters of what to do in Victoria re what seems like permanent drought.The problem is making whatever can be done useful for human existence.Lots of small towns I knew about as a kid,are now deeply struggling,including in the sale of property and social services and work.There are some environmental solutions,that need planning insight and creativity,but most of it will be sustaining human confidence in humans solving human problems,that is using understandings and technology.I dont think it is really a coincidence of years that the anti depression group and drought run in years together.If people have invested their monies in farms that dont work under these conditions then obviously there sense of self-confidence is shot.Relying on sheep and cattle sales to overseas countries by livestock ships is a sort of foolishness to please Banks in terms of figures,but even there many staff may find it all too much of a gamble.Pipelines from the country to solve Melbournes water problem seems a bit silly,so somewhere in all this good environmental practice re water becomes the enemy,Victorian Bureaus I dont think have ever served Australians well,and some of the worst are country related.The Democrats could start now visiting small towns gathering info., suggesting things observing matters for themselves.Ask the questions of scientists where the people themselves cannot see an understanding in scientific terms may validate solutions.Is it such a difficult problem this permanent drought circumstance,that, humanity with plenty of time on its hands,maybe can be put to more useful endeavour.The drought can also be discussed as a 24 hour variation across the various seasons.Asking the right question for local circumstances needs insight.Could rock mining be used on farm!?

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