One of the things about being a self-acknowledged faceless bureaucrat is people assume that you understand 'stuff'. And so I found myself in Bromley and Beckenham this week, helping the two respective Local Parties (Bromley & Chislehurst and Beckenham), grope through the minefield that is Local Party boundaries in order to ascertain what is the best configuration for the future of Liberal Democracy in the London Borough of Bromley.
Following the report of the Boundary Commission, a new seat of Lewisham West & Penge has been created, which includes part of the old seat of Lewisham West and part of Beckenham. The complication is that the three Lewisham seats of old were combined under one borough-wide Local Party. The three Bromley seats were all standalone constituency-based Local Parties.
My understanding of the Electoral Commission's rules for Local Parties is that they must either be, in London at least, either collections of whole constituencies or whole boroughs. Thus, the problem becomes clear. The three Beckenham wards can only remain connected to the remainder of Bromley if the three new constituency parties (Beckenham, Bromley & Chislehurst and Orpington) are willing to come together to form a borough-wide Local Party for Bromley Borough. Otherwise, either Lewisham Borough Liberal Democrats have to absorb the three Bromley wards, or let go of the four Lewisham wards to allow the formation of a new Lewisham West & Penge Local Party.
Now for those of you who are not connoisseurs of South East London politics, you might wonder why any of this matters. However, for those of you who are more in the picture, you will realise that Lewisham West & Penge is a rather interesting seat, in that it is a potential Labour vs. Liberal Democrat battleground, so organisation is vital.
So to be at the heart of the debate was fascinating, especially after I was asked to chair the Beckenham meeting. At this juncture, it would be improper to indicate what the outcome was, especially as the final decision lies on the hands of the Regional Party, but it was intriguing to see what motivates local activists and the extent to which the needs of coordinated campaigning were at the forefront of discussion.
Regardless of the result though, it will be interesting to see how any new structure develops, and I suspect that I'll be an occasional visitor to that part of suburban south-east London in the coming months to lend my support where it is useful.