A role for supporters

At Spring Conference at York we will be debating the role of supporters of the party.

This follows the extensive consultation we had in the Autumn. You will remember that we had two consultation sessions at Brighton (you can find the consultation document here), after which the Federal Board arranged for a series of further consultation sessions around the country, as well as member webinars and an online survey.

Many thanks to the thousands of you who asked questions and also responded to the survey. At these sessions we promised that members would have the final say on the details of a registered supporter scheme, and we will vote on them on Saturday afternoon at Conference.

You can find the Business Motion setting out the arrangements starting on Page 42, with constitutional amendments starting on Page 46, of the Conference Agenda.

Most of you told us that you liked the idea of registered supporters, and understood that the idea of attracting people who might not want to join the party straight away, but who were valuable campaigners, both online and in person, was something we should focus on.

The Federal Board has been applying these principles to our Exit from Brexit campaign, and in a few short months 250,000 people have supported the campaign, many donating to the party.

The proposals say that we should look at giving registered supporters some rights – not as many as members: members should always have an increased level of rights.

These include allowing registered supporters the right to vote for a potential leader of the party (but not to nominate a candidate for Leader: that remains with members only).

It also proposes allowing non-MPs to stand for Leader, broadening our base. These latter proposals require changes to the Constitution, so will be voted on separately requiring a 2/3 majority.

So where have these proposals come from?

We know that our sister parties The Liberal Party of Canada and En Marche in France changed the face of their politics by energising supporters who rapidly became members, activists and campaigners over a very short space of time resulting in brilliant campaigns.

Both parties won victories at their elections with their larger teams.

We Liberal Democrats had over 4 million voters at the last General Election and we are sustaining our membership of around 100,000. But there is a big gap between those numbers.

A registered supporter scheme can draw people in larger numbers than directly to our membership to help transform what we are doing locally and nationally.

Our business motion sets out the practical arrangements for supporters and members.

We remain the one mainstream party whose members have a much greater say in running the party, whether making policy, setting party strategy, selecting your candidates locally and running the party through extensive elections to party committees, and that will not change.

When I travel round the country I hear many of you ask how we can mobilise those who vote for us to help win local and parliamentary elections.

Our sister parties have found that a registered supporter scheme does just that.

Miranda Roberts, our Chair of the Federal People Development Committee has written a more detailed guide to how the scheme will work which you can find below. I hope that this answers any questions that you may have:

Read the guide

Not everyone agrees with the idea of supporters having a say in the leadership elections, and others have concerns about allowing non-MPs to stand for leader, but many do think it will help attract supporters.

Given how many of you have said you do like the idea of the registered supporter scheme I hope you will let your voice be heard in the debate too: I believe that encouraging these new campaigners to get involved will help to transform our party and give us the fighting power we need to transform national politics.

I look forward to hearing the debate in York!