Constitution of the Liberal Party

Liberal Beliefs and Aims
Liberal Party Objectives
Basis of Membership
Rights of Members
Refusal or Revocation of Membership and Disputes among Members
Liberal Associations
Regional and National Federations
The Assembly
The National Executive Committee (NEC)
The Finances of the Liberal Party
The President
Dissolution of the Liberal Party
Amendments and Interpretation


1. The Liberal Party exists to build a Liberal Society in which every citizen shall possess liberty, property and security, and none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. Its chief care is for the rights and opportunities of the individual and in all spheres, it sets freedom first.

2. It believes that each generation is responsible for the fate of the Earth and the balance of nature. It works to ensure that people and institutions accept these responsibilities.

3. It looks forward to a world in which all peoples live together in peace under an effective and democratically constituted World Authority; in which all peoples are able to enjoy continuous access to the Earth’s environment and natural resources; in which the various cultures of mankind can develop freely without being warped by nationalist, racial or religious antagonism; and in which the free movement of ideas, of people and of goods is guaranteed to the benefit of all. To these ends, it sees this country as committed to supporting and strengthening the United Nations, to working steadfastly for the eventual abolition of national armies and armaments, to co-operating with other countries to build a United Europe and to make a special effort together with richer nations towards assisting that part of mankind whose essential freedoms are denied by poverty and hunger. It welcomes the establishment of links with other countries insofar as such groupings advance these Liberal aims.

4. At home its goal is a country in which the powers of the state will be used to establish social justice, to wage war against poverty, to spread wealth and power, to ensure that the country’s resources are conserved for future generations whilst being wisely developed for the benefit of the whole community and to create the positive conditions which will make a full and free life possible for all regardless of colour, creed, race, sex or sexual orientation; a country in which, under the protection of law, all citizens shall have the right to think freely, to speak freely, to write freely and to vote freely; power through a just electoral system to shape the laws which they are called upon to obey; autonomous institutions ensuring genuine self-government; an effective voice in deciding the conditions in which they live and work; liberty to buy, sell and produce in circumstances which secure for the consumer real freedom of choice; guarantees against the abuse of monopoly, whether private or public; opportunity to work at a fair wage; decent homes in a varied and attractive environment; good education and facilities for the full cultivation of the human personality; an assurance that the community shall enjoy the benefits of publicly-created land values; and, as a safeguard of independence, the personal ownership of property by all citizens. These are the conditions of liberty, which it is the function of the State to protect and enlarge.

5. The Liberal Party consists of men and women working together for the achievement of these aims.

A  Name

The political party described in this Constitution is named The Liberal Party and first came together as a national organisation in 1877.

B  Liberal Beliefs and Aims

B1. Liberals believe in the equality of personal worth of every individual. We rejoice in the diversity of humanity and uphold the rights of minorities. We work for a society which will maximise the life chances of every individual and guarantee the liberty to live without restrictions, except for those which are required by the liberty of others.

B2. Liberals aim to spread wealth and power and to ensure that everyone has access to food, clothing, shelter, education, health care and the protection of the law.

B3. The economy of a truly Liberal society will be sustainable without depending on the use of non-renewable resources, will meet the needs of people both as workers and as consumers, and will work in harmony with nature.

B4. Liberals believe that a system of government is necessary, but for government to be acceptable there must be fair and effective representation and freedom of information. We believe that decisions are best taken at the most local practical level to allow the maximum public participation.

B5. Liberals have faith in free and rational debate as to the means of reaching decisions. We resist prejudice in all its forms, oppose vested interests and believe that everyone should be equal before the law.

B6. Liberals aim to create an open and outward-looking society which is honest and generous in its dealings with the rest of the world and always ready to promote the cause of liberty.

C  Liberal Party Objectives

C1. The Liberal Party seeks to advance its aims at every level of decision making. It works outside as well as inside existing political structures and encourages people and communities to take and use power.

C2. The Liberal Party strives to translate its beliefs and aims into policies and programmes which are kept under review to ensure that they meet changing circumstances. To this end, it fosters debate and discussion, both inside and outside the Party.

C3. In order to put its policies into effect, the Liberal Party seeks to identify suitable candidates from among its membership to stand for public office. It supports these candidates with briefings and training and by improving political campaigning methods.

C4. From time to time the Liberal Party campaigns on specific issues, and in doing so it may make common cause with other groups and organizations whose aims are compatible.

C5. The Liberal Party is an open and outward-looking organization, always seeking new members and encouraging the growth of Local Associations.

