When last I wrote about Federal Council, I was perhaps slightly unfair to my colleagues and their failure to adopt Standing Orders after three meetings.
Having reflected on the matter somewhat, it seems reasonable to ponder upon the question of, when founding a new organisation, who should take responsibility for producing Standing Orders and ensuring compliance withy the constitutional niceties.
The previous constitutional review, during the Presidency of Sal Brinton, established a requirement for each committee to provide its own secretariat, and I do wonder whether or not this was brought to the attention of the new Federal Council after it was elected. That said, it would have required someone to volunteer to take on the role, knowing what was likely to be required, and acting upon that. And, having fulfilled that role myself when Federal International Relations Committee was formed, I did have the advantage that we were a continuation rather than a founding.
But, we are where we are, and given that the Party's Company Secretary effectively acts as our Secretariat, managing meetings, supplying documents and suchlike, it was entirely understandable that there was a hesitancy to act. Besides, very few people join Party committees to act as "house bureaucrat"...
And so, Federal Council meets on Sunday to consider the work of a small working group tasked with drafting our Standing Orders. My sense is that they've done a pretty good job, reflecting the constitutional restrictions placed upon Council, although, like with most rulebooks, you only really know how good they are once someone has decided to test them. So, my working position is to adopt them, on the basis that, if there are any serious oversights or omissions, they'll emerge over time.
We have been given some choices though, and I thought that I might explain them and indicate how, and why, I'm planning to vote as I am.
The first question is related to Paragraph 2.9:
The Chair will share with the President and the Federal Council any reasons given by those members who requested a matter is called in and…
OPTION A: will respect and uphold a request by any member to keep confidential that they have or have not requested a call-in.
OPTION B: will, if a matter is called in following the request of 13 member, share with the Council a list of those members who requested the call-in.
My personal sense is that, if I am to be held accountable by those who elected me to Federal Council, there should be a record of my actions (or lack of them). I acknowledge that there may be individuals who would rather not have their identity revealed, and I respect their preference, but I tend towards transparency and, if my choices are out of line with the membership, it is right that they have more than just a manifesto to go on. So, I'll be supporting OPTION B.
The second question is related to Paragraph 2.11:
A member may…
OPTION A: withdraw their call-in request before the meeting of the Federal Council at which the decision is to be considered by informing the Chair. If a withdrawal reduces the number of requests to fewer than 13 then the decision ceases to be called in (i.e. there cannot be a motion to overturn it) but may remain on the agenda as an item for discussion.
OPTION B: not withdraw their request to call-in a decision after the Chair has notified the President and Council that a decision is to be called in.
This is a somewhat more difficult question. Prior to our last meeting, a decision of the Federal Board had been called in by the required thirteen members (and no more). Accordingly, the President was invited to prepare and make a presentation to the Council in relation to that decision, requiring expenditure of time and resource to do so. Subsequently, one of the thirteen withdrew their request, making that item unnecessary.
On the one hand, before indicating that you wish to call-in a decision, you are beholden to your colleagues and to the wider Party to obtain as many facts as you can prior to submitting that call-in. On the other, more information may emerge after the deadline which satisfies you and gives you grounds not the want such a call-in.
However, I'm minded to choose OPTION B because, I think, having required a response from Federal Board, we should treat that response, and the effort expended in providing it, with the respect that it deserves. It also acts to focus minds and discourage "frivolous" call-in requests (I'm not entirely happy with the word "frivolous" in this context, but a better word escapes me for the moment).
And finally, perhaps the least contentious of the three choices is over whether to have one or two Vice-Chairs. I think that, as a means of encouraging a more diverse leadership of Federal Council, I'd plump for two, with some requirement to seek diversity amongst the three leadership roles. That shouldn't be taken as a criticism of the current leadership - I don't have cause for concern about the current team - but more a marker for future choices.
Hopefully, our meeting on Sunday will be uncontentious, although you don't always get what you want, and whether or not my preferred options are the ones chosen, ultimately, I'll be voting to accept the Standing Orders in their final version. Committees need a framework and rules to live by, and Federal Council is not exception.