Twenty minutes after Vince finished speaking yesterday, I was sitting in a room with him, his wife Rachel Smith eating delicious egg sandwiches.
We only had a few minutes to chat, but we covered a fair bit of ground.
I did the geeky party hack thing and started by asking him about his ideas for the party. I mean, he was talking about open primaries, wasn’t he, when he said this?
Our sister Liberal Party in Canada, under Justin Trudeau, leapt from third to first in a ‘first past the post’ system every bit as unforgiving as ours.
I have turned to them for advice on modernisation on how we can apply their successful model here.
The Canadian liberals engaged all their registered supporters – their voters – as well as their members in leadership elections and candidate selection.
They became a new party; a movement.
Building on our own traditions, we must address how we in the Liberal Democrats can become a movement for those who are alienated by the Conservatives and Labour.
He reckons it’s worth a try to connect with more people:
Thats what they have done in Canada and I think we should be willing to look at things like that, actually. There are all sorts of sensitivities around the thing , they have been tried in other parties here and weren’t really followed through in the spirit that they should have been. We see it in the US. It has a big downside but it is one way of engaging with large numbers o news people and we have potentially millions of supporters in the country and I’m wiling to come forward with ideas like that and get other people to knock them down if they don’t think they’re feasible. The default position is that we have to do something.
It’s certainly a good idea. It’s only really practicable in a small number of our top targets, but when you are fighting to overturn a tiny majority, could getting more people invested in your candidate at an early stage make the difference? One counter-argument, though, is that marginalised groups may not do so well, which might compromise another aim, of making the party more diverse.
What do you think of the idea? He talked of it as a “pebble he threw into the pond.” How far will the ripples go?
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings