By Matthew Barrett
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David Singleton at PoliticsHome reports an interesting development: The Lib Dems' President, Tim Farron, has drawn up plans to establish a "reference group" made up of grassroots party members, which would oversee coalition negotiations if the 2015 election were to result in another inconclusive result. The proposal is set to be debated at the Lib Dems' spring conference in Newcastle – and if approved, the proposal would be permanently added to the party's constitution.
Under the proposal, when a Lib Dem leader appoints a negotiating team (which must now be selected "with due regard to diversity"), the team would have to report to a "reference group", which will be appointed jointly by the party's policy committee and executive – containing elected activists – and the parliamentary party. The negotiating team will then give "regard to their respective views".
This all seems to skew future coalition negotiations towards the Lib Dem grassroots, and perhaps makes it less possible that Orange Book-minded Lib Dems like David Laws, Chris Huhne and Danny Alexander would be in a position to sign up to sensible reforms, such as those enacted by Michael Gove and IDS. There's also the possibility that the grassroots "reference group" would steer the negotiating team towards a deal with Labour, if there was an offer of both Labour and Tory-led coalitions.
It will also be of concern to Conservatives that Tim Farron is a left-winger, and prone to over-the-top anti-Toryism. He has called Thatcherism "organised wickedness", amongst other offences. This latest move seems to entrench prolonged coalition negotiations and empower senior Lib Dems to win disproportionate policy concessions from any party they enter talks with.