Ah yes, constitutions. Wonderful things, in the right hands. Admittedly, in the wrong hands, a thing of peril, but they are at least reasonably certain. And, for someone like me, used to working in a rules-based, legislative system, a cause of work within a party political environment.
People do not join political parties to enforce rules - they generally join to make rules, or change them. And thus, anyone willing to be the arbiter of them is likely not to be stampeded in the rush to do so. My Party “career” is a fairly good example of that - seldom opposed and often left to get on with it unmolested by interference.
At the moment, I’m reminded of that. I’m on Returning Officer duty at the moment, for a decent seat on the East of England, and having to reacquaint myself with the Selection Rules. Who knew about candidate compacts? And who do you have to talk to in order to get things done? But it all seems to be coming together, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
We’re in a constitutional review phase too, seeing what was missed in the recent Governance Review and what has been “shaken out of the tree” as a result. Personally, I find myself wondering why the Federal Board nominates members to its various subordinate committees. Each of the committees is represented on Federal Board, so can report upwards and convey the wishes of Federal Board back down again. It implies an effective lack of trust and places people in position without an adequately defined role. What is the Federal Board representative on, say, Federal International Relations Committee, for? What is their intended role?
I’m not a believer in form over function, so I tend to the viewpoint that every Committee member must be there for a clearly defined reason to carry out a broadly defined role. Otherwise, what are they for, and how much value do they add?
I’m also of the view that a member of Federal International Relations Committee should sit on Federal Policy Committee, instead of the other way round as at present. FIRC advises the Party on international policy, not the other way round, yet there is no official representative - the Chair attends in an invited, advisory capacity.
I often think that the Party bureaucracy is designed to reflect a cynical but widely held view that nobody is to be wholly trusted with authority, and that the more people you have supervising any particular body or activity, the better. We talk a good game about proportionate supervision and regulation, yet seldom demonstrate it in our Party’s organisation. I guess that that’s ironic (don’t you think?).
So, having been asked to consider the question of possible constitutional amendments by our Committee Chair, Robert Woodthorpe-Browne, I have the slight advantage of having already given the matter some thought.
And, finally, I’ve got an English Appeals Panel “gig”, tasked with interpreting an element of the Party’s Constitution. Luckily, it’s a paper hearing, saving me a journey to London, but nonetheless it has to be done right.
I guess that all that Constitution Reading is paying off...
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