Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Who heard the evidence on Trident?

I have a couple of quibbles with Linda Jack's post (21st March) which asked whether FPC's authority would have been undermined if the Trident motion had been defeated. The quibbles are with the suggestion that FPC, having heard all the evidence, had come up with the motion.
First, the FPC did not hear all the evidence. It did not hear any of the evidence. The Trident Working Group (an ad hoc sub-committee of FPC), or rather those members of it that turned up to evidence sessions, heard the evidence. What the FPC heard was a presentation from the majority of the Working Group, and a presentation from me on behalf of the minority. (The terms majority and minority have no democratic significance as most of the Working Group were picked by the Chair, not elected.) Both presentations were backed up by written reports which came to radically different conclusions.
Secondly FPC did not "come up with" the motion, though it tweaked the phrasing a bit. Nor, oddly enough, did the Working Group. The motion in its essentials was circulated to the Working Group by email and its authors were not named. It did not, in my view, reflect the weight of the evidence that had been received by the Working Group. So whose authority would have been undermined if the motion had been lost?
Influence has shifted away from FPC towards the Parliamentary Party. A significant milestone in this process was the merging of the Policy and Campaigns units. One consequence is that the short term concerns of our Parliamentarians in the Palace of Westminster play a bigger role in policymaking than previously. Is this essential to electoral success? Maybe. Does it result in better policies? In a hundred years who will care who said what to whom across those benches? Will anyone?

2 comments:

Linda said...

Fair comment Jo.

Jo Hayes said...

I have received this comment from Greg Simpson:

"It was the Policy Unit and the Research unit (not the Campaigns unit) that were merged in May 2006. The Campaigns Unit remains in Cowley Street.
The new Policy and Research Unit is co funded by POLD and the Federal Party. It includes a Policy Projects Team which services working groups and Federal Committees and an Advisers Unit which works on a portfolio basis to the Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Party. The Advisers Unit also produces warfare, briefings and campaigns material for use by the party at large which is distributed via the Political Communications Unit which is also based in Cowley Street. Most of the material produced by the Advisers Unit can be found on the Lib Dem Extranet which is the resource for all members who sign up.
We should also remember that the membership of the working group and its set up, its timescales and working plans were approved by the FPC as body at various stages in the process - Not just picked by the Chair as you set out. The mandate of the working group is derived from the FPC in its oversight role."