So, an election took place, and six members of the new Federal International Relations Committee were elected. So far, so good, especially as one of them was me. But what happens next?
Naturally, the Committee has to meet, and someone has to organise that. But who, and who makes sure that all of the members are invited? Indeed, who has the job of finding out who the members are? In the case of FIRC (no sniggering at the back, Jennie...), the questions are made more complex because it isn't always easy to establish who you would ask in the first place. How do you contact the State Parties, for example, and who do you need to reach?
Luckily, the outgoing Committee had taken the precaution of appointing a Secretary, and whilst I have no mandate beyond 31 December, I can at least make a start. So, I've sent out a stream of e-mails far and wide, seeking answers. This is what I've found out so far...
There are fourteen voting members of the Committee;
- Phil Bennion, Merlene Emerson, Jonathan Fryer, Paul Reynolds, Robert Woodthorpe Browne and myself, all directly elected
- a representative of the Federal Board, who meet on 14 January and will presumably decide then
- a representative of the Federal Policy Committee
- a representative of the English Party, whose Executive meet on 21 January
- Roger Williams (yes, the former MP for Brecon and Radnorshire), representing the Welsh Liberal Democrats
- a representative of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, whose Executive also meet on 21 January
- Hannah Bettsworth and Andrew Martin, the job-sharing International Officers of the Young Liberals (they only get one vote between them though)
- Catherine Bearder, our sole MEP
- Tom Brake, our Parliamentary spokesperson on Foreign Affairs
There are seven non-voting members;
- a representative of the Liberal International British Group, whose Executive meet on 9 January
- Nick Hopkinson, Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group
- a representative of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Committee of the Regions
- a representative of the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats
- Ros Scott, as a member of the Bureau of the ALDE Party
- John Alderdice and Kishwer Falkner, as members of the Bureau of Liberal International
There should also be a representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, but as there is no Liberal Democrat there, the position lies vacant.
We also need a Chair. According to the Federal Constitution, only those members who were directly elected are eligible to run. Accordingly, as I didn't want the job, I opened nominations to the other five, only to find that we had but one nominee, Robert Woodthorpe Browne, whom I declared elected.
We need a regulatory framework too, as specified by Article 7 of the Federal Constitution. But, because we were a sub-committee of the Federal Executive, we apparently didn't have one, so we need one fairly quickly. The good news is that there is a member of Party staff who is responsible for this sort of thing, so I've dropped him an e-mail. We'll see what comes of it, but it needs to cover transparency, conflicts of interest, diversity, and all sorts of other good things.
Finally, we need an agenda for our first meeting or, at least, an outline one. Luckily, I'm on top of that too, so a draft is with the new Chair and our International Officer, the estimable Harriet Shone, for their comment prior to circulation to the emerging Committee.
I think that we've made a pretty good start, and once we've worked out a communications and engagement policy, I sense that we might have a pretty good story to tell. There's an awful lot that can go wrong before that though...