AGM venue announced (LPUK AGM)

It is for the sake of completeness only that I note that Andrew Withers has announced the venue for the LPUK annual general meeting. This meeting is not recommended even for the brave of heart.

Party AGM 24th March 2012 10am

Committee Room 2 Clevedon Town Council

44 Old Street Clevedon North Somerset

Membership Card required for entry and £5 towards venue costs

The choice of Clevedon as venue and the 10am start speaks volumes about Andrew’s willingness to face his critics. Since facing down the accusations made against him is a prerequisite to success for LPUK, this attitude highlights the negative outlook for the party. I continue to feel concern for those people involved in this group, they seem enthusiastic and to have good intentions. Members might have wished to received an explaination about his conduct well ahead of this meeting, but none has been received and attempts to get basic financial information via Nic Coome have also come to nothing.

In other news Wikipedia have deleted the LPUK entry, stating that the Party is not noteworthy. Part of me still wishes that this was not the case, but it is perhaps for the best that this wayward entity no longer has the status afforded by an entry in the worlds most comprehensive free encyclopedia. If it means to be noted, it must earn the privilege.

It is now Sunday. Let’s start fresh on Monday.

Future strategies- a minimal party

This post was originally written when the ‘Coongate’ fracas kicked off.  It was published on the LPUK.org site on May 28th, and is therefore is no longer accessible there.

Since them my LPUK membership has (I assume) lapsed, and I’ve ambivalent about getting involved in another party, but thought would repost here so people can refresh their memories prior to the Strategy workshop this Saturday. I have a few other ideas that will be put up later this week.

Personally, I don’t think we can carry on as before, this whole affair has had a severe effect on the party’s credibility, membership and morale.

The biggest problem we’ve had in the past was that we have never had enough people who could provide the time to make the party, as structured, work and we were never able to raise enough money to hire professional staff. Trying to do this now would be impossible in my opinion.

On the other hand de-registering would waste our biggest asset, our name- £500 was spent registering it with the electoral commission. The question is how do we use it? Also, we should ask ourselves what is it we hope to achieve?

The answer to the second question is to promote libertarian ideas by contesting elections. It is my view then that our ‘mission statement’ is simply to allow individuals to stand for election under the libertarian name.

I therefore propose that the party should be slimmed down to support this core function. For reference check out this group I came across last week.

They are registered as a political party just so they can have the words ‘independent- leave the EU’ on the ballot. (Their constitution is worth a read, as is their aim to publish all accounts online. This doesn’t seem to have happened however).

The party should in my view follow this model and be scaled back to the bare minimum to allow individuals to stand- no leader, regional branches/co-ordinators, just the minimum number of legal officers. The only funds needed then would be enough to cover any electoral commission fees, web hosting etc, which membership fees and an annual pledge drive should be sufficient to cover.

Maybe we should have no set policies and manifestos, leaving it up to the candidate to decide what they wish to focus their campaign on. As long as someone agrees to our basic principles they should be able to join and stand for election. The ultimate expression of this new philosophy might be to change the party name to the Independent Libertarian party.

In addition I propose we create a new, non-party campaign/social group that I’ll refer to for now as ‘the libertarian network’ (any suggestions for an alternative name would be much appreciated!) The TPA should be our model for this organisation- it should be free to join and open to all regardless of party membership and would focus on networking, campaigning and promoting ideas. When elections come around the candidates can then tap into this to raise funds and find volunteers to help their campaign.

In addition members of other parties who have libertarian leanings could also reach out to the network and gain support. Hopefully being ‘libertarian network endorsed’ would one day be a badge of honour all aspiring politicians would yearn for!

In summary then, I believe the only way forward is to scale the party back and focus its mission on supporting individuals standing for election. It would be more consistent with our philosophy to act as a loose, open alliance of individuals than trying to build and maintain a hierachical structure in the current party system.

Meeting with Nic Coome

The Southwark Drinks were attended last night by Nic Coome, who is registered with the EC as chairman of the Libertarian Party UK. The party is currenlty split with a rump of legally registered officers and the NCC’s appointees claiming the same posts*.  We’d heard from Tim Carpenter for the NCC as he lives locally, but it was the first time anyone from the rump had come to London to talk to activists down here and I’d like to thank Nic for taking the time to enter the lions den in the way he did**.

