This motion passed as amended in accordance with the votes on F10 (lines 96–97 retained).
Last year Liberal Democrat Spring Conference agreed on the party strategy, which set out plans to build a mass political movement. This business motion takes that forward through a registered supporters scheme.
It notes that some areas already engage with supporters informally and that many people who are not members of the party support our campaigns, now totalling more than 250,000. The motion also notes the success many local parties and the national party have had in engaging with such non-member supporters, but that currently these efforts are not coordinated or shared.
The motion, therefore, recommends the introduction of a formalised supporter scheme, administered by the Federal Party, with local parties having access to the data for those in their area, as they do for members. It includes a proposal for registered supporters to be eligible to vote in the election of the party’s leader.
The motion sets out safeguards, such as confirming support for our values, checking identity, allowing removal from the scheme if our rules are breached and excluding members of other political parties from any leadership election.
F9 is being debated together with F10 which proposes the necessary changes to the party’s formal rules.
Mover: Mark Pack.
Summation: Miranda Roberts (Chair, Federal People Development Committee).
Conference notes that:
- Successful political parties are mass movements of people who work together to realise common values and political aims.
- The Party’s strategy, adopted by Federal Conference in spring 2018, set out a plan for building a mass grassroots political movement.
- Membership of the Liberal Democrats remains unusual amongst UK political parties in the important role that members have in running the Party, including the rights to:
- Decide on the Party’s policy, through the rights to submit policy motions, to take part in policy working groups, to elect members of the Federal Policy Committee and to speak and vote at Federal Conferences.
- Choose the Party’s elected representatives by voting to select local Council candidates, Westminster candidates, Assembly and Parliamentary candidates.
- Set the direction for the Party by voting in internal Party elections, including for President and Federal committees, and by voting at Federal Conference on the Party’s strategy.
- Nominate candidates for Leader.
- Participate further themselves by applying to be candidates representing the Party in public elections, serving on Federal Committees with substantive power over how the Party is run and by holding posts in local parties, regional parties, state parties and party organisations – all with major powers and autonomy.
- Access information and training via the members area of the Federal website and extensive training sessions, often provided for free.
- Liberal Democrat Party membership has more than doubled since 2014 but is still less than 4% of those who voted for the Party at the 2017 general election.
- Many local parties, both large and small, have shown great success at recruiting regular helpers beyond their formal membership ranks, with some of our keenest deliverers, canvassers and poster sites being people who have decided not to join the Party.
- The Federal Party has also had great success at recruiting people who regularly support the Party’s national campaigns but also have decided not to join the Party.
- Between them, these local and national groups of supporters are estimated to come to more than 250,000.
- However, the Party’s ability to treat supporters well and to get the most from their support is hampered by the way information about the supporters is fractured across the Party and often not readily available to those who will make best use of it (for example, local supporters may not see national campaigns, and those responding to national campaigns may not know what is happening in their local area).
- Some of our sister parties are developing registered supporter categories that have also led to substantial increases in full membership. This includes registered supporters having some rights although not full membership rights.
Conference believes that:
- 21st century political parties need to draw people into their movements in new and effective ways.
- The experience of recent campaigns, including our successful Exit from Brexit campaign, is showing that our members and supporters welcome online and national campaigning as one of the ways to demonstrate and act on their political beliefs.
- Any supporter scheme should be for the whole Party so that supporters can benefit from all the different advice, support and activities that the Party can offer and so that all parts of the Party can benefit from the scheme.
- Any supporter scheme should be attractive to those who sign up, but there should be clear differences between the rights and benefits of membership and the benefits to supporters.
Conference therefore recommends that:
- The current arrangements for supporters be formalised into a registered supporter scheme as set out in the accompanying paper.
- Eligibility to become a registered supporter will include:
- That the minimum age for supporters will match that for membership.
- People not on the electoral roll will be able to register as supporters (for example: under 18s and those living abroad).
- Members of other parties will be permitted to register as supporters; this will allow those who vote tactically for us and support us in other ways to become more involved.
- Registered supporters will be asked to confirm that they support the Party’s values as set out in the short version of the Preamble to the Party Constitution, and there will be a 30 day cooling off period on both sides for new supporters along with a process by which supporters can be expelled for not upholding these values or for other behaviour that brings the Party into disrepute.
- The Federal Party database will administer the database of registered supporters, providing access in secure ways to other parts of the Party, including local, regional and state parties, as well as Party bodies.
- Local parties are provided with the data and support to welcome new registered supporters and to help identify within the 30-day cooling off period any who do not meet the scheme’s requirements.
- The benefits for supporters will include:
- Contributing their views on policy and campaigning priorities.
- Serving on Policy Working Groups where they have relevant expertise.
- Attending Federal Conference as a Supporter (paying an appropriate fee, but without the right to vote).
- Joining Associated Organisations (if those bodies wish to let supporters join).
- Access to Party affinity schemes, such as the Ecotricity energy deal.
- Regular contact from the Party, nationally and locally, including ways to get involved, find out more and opportunities to attend some Party training events.
- Being able to vote in the election for the Leader of the Party (but not to nominate candidates in such an election); this would not be open to supporters who are members of other political parties or who fail other verification checks, such as to confirm that they are real people.
- The Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) will monitor arrangements for the supporter scheme, liaising with the State parties. This will include conversion to donor and membership, diversity amongst supporters and activity levels of supporters by region and state.
- The complaints system to enable 3 will be clear and robust:
- Supporters will not have the same rights as members, and the Party will be able to terminate the supporter’s participation in the scheme if they have breached our rules, values or supporter code of conduct. This will be overseen by the Membership Subcommittee of the FPDC.
- There will be no appeal against removal from the supporter scheme.
- No member who has been expelled or suspended from the Party, or had their membership application rejected, may join the supporter scheme unless the sole grounds for doing so was membership of another party.
- All parts of the Party, including local, regional, state and SAO/AOs, will be encouraged to involve supporters in appropriate ways; HQ (working with volunteers) will produce guidance for each grouping as to how best this can be achieved.
F9 and F10 will be debated together but voted on separately. For timings and deadlines, see note after F10 on page 53.