D  Basis of Membership

D1. Membership of the Liberal Party is open to all who support its Beliefs, Aims and Objectives.

D2. Membership of the Liberal Party is by virtue of membership of an Affiliated Association or by payment of a subscription to the Liberal Party itself. Subscription rates shall be decided by the National Executive Committee, subject to approval by Assembly.

D3. Liberals have the right to disagree with any aspect of Liberal Party policy. However, those who stand for public office have a special responsibility to think through their opposition and in their campaigning to make clear the difference between the Party’s policy and their own view.

E  Rights of Members

All members of the Liberal Party have the following rights which are to be respected and upheld by other members, by Liberal Associations, by Regional Federations, and by all the bodies functioning under this Constitution:

  1. to be offered equal opportunities to participate in the activities of the Party, and not to be excluded by the deliberate withholding of information or by other unfair means;
  2. to attend and observe any Party meeting (subject to the payment of the registration fee in meetings where such a fee is payable) unless that meeting specifically resolves that it is a closed meeting and states the reason why its business is confidential;
  3. to have such details about themselves as may be held by the Party kept confidential and not disclosed to any other person without their permission;
  4. to be sent promptly any information about the Party and its activities which is available, subject to payment of the reasonable costs of providing that information, but excluding membership lists and any other information which the National Executive Committee declares to be confidential.

F  Refusal or Revocation of Membership and Disputes among Members

F1. Membership of the Liberal Party may be refused or revoked by the enrolling body, or by the National Executive Committee, or by the Officers on the NEC’s behalf, on any of the following grounds:

a) active support for a person standing against a Liberal Party candidate; b) membership of a rival political party;

c) disagreement with Liberal Party policy expressed in a way and to an extent, or personal conduct, that seriously throws doubt on the person’s support for the Beliefs, Aims and Objectives of the Liberal Party as set out in this Constitution;

d) failure to comply with Government legislation relating to political parties and elections.
F2. Members of the Liberal Party who stand at any Parliamentary Election in opposition to an officially nominated Liberal Party candidate, or who fail to comply with Government legislation relating to political parties and elections, automatically and immediately forfeit their membership of the Liberal Party without appeal. After the election in question any such person may re-apply for membership and, if the application is refused, may appeal according to the procedure in clause F4.

F3. An Affiliated Association may incorporate a similar procedure for local elections as that in clause F2 into its constitution, but otherwise, the procedure shall not apply to local elections.

F4. Anyone whose membership is refused or revoked may appeal in writing to the President who shall take reasonable steps to ascertain the full facts of the case and whose decision shall be final. A person whose membership has been refused or revoked may not apply for membership again until one year has passed.

F5. In any dispute between members or groups of members, efforts must first be made to resolve the matter at the most local practical level. If this has proved impossible the dispute may be referred to the NEC for decision.

G  Liberal Associations

G1. Members of the Liberal Party are encouraged to join together to form Liberal Associations, which are formally constituted organisations affiliated to the Liberal Party.

G2. The Liberal Party has adopted a system of branch accounting to comply with the Election Commission and no longer operates any Accounting Units.

Branches must inform the Treasurer of the Liberal Party of their income, expenditure, and assets for the previous year by the 20th January of each year.

The Liberal Party has adopted a Financial Scheme as submitted to the Election Commission with the parties named Treasurer as the point of contact.

G3. Liberal Associations cover one or more Parliamentary constituencies. Liberal Associations based on areas other than Parliamentary constituencies may be formed with the agreement of the National Executive Committee.

G4. The minimum membership of an Affiliated Association is five.

G5. In an Affiliated Association members pay their subscription to the Association. The Association must pay an affiliation fee to the Liberal Party, which entitles the members of the Association to membership of the Liberal Party. The affiliation fee is decided by the NEC, subject to approval by the Assembly.

G6. Each Affiliated Association must have a constitution containing the following minimum requirements:

a) The objectives of the Affiliated Association shall include:-

i. to affiliate to the Liberal Party;
ii. to recruit new members to the Liberal Party;
iii. to raise funds to support local and national activities;
iv. to promote, and increase understanding of, the Beliefs and Aims of the Liberal Party;
v. to select and support candidates in local elections;
vi. to select and support a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for each constituency covered by the Association.

b) A copy of the Association’s constitution must be sent to the President of the Liberal Party, who must be informed whenever the constitution is amended;

c) An Annual General Meeting must be held each year to which all the Association’s members are invited. The AGM must elect at least three officers, including a Chair and a Treasurer;

d) A bank or building society account must be maintained for Association funds, an annual financial statement presented to the AGM, and a copy of the annual financial statement sent to the Treasurer of the Liberal Party.

