Monday, November 14, 2022

Everybody has an agenda, it seems, and I’m no different…

Whilst the Liberal Democrat internal elections draw to a close - you’ve got a couple of days left to vote, by the way - the campaign isn’t cooling much. Suggestions by one candidate that they have contacted the police in relation to comments against  them on social media don’t give comfort that the declaration of a result will end the unpleasantness that has ensued.

But there is no doubt that the campaign has certainly exposed two camps, each of whose positions are seemingly unacceptable to the other. And, because the nature of the divide, those less able to restrain themselves on social media become the justification for their opponents to ratchet up the unpleasantness themselves.

Now you might think that this is me gently leading up to a plea for tolerance and mutual understanding and, under normal circumstances, you’d probably be right. The catch is that I’m not entirely convinced that the chasm between the two sides can easily be bridged.

You see, one side appear to want to punish an entire group of people for the theoretical behaviour of a few individuals who may, or may not, actually be members of that group. The other side feel that offering people freedom to live their lives as they wish, punishing those who transgress as and when they do so, is the way to go. I’m instinctively with the latter group, whilst understanding that fear is a very hard motivator to overcome.

I could be being unfair, and I’m happy to consider an argument to the contrary, but my working hypothesis for liberalism is always about freedom and the balancing of freedoms between groups - does the freedom given to one group impinge on the freedoms of another, how do you mitigate this if it does, or do you simply have to accept that life is imperfect and you can only do your best?

Some talk about power, a concept which, whilst I recognise its importance, makes me vaguely uncomfortable. I firmly believe that power is, like freedom, something to be shared, and, as a bureaucrat, my job is to provide the information sufficient to allow people to make good decisions. Not necessarily ones that I agree with, but decisions that work for them. And that’s as true for the organisations I work with as it is for those I care for.

I chose to run for Federal Council this year because I think that we should try to make it work in a manner which helps the Party to grow and thrive. I don’t have “answers”, partly because we don’t yet have any questions, but partly because politics moves quickly, and the issues that might be critical today may be irrelevant tomorrow. But good governance doesn’t change, and it acts as a platform for good decision making.

My manifesto does give the impression that I might like to chair it if elected, and I would be dishonest if the idea hadn’t crossed my mind. I am, apparently, quite a good chair - at least, people are very kind - partly because I’m not keen on the sound of my own voice, like to reach consensus and have developed an ability to peer benignly over my spectacles at people. I’ve also benefited from watching a lot of people chair committees, some good, some bad, some indifferent. But there are a few minor hurdles to clear before we get to that stage… especially given the possibility that I might not get elected in the first place.

There is also the decidedly high possibility that the contest that has emerged during the campaign will be carried into the new Federal Council, where those whose manifesto focussed on policy issues are likely to be confronted with the uncomfortable truth that policy is highly unlikely to be at the core of its work - it is meant to be a scrutiny committee. Defining the role of Federal Council, putting meat on the bones of the constitutional skeleton of the committee, will be essential to prevent it from becoming the talking shop that some believed it was always intended to be.

So, regardless of whether or not I get elected or, if I do win a place, Federal Council should be interesting to say the least. Ah well, not long to wait now…

1 comment:

Laurence Cox said...

I don't think we should be at all surprised that this issue has caused so much bad-feeling within the Party, when it is undoubtedly causing bad feeling outside the Party. When one "charity" is seeking by Law to remove another "charity's" charitable status, and I put charity in inverted commas for both because I see them both as campaigning organisations just like political parties, it is an issue that may well be expected to divide Liberal Democrats too.

Yes, as Mark rightly says, the Federal Council is there to hold the new slim-line Federal Board to account and I hope that I and others will have elected enough of the "awkward squad" to FC to do this. The very worst outcome would be an FC that rolls over to get its tummy tickled by TPTB in the Party.