The Hon. Lady Mark the outgoing consort of our current President is sensible not taking sides or endorsing anyone given his position. However, he did over the weekend post his idea of what was required from his seat whether across the room at home, next to in the car/train or watching his wife the President perform her duties over the past 24 months. This was something I found really enlightening for a job with out job description and what I used to weigh up the four candidates that we have thus far. His listed the roles thus:
The President has three primary roles;
- chairing Federal Executive - which is rather more than just turning up and doing the job. The agenda has to be agreed, papers commissioned, debate managed so as to ensure that all of the business is given a proper airing. The President is also a member of the Chief Officers Group, Federal Conference Committee, Federal Policy Committee, Federal Finance and Administration Committee and the Campaigns and Communications Committee. All meet in London, mostly in the evening, and occasionally on a Saturday.
- representing the membership to the leadership - responding to hundreds of e-mails and letters (some of them astonishingly rude or even abusive), travelling around the country to regional and state conferences, to local party dinners, to campaign events, and then conveying the information and views gathered to the Leader, the Chief Executive and now to the Liberal Democrat parliamentarians in ministerial office.
- representing the Party, as opposed to the Parliamentary Party, in the outside world, to pressure groups, media, lobbying organisations and, leading our international delegations to organisations such as Liberal International and ELDR.
Before going on to deal with resources, time commitment, without touching on what were core competences. He like me has seen various Presidents with a whole host of key competencies down through the years. So far we have four candidates in alphabetical order of first name Jason Zadrozny, Jennie Rigg, Tim Farron and Susan Kramer.
Susan of course has been a London Mayoral candidate and was MP for Richmond Park from 2005 until this year. Jason was our candidate in Ashfield in May losing by just 192 votes. Jennie is a dear friend and Tim had one of our biggest up swings in a held seat much to the derision of my Labour supporting Cumbrian based (at the time) cousin. All bring different things to field.
I'm surprised that Jason wants to stand when he came so close to beating Gloria de Piero. I would have thought the next two years would be far better spent by him building on the reputation he has to keep momentum in local campaigns to aim to overhaul that short gap in 2015. Much as I love Susan she in my view is the most establishment candidate on the list. A London-based President in what can be perceived from the provinces as a London-centric party is not what we need to stand out right now. Besides for the four years before Ros we had another London-based Parliamentarian in the form of Simon Hughes.
That brings my decision down to Tim or Jennie. Now I know the arguments about needing someone outside the bubble to reach to the grassroots. However, that does depend on what you define as the bubble. Yes, Tim is an MP but he also sees outside the bubble, something that struck me in a conversation I along with others had with him in Bournemouth one evening last year.
I love Jennie to bits and love that she will speak up whenever things need to be spoken up about. My concern is that the President over the next term needs to deal with MSM's perception of us a sell outs. While I know Jennie is no sell out, much like myself, I wonder does she have the ability to pull the core of the party along with her.
Tim is also prepared to go against the party flow (sadly the most notable time he did so was to vote against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 but he did also resign from the front bench in protest at the party deciding to abstain only on the EU Referendum. So as a gay man I'm kicking him while as a Europhile democrat I'm right in his camp.
My decision was made in what I feel is best for the party going forward as a whole and not based on personal perception. Can an MP represent the Party as opposed the Parliamentary Party? Well yes Simon did so as President and does indeed again now as Deputy leader a role for which he beat Tim. Of course someone totally outside that can truly be a representative of the people.
How would the committees, party grassroots and outside world deal with them both? I can be a pain on committees and throw the occasional spanner in the works, both of these two could do that. As with the party grassroots both have their strengths and would do that in different ways (hey even if Jennie gets a fund of support to help her do so). It is the outside world that brings me to a point of separation. We need to be seen as a the party we have become mature enough to disagree with policy from the Government because that is what party have said, yet able to work in the coalition because that is also what the party have said. Not that we are in two minds merely that party policy is made by conference and Government policy was what our negotiators took to the table and got the closest they could to what the party wanted.
On that final score I feel that Tim Farron will be able to present that case. That most important case for our party right now at this time. That is why I'm endorsing Tim Farron to be the next President of the Liberal Democrats.
Much love and hugs to Jennie though. Also much thanks to those in the party crazy/courageous enough to ask me to stand, there are number of reasons why it wasn't right for me especially at this time.