Supporter Scheme Explainer: The Votes

March 15, 2019 4:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

On Saturday afternoon, conference will be voting on a package of reforms first announced by Vince Cable back in September. These reforms propose creating an official supporters' scheme to the party - and giving these new supporters new rights. This motion has a complex collection of votes attached to it - and here to marshal us through them is frequent conference goer and constitutional nerd, Will Dyer.

Q: So, Will, what are we actually voting on?

A: Conference will be voting on F9 (the conference motion) and F10 (the constitutional amendment). Plus, there is one amendment and one request to vote in parts.

Q: That's a lot to digest! Why is there a conference motion and a constitutional amendment?

A: When the Federal Board drafted the motion, Vince asked Federal Board to include three things:

  • To set up a registered supporters' scheme.
  • To give certain powers (such as voting for leader) to registered supporters
  • To allow a non-MP to run to be Liberal Democrat Leader; also requiring a change to the constitution

These proposals involve changing the party constitution, which is why there is a constitutional amendment. It includes:

  • giving rights to non-members (i.e. supporters)
  • removing the '12-month rule' which refers to the amount of time someone must be a member before they can become a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

Q: What percentage of the vote does a constitutional amendment need to pass?

The conference motion only needs a simple majority (50% +1) to pass. Whereas a constitutional amendment requires a qualified majority (2/3rds +1).

Q: Do we have any amendments to either the motion or the constitutional amendment?

Yes, we have one amendment to the constitutional amendment (try saying that eight times fast).

This has been submitted by the Cambridge City local party who have proposed that members of other political parties should not be allowed to register as supporters of the Liberal Democrats. The full text of the amendment can be found in Conference Extra.

Q: Got that, so why are we 'voting in parts'?

As there are many parts to these reforms, it was felt by the Federal Conference Committee that they should be voted on separately.

So, if one part fails, the rest of the motion and/or constitutional amendment can still be enacted.

The Federal Conference Committee has said there should be four separate votes on different parts of the reforms.

These votes are on:

  • Setting up a registered Supporters Scheme - Group One in F10 (lines 1-43)
  • Allowing supporters to elect the Leader - Group Two (A) in F10 (lines 44-71)
  • Allowing non-MPs to stand for leader - Group Two (B) in F10 (lines 72-80)
  • Abolishing the twelve-month rule for candidates - Group Three in F10 (lines 81-85)

Federal Conference Committee has also accepted a separate vote for debate on whether registered supporters should be able to sit on working groups.

Q: So, we have three groups of amendments on four votes, how does that work?

Usually, separate votes at Lib Dem conference are a "thank you, next" task (as in you move swiftly onto the next vote). That is the case with Groups One and Three but not Two.

Group Two (A) asks members if they would like registered supporters to be allowed to for the Leader. This constitutional amendment has been written to coincide with Group Two (B) which asks members whether non-MPs should be permitted to the leader of the Party.

If conference rejects Group Two (A) then we will move straight to Group Three, bypassing Group Two (B).

Q: What order will all these votes be in, Will?

Helpfully, the Federal Conference Committee has provided a summary of the votes which are available below and in conference extra. There's a summary at the end if you're strapped for time.

Vote One - Do you want registered supporters to be able to sit on working groups? - Vote in parts to F9

Question: If we had a registered supporters' scheme, would you want registered supporters to be able to serve on policy working groups on the same basis as party members?

If yes: vote in favour of retaining lines 96-97 in F9.

If no: vote in favour of deleting those lines.

This vote will be decided by a simple majority.

Vote two: Members of other parties - Amendment to F10

Question: If we had a registered supporters' scheme, would you want to allow members of other political parties to be registered supporters?

If no: vote in favour of the amendment.

If yes: vote against the amendment.

This amendment requires a simple majority to pass.

Vote Three: Registered Supporters' Scheme - Group One in F10 (lines 1-43)

This is a vote on whether the Party will set up a registered supporters' scheme in the form set out in F10 but in accordance with the results of Votes One and Two. If conference votes to create such a scheme, we will move to Vote Four to decide whether or not registered supporters should have the opportunity to vote for the Party Leader.

Question: Do you want the Party to establish a registered supporters' scheme in the form set out in F10 but in accordance with the results of Votes One and Two?

If yes: vote for Group One.

If no: vote against Group One.

Group One requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

Vote Four: Electing the Leader - Group Two (A) in F10 (lines 44-71)

This vote will only go ahead if conference votes in favour of a registered supporters' scheme by voting for Group One.

Question: Should registered supporters be permitted to vote for the Party Leader?

If yes: vote for Group Two (A).

If no: vote against Group Two (A).

Passing Group Two (A) requires a two-thirds majority.

(If Vote Four is passed) Vote Five: Standing for Leader - Group Two (B) in F10 (lines 72-80)

Question: should people other than Liberal Democrat members of the House of Commons be permitted to stand for Party Leader?

If yes: vote for Group Two (B).

If no: vote against Group Two (B).

Group Two (B) requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

Vote Six: The twelve-month rule - Group Three in F10 (lines 81-85)

Question: do you want to permit new members to apply to be included on the list of approved Parliamentary Candidates?

If yes: vote for Group Three.

If no: vote against Group Three.

Group Three requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

Vote Seven: Vote on F9 (the conference motion) as amended or not

The final wording of F9 depends upon the outcome of previous votes.

That would allow conference to decide that there should be a registered supporter scheme in principle even if every part of F10 failed to pass.

F9, as amended or not, requires a simple majority to pass.

Q: Too long; didn't read. Can you sum it up?

Of course!

  • First, we will vote on amendments (Votes One and Two).
  • Then we will vote on the different groups of the constitutional amendments, which, if successful, will add new lines to the constitution (Votes Three to Six).
  • Finally, we will vote on the conference motion as a whole, amended or not (Vote Seven).