Are the Liberal Democrats the most democratic party in the UK?
Under the Liberal Democrat Party rules, three quarters of all their MPs have to agree the details of any coalition deal before it can proceed.
There is no such constraint upon David Cameron.
Nick Clegg also has to get agreement of his ruling federal executive body.
David Cameron is not bound even to consult with the Board of the Conservative Party.
If Mr Clegg fails to get the backing of his federal executive, he will have to call an emergency conference of senior activists.
There is no requirement at all upon David Cameron to acquire the backing of the National Convention.
The Liberal Democrat leader is constrained by his party's ‘triple lock’ rule. Under the system he must secure the approval of MPs and the executive before making any decision that could compromise the independence of the party. If he fails to garner 75 per cent support from either, he would then have to call a separate conference in which he would need the support of two thirds of delegates. Failing that a postal ballot of all members would take place.
While David Cameron will doubtless consult with his MPs and Peers, he does not need their formal approval before he makes any decision. There is no part of the Conservative Party’s functioning which requires any matter to be put to a ballot of all members, save the appointment of a new leader. And it was the instinct of the present Conservative leadership to deprive Party members even of that.
In short, as a result of the Hague reforms of 2001 which gave Tories their first written constitution, the Conservative Party is in the hands of David Cameron to do with as he pleases. If MPs object, they can be deselected; if candidates resile, they cease to be ‘approved’; if the volunteer membership of turnip taliban, dinosaurs and backwoodsmen dare to utter a syllable of dissent, they can be completely ignored for they have no role at all, save to host occasional bridge evenings and hold the odd fund-raising barbeque.
Perhaps the Liberal Democrats can help guide the Conservative Party towards greater internal democracy.