G7. The President of the Liberal Party is responsible for ensuring that each Affiliated Association’s constitution complies with the Constitution of the Liberal Party.

G8. The NEC may refuse or revoke the status of any Affiliated Association which, in its opinion, does not support the Beliefs and Aims of the Liberal Party, or which has not abided by the terms of this Constitution. This decision must be taken by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting at an NEC meeting. Before the decision comes into effect the NEC shall explain the grounds to the Association and give the Association two months in which to satisfy the NEC that the grounds no longer exist. The NEC’s decision may be overturned by a decision of the Assembly.

G9. The failure by any association or its officers at any time to provide information on time to the Party which is required to comply with Government legislation will result in that association’s immediate disaffiliation.

G10. Liberal members may form informal groups to promote Liberalism in localities not covered by formal affiliated Liberal associations or to pursue a particular interest, or to develop policy. These groups have no formal status within the Liberal Party. Informal groups may subsequently apply for affiliated association status provided they satisfy the requirements under this section of the Constitution.

H  Regional and National Federations

H1. Any group of Associations and members may decide to form a Regional or National Federation although participation in such a Regional or National Federation is voluntary. The boundaries of Regional or National Federations are subject to the agreement of the National Executive Committee, but the NEC may not refuse to agree without good reason.

H2. The NEC may dissolve any Regional or National Federation which, in its opinion, is acting against the best interests of the Liberal Party or in a manner likely to bring the Liberal Party into disrepute. Any funds held by a Regional or National Federation on its dissolution shall be returned, as far as possible, to the Associations and members who contributed them.

I  The Assembly

I1. All members of the Liberal Party are entitled to attend the Assembly, subject to payment of a registration fee to cover administration and venue costs.

I2. There shall be at least one meeting of the Assembly in each calendar year. Special meetings may be summoned by the National Executive Committee. At a Special Assembly, no business can be taken unless it has been specified in the calling notice for the meeting.

I3. Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the Party. The functions of Assembly are:

i. to consider policy motions;
ii. to receive a report from the NEC on its work;
iii. to receive audited accounts and a report from the Treasurer;
iv. to decide on the membership subscriptions and affiliation fees proposed by the NEC.

I4. Motions to Assembly which involve expenditure by the Liberal Party must be framed as recommendations to the NEC. I5. The NEC may convene other national meetings of members of the Liberal Party between Assemblies and shall have power to charge a registration fee for such meetings. I6. Party policy shall consist only of resolutions passed at meetings of the Assembly. Such other election manifestos and policy statements as may be produced by the Party from time to time shall not contradict Party policy but may discuss, explain, promote or amplify it.

J  The National Executive Committee (NEC)

J1. The National Executive Committee (NEC) shall consist of the President plus 15 (fifteen) other members elected once every 2 years by a national postal ballot of the membership conducted using the Single Transferable Vote.

J2. In the event of the resignation of a registered party officer, President, Treasurer or Nominating Officer, the Liberal Party shall hold an emergency NEC meeting to appoint their successors within 14 days and inform the Election Commission of the appointment. If this is the Party President this will be confirmed at the next Special Assembly.

Should the appointment of the registered Treasurer terminate for any reason, the position shall be assumed first by the Party President, then Nominating Officer and then other registered officer until a replacement has been appointed.

J3. Any casual vacancy amongst members of the NEC shall remain unfilled.

J4. The NEC shall appoint a Nominating Officer and shall elect annually the Chair and the Treasurer of the Liberal Party and such other officers as it decides are necessary.

J5. The NEC may elect or appoint such committees as it decides are necessary, and shall specify the extent to which its powers are delegated to each committee.

J6. The NEC directs the work of the Liberal Party and is responsible for implementing the Liberal Party’s Objectives. In particular, the NEC shall:

i. be responsible for the organisation and finances of the Party;
ii. determine Party priorities and approve the annual budget for Party income and expenditure;
iii. initiate and progress campaigns and political action;
iv. develop the Party’s political strategy;
v. receive regular reports on the Party’s finances from the Treasurer;
vi. ensure that Party policy is regularly reviewed;
vii. liaise with National and Regional Federations and Liberal Associations;
viii. propose membership subscriptions and affiliation fees to the Assembly.

J7. The NEC is responsible for deciding Standing Orders for its meetings.

K  The Finances of the Liberal Party

K1. The finances of the Party are the responsibility of the National Executive Committee who, at their first meeting after the Party’s Annual Assembly, will elect a Treasurer who must keep a proper set of books and who has overall responsibility for the drawing and paying of monies and for all monetary transactions.

