Liberal Democrats

Q&As - 2020 Leadership Election

What is a Q&A and what is it for?

The Party wishes to encourage and facilitate the democratic voice of our Membership as a good in itself and as it pertains to selecting the ‘right’ next Leader.

Alongside formal Hustings, therefore, Q&As provide an opportunity for member-only events that can engage Leadership candidates. They differ from Hustings in that they are not mandatory for candidates. Attendees for these events should be limited, ideally, to members, registered supporters, donors and other helpers to the Party. Members ought to be given priority on any matters where such a need should arise.

Any event taking place as part of the Leadership Election that is not either a hustings or a campaign-specific event, is either a Q&A or is not allowed.

How to organise a Q&A

All Q&As must be organised via, and with the approval of, the Returning Officer. When contacting the team regarding Q&As please email returning.officer@libdems.org.uk and also copy in greg.foster@libdems.org.uk and jack.coulson@libdems.org.uk.

Those wishing to organise a Q&As are not to contact Leadership campaigns, or candidates, directly. This is to ensure that campaign diaries can be effectively managed and the benefit of events to all members of events is maximised. Candidates and their campaigns have been explicitly directed not to engage with the organisation cross-campaign events that are not organised via and with the approval of the Returning Officer. However, the campaigns are of course free to organise their own events, not including other Leadership candidates. Such campaign events are not Q&As.

Please provide a short case for your Q&A. This must include:

  • An explanation of which group (all of whom must be Party members) is proposed to meet with candidates;
  • Why this group should have a Q&A separate to other events of the campaign including how you would promote the event and to who, including estimates of numbers
  • How you will ensure that the event is fair to all candidates;
  • What support you need to conduct the event;
  • What steps will be proactively taken to ensure a good diversity of attendees and question askers

Contacting candidates ahead of obtaining RO approval for your Q&A will be weighed against the proposed case.

(N.B. Those who have already contacted candidate campaigns to make such arrangements are asked to, from now on, work via the Returning Officer’s team. We appreciate that this advice has come after early efforts have been made. In future elections, please follow this advice from the outset.)

Agree the next steps with the RO team

Should your proposal be accepted, the RO team will take steps, where practicable, to support the organisation of the Q&A. Responsibility for contacting candidates will rest entirely with the RO team.

Should your proposal not be accepted, the RO team will provide an explanation as to why the decision has been made. The RO’s team withholds the right to make this decision on any basis, including but not limited to the RO’s team having insufficient capacity to facilitate the Q&A .

Set a date and virtual location

The date of the Q&A will need to be agreed with the RO team in advance. As these are not official events, the RO team will not compel candidates to attend. The RO team will, however, take all reasonable steps to set a date which maximises the chances of candidates attending (so long as this does not undermine official events).

The Federal Party pays for plan with Zoom and is willing to provide support of this kind for your Q&A webinar, or advise on how best to facilitate the Q&A through your own means. A physical Q&A , given current restrictions, is unlikely to be advisable.

Please see these guidelines on the proper use of Zoom for such events.

Conducting the Q&A

Please confirm a Chair for your Q&A and, ideally, an assistant who will support them. The RO team reserves the right to be consulted on this choice and to remove official sanction from a Q&A in light of the selection (in the most extreme case). Within reason, the RO team will support whomever the host organisation is keen to use.

Any Chair must be an impartial figure who has not indicated support for any candidate (unless all candidates agree to such an appointment); otherwise, a new Chair acceptable

to all the candidates must be chosen. We draw host attention to the commitment to ensuring that the full diversity of the Party is shown during events.

The Chair will arrange for questions to be submitted in writing prior to the question time period so that they can be grouped or composited by themes or subjects. Supplementary questions may be invited by theme or subject at the Chair’s discretion.

No questions may be asked which are not directed at and answerable by all candidates.

Specific guidance

  • The event must last for at least sixty minutes and no more than one hundred minutes, ideally between eighty and ninety minutes;
  • The order of opening/closing remarks and debate responses by candidates will be selected at random;
  • No questions may be asked which are not directed at and answerable by all candidates;
  • Each candidate must be given the same amount of time in which to answer those questions;
  • Questions should be taken individually rather than in groups so candidates are are directed to answer specifically;
  • At the chair's discretion, a follow-up question should be allowed where it will be helpful to members to see candidates answer fully;
  • At the chair's discretion, if a question is on a major issue and there are significant differences in the answers from candidates, they should go back to the candidates for a further round of answers so that each gets to respond to the points made by the others
  • Each candidate must be given an opportunity to make opening and closing remarks of no more than five and two minutes respectively;
  • Candidates will be given reasonable opportunity to respond to points made against them (Chairs will be advised that responses should be limited to less than 30 seconds).

It is expected that the majority of these events will follow the generic pattern of:

Opening remarks > Q&A (including a limited opportunity to reply) > closing remarks

The Q&A section will be further subdivided into three parts (unless a reasonable alternative is requested by the hosting organisations). The three parts are:

  1. Party Strategy
  2. Leadership & the role of the Leader
  3. Local/Party body concerns.

Chairs will be asked to stick to a roughly equal time split for these sections.

Where this format is not being used, candidates should be given as much warning as possible in order to prepare.

Code of Conduct (members)

A specific code of conduct for online events, including a link to the Members Code of Conduct, will be provided to members.

Host organisations will be expected to take responsibility for enforcing this code of conduct.

Training for Chairs

Chairing is not a straightforward task and this will be particularly true in the unusual setting of an online-Q&A.

As such the Federal Party intends to pay for two webinars to provide guidance, training and advice. It is strongly recommended that anyone intending to Chair, or support the Chairing of, a Q&A attends one of these events.

The webinars will cover issues ranging from best practice using Zoom to unconscious bias training.

Details as to when these events will take place will follow. Host organisations will be asked to provide the RO team with EITHER a confirmed date for their selected chair to attend one of these webinars OR a sufficiently good reason for why this was not possible.

Promotion of the event

The Federal Party is happy and keen to support you in promoting your Q&A via our Facebook group, other social media, and website. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can help you, however please do consider the currently reduced capacity available due to COVID-19’s ramifications.

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