Never let it be said that Party committees move slowly. So, when I received an e-mail last Thursday evening, inviting me to a meeting on Wednesday, I moved swiftly... to open the e-mail (one doesn't want to over-exert oneself...).
It seemed that I was invited to attend a meeting to discuss the Party's engagement with both ALDE and the Liberal International, both in terms of the forthcoming Congresses (Budapest and Mexico City, respectively) and of our delegations. One of the lesser known effects of our election result is that our entitlement to delegates to each is, how might I put it, somewhat reduced - there is a direct relationship between votes received and representation.
As far as ALDE is concerned, we lose nine of our fifteen Council members, and half of our sixty-two Congress delegates, with effect from 1 January 2016. The catch is, we elected eight people to serve a two-year term as Council delegates covering the 2015 and 2016 calendar years. Eight into six doesn't go terribly well. Throw in the delegate slots assigned to the Federal Executive, the Federal Policy Committee, the Chair of the International Relations Committee and the Liberal Democrat European Group, and you've got a real problem.
So, what to do?
I have a personal interest, in that I am one of the eight directly elected members of ALDE Council, and was the fifth elected last year. And, I'd quite like to carry on next year. The initial proposal, that the election be re-run and the top six candidates chosen, had some obvious personal benefits, but it would leave us without the Chair of International Relations Committee, and key dealmaker at international Congresses, Robert Woodthorpe Browne (and he is undoubtedly a class act...).
The counter-argument was that this would exclude those who were ex-officio and might have chosen not to stand for election accordingly. The only catch with that argument was that such individuals would have been presuming that they would be re-elected to the relevant committee and retain their ex-officio roles, which should have been something of a gamble if our internal party democracy is genuine.
I proposed a compromise, arguing that a democratic mandate from Federal Conference should trump any ex-officio rights, especially as there is no firm constitutional basis for the current arrangements, but acknowledging that the Chair of the International Relations Committee must form part of the delegation.
Was this accepted? In truth, I couldn't tell you. I do know though that I have been tasked with producing a formula that will address this problem in future, which will doubtless make me a lot of friends (note, irony alert). My challenge, to ensure that the States are fairly represented, that diversity is reflected in terms of gender and ethnicity (I'll do my best with the other disadvantaged groups) and that the process is as transparent as possible - it might have been fair in the past but it was hardly transparent.
I may be gone for some time...