K2. The Treasurer has a place as of right on any committee appointed to oversee the finances of the Party and has a right to address any meeting of that committee, or the NEC, on the financial implications of a proposal before the vote on that proposal is taken.

K3. At the end of each financial year, the Party’s accounts are to be audited by a competent person appointed by the previous year’s Annual Assembly and whose report is to be embodied in the annual accounts. The Annual Assembly may resolve to delegate the appointment to the National Executive Committee.

K4. The NEC must agree a budget for each financial year and observe the restraints imposed by the budget, taking any action that may be necessary to contain excess of expenditure or manage any shortfall in income.

K5. This constitution specifically prohibits the Party from borrowing money, secured or unsecured, by way of overdraft or loan.

L  The President

L1. The President is the guardian of the Party’s Constitution and arbitrates in disputes within the Party when called on to do so.

L2. The President shall be elected using the single transferable vote by postal ballot of the membership. by a ballot of the Delegates registered and attending the relevant Annual Assembly. The term of office ceases at the end of the Annual Assembly two years after election. An outgoing President is eligible for re-election.

L3. In the event of the post of President becoming vacant, an election will be held to coincide with the next available Annual Assembly, such election to be for a full term of two years.

L4. The President is an ex-officio member of the National Executive Committee, but shall not be an officer of the Party. In the event of an existing officer or NEC member being elected President, this will automatically cause a vacancy for that office, and/or for membership of the NEC, as appropriate.

L5. The President shall be entitled to receive the minutes, agenda and reports of all national committees and working groups of the Party, and shall be entitled to attend and speak at any meeting of the Party, a National or Regional Federation or an Association.

M  Candidates

M1. The National Executive Committee is responsible for the system of candidate approval for elections to the UK and European Parliaments.

M2. In the case of local elections, approval and selection of candidates is a matter for the Liberal Association concerned, subject only to the provisions of this Constitution.

M3. All Liberal Party candidates at any election must be paid up members of the Party.

M4. No Liberal Party candidate at any election can be a member of a rival political party.

M5. The NEC shall maintain a list of approved candidates for Parliamentary elections. The NEC shall also establish, and periodically review, the rules for approving Parliamentary candidates.

M6. All members of the Liberal Party may apply to become approved Parliamentary candidates, but no member can become an approved candidate until they have been properly approved under the rules established by the NEC. No member may describe themselves as a Parliamentary candidate, or prospective candidate unless they have been properly approved.

M7. The selection of a candidate for a particular UK Parliamentary seat is the responsibility of the Affiliated Association whose area covers the seat. Where there is a contest for the selection all members of the Association shall be given the opportunity to vote. Where there is no Affiliated Association the NEC is responsible for selecting the candidate, although it may devolve that power as it sees fit.

M8. For European elections, the NEC shall ensure that where there is a contest for the selection all members resident in the seat concerned have the opportunity to vote.

M9. All Liberal Party candidates have the duty to promote the Beliefs and Aims of the Party, as set out in this constitution.

M10. Because of their public status, Liberal Party candidates in all elections have a special duty not to do or say anything that may bring the Party into disrepute, a duty which, if they be elected, continues throughout their time in office.

N  Dissolution of the Liberal Party

N1. The Liberal Party may only be dissolved if a proposal to that effect is passed by both:

a) a three-quarters majority at a properly convened Special Assembly, and subsequently

b) a four-fifths majority in a postal ballot of the membership, provided that at least half of the entire membership vote in favour of the dissolution.

N2. The postal ballot provided for in clause N1 must be completed within three months of the success of a dissolution motion at a Special Assembly.

N3. Any proposal to dissolve the Liberal Party must incorporate proposals for the disposal of the assets and records of the Party.

N4. Section N of the Constitution may only be amended by a three-quarters majority at an Assembly, followed by a four-fifths majority in a postal ballot of the membership, provided that at least half of the entire membership vote in favour of the amendment.

O  Amendments and Interpretation

O1. This Constitution may only be amended by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting at an Assembly. Constitutional Amendments may be proposed by the National Executive Committee, any Affiliated Association, or any three members and must be submitted in accordance with Assembly Standing Orders.

O2. If there is any question of interpretation of this Constitution, or if a matter arises where the Constitution is silent, the President shall give a ruling which may be reversed by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting at a meeting of the NEC.

03. The Liberal Party seeks to adhere to and fully comply with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and any subsequent legislation or guidance.