The mood

For the most part the meeting was good natured. We spent half the time stood in the bar picking up random threads of libertarian politics, but the landlord found us a room upstairs and the real debate started. Richard took the lead expressing the anger we felt about what happened in April and taking up the topic of the SGM and financial transparency. There were a few heated exchanges, which frankly seemed unnecessary as the questions were focused on Andrew’s role, but overall the tone had improved greatly since April. Richard and Nic were magnanimous and shook hands at the end.

Action points

Rob brought the conversation back around to what might be done to sort out the disagreement. After a detailed discussion about what might be possible, Nic left for his train with two messages to the rump officers:

  • The South East wants a meeting with Andrew Withers to discuss the accounts, the records that exist, and how much really has gone unnaccounted for. We could go to him, or we could meet in the middle.
  • They want to see the data. We set the expectation that we expected any small operation to have a difficulty tracking every small amount and Nic set the expectation that the bulk could be accounted for. We discussed top down break downs versus bottom up summation and the concensus was that we wanted to be able to drill down to individual items, and see receipts.

Post mortem

I was surprised afterwards by how quickly discussion about Nic and Andrew died down. The LPUK is seen as one option amoungst many, and to some extent the conditions for taking part are set (for some, I expect they will be greater). No one was particularly hopeful about the restoration of trust between the sides, and we ended up discussing the minutiae of different ways to effect social change, perhaps without even participating in elections.

Richard again promised to pitch to us his idea of a London based association and my attempt to introduce the concept of free-market Sarvodaya was met with blank looks, so more blogging on these topics soon.

* though this particular argument seems to have gone quiet

** and Pavel for suggesting it

So how was Southwark?

The Rose and Crown, Photographed by Ewan Munro

It was good to see so many people getting reacquainted with one another over a few Spitfires. Promotion here, on Outspoken Rabbit (thank you Daz) and on twitter lead to attendance quadrupling on last month. Rumours that Andrew Withers and Nic Coome would be joining us may have helped, but proved unsubstantiated (I’m told that Mr Withers had to attend a board meeting which was arranged after initially accepting an invitation).

As always, the discussion was wide-ranging. I’ll try to summarise the best I can.

There was a level of interest in renewing LPUK but general pessimism about the likelihood of success. The chief concern was that any money given to the rump would not be in safe hands, and the members present suggested they would not renew. The assumption appeared to be that Simon Fawthrop’s action to extend memberships indefinitely would not be honoured. The second issue was that the AGM is not yet announced so cannot occur before December, when members may have other things to attend to. Nic or Andrew could have offered some reassurance on all this, if they had attended.

Tim Carpenter, filling the role of leader, took to a bench to suggest that members should be prepared to risk a small fee if it helps to ensure the Party gets back on track. It was a long speech but the feedback was that some matters needed to be attended to. There was an expectation that the AGM should be held in November, or else a Christmas date avoided, and that it should ideally be held in London. The unfilled post of Treasurer was the subject of some discussion and Tim’s commitment to request disclosure of the accounts to prospective candidates was received with cynicism, but was seen to be important.

From the floor there were a couple of suggestions for alternative courses of action outwith the party and speculation that the community is not ready yet for a Party anyway. I reiterated the role Libertarian Home can play in providing a space to discuss these suggestions further and I’ve invited articles on these ideas from the proposers. For now, I will keep quiet so as not to pre-empt their announcements. I went away with another action point, which is to establish a mailing list to carry announcements on these topics. I anticipate this will take a newsletter format until there enough going on to justify setting up and moderating additional discussion spaces.

I’d also like to point people towards the Webb-Andronichuk proposals, which came up again in conversation around detailed issues.

The conversation moved on to libertarian campaigning especially the choice of campaign  issue were a favourite. James Rigby made some interesting points about how strongly emotive issues are a less fertile ground. There was emphasis on lifestyle choices that had been criminalised and practical issues that affected easily identifiable groups. In short, tax and prohibition.

The next theme was how to get the messages out there. There were lots of idea and one common problem, without methodical organisation and a core team of paid staff none of them would gain the momentum necessary to be effective.

There is clearly demand then for a libertarian campaigning organisation, but the shape of that organisation is up for debate.

A new face at Libertarian Home

I’d like to take a moment to welcome on board Trooper Thompson who has kindly agreed to begin writing here from time to time.

Trooper has pre-empted this post with a post of his own, giving some of his reasons. Regardless of those reasons I’m very pleased to accept Trooper’s help. His historical insight and detailed knowledge of the theories will make for interesting reading and add to the intellectual diversity of the site as we move forward and away from just being a site for LPUK news.