Category Archives: Conference

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Agenda 2020 open thread, essay collection and competition

As we announced here, Agenda 2020 is the name given to a project of the Federal Policy Committee to re-examine our timeless values. They have now published quite an interesting collection of essays (pdf here) to set the ball rolling, and are inviting further essays by the 5th October.

You might miss the essay collection if you have gone for one of the greener options for the conference agenda, or if you aren’t going to conference, but I must say they are interesting enough to put my natural cynicism for the project on hold for a while.

Rather than attempt a review, let me give you a little teaser of each. Quotes do not imply endorsement.

David Boyle:

This is an extension of the implications of Popper’s open society, and its implications are profound. Society, public services and the economy are the same in this respect:


Remembering Srebrenica

When I clicked through the conference agenda last week, my eye was caught by an exhibition stand entitled “Remembering Srebrenica”. When I got to Liverpool, I made a beeline for that stand and went back again the next day.

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Our Don says farewell to conference with a song

Don Foster - Some rights reserved by Department for Communities and Local GovernmentWhen I first started going to Lib Dem conferences, we had fewer MPs than we have now. So, those MPs that we had were run ragged charging from fringe meeting to fringe meeting to speech to TV interview, as they were rather thin on the ground. It always seemed to be our Don Foster who was really doing loads of stuff. I did wonder how he kept going.

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In full: Nick Clegg’s Liverpool speech

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I read this tweet:

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Paddy Ashdown can’t hurt me now

Paddy Ashdown video screenshotLast night in his rally speech, Paddy Ashdown jokingly suggested that he might deliver a cruel and unusual punishment to anyone who didn’t do the 10 calls from the Team 2015 phone bank that was requested of every member over the Conference weekend.

In no way am I scared of Paddy and his humorous threats were not the main reason I headed down there this afternoon. Honest.

It  was all very painless and great fun. You are greeted by cheery volunteers who sign you in and give you a mobile phone, a script and a list of calls to make. The biggest problem I had, typically for me, was that it took me ages to work out how to end the calls on the, shall we say, old fashioned models we were using. I was sitting next to Julian Huppert. He was calling voters in his Cambridge constituency. I was calling people for Stephen Williams in Bristol West. And here is the proof:

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In Full: Danny Alexander’s speech to Conference

Danny emphasised the Liberal Democrat contribution to the economic recovery in his keynote speech to Conference and talked about the forthcoming budget and the choice facing the country. Liberal Democrats were needed to provide fairness and responsibility, he said. Here is his speech in full:

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Jo Swinson saddles up her feminist high horse…

Two pictures you might like. First, Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Jo Swinson:

Jo Swinson

And now, a feminist high horse.

See what I did there?

Jo Swinson has been going for the Daily Mail readers’ vote. She can certainly speak the paper’s language, as you can see from this parody press release from her office. Will editors get the joke?

Mother of one, Jo Swinson gave a speech today wearing a shocking pink dress and a new pair of heels.

While looking desperately in need of a ‘calming down dear’, Swinson railed against the established privilege of men in power and their unconscious inability to experience what discrimination was really like.

She did not say that government should determine what editors can publish. But it could have been what she meant really.

Swinson suggested that the Tories were too afraid to back a ‘feminazi’ clampdown on Fleet Street’s dinosaurs.

Swinson who last year abandoned her Ministerial post for six months on maternity leave, has persistently shown herself to be the possessor of radically liberal ideas as well as a feminist high horse.

If you want to see what she actually said in her speech, it’s all here.

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Nick Clegg’s Q & A: Live blog

Nick Clegg Q&A Liverpool Spring conference 2015 Photo by Liberal DemocratsWhen I tried to live blog Nick Clegg’s q and a in Glasgow it all went horribly wrong. I’d got about 20 minutes in and then lost the whole thing. I will be a bit more diligent about saving and updating this post.

In the style of the Daily Mail writing about female politicians, Nick Clegg, a 48 year old father of three has come on stage wearing a smart blue suit with a lighter shirt. His hair is not as sleek as it could be. He could have done with a few minutes with his hairbrush this morning.

The first question is about our relative spending on defence and aid. Nick said we should look more holistically – aid is an important part of our own national interest. He was then asked if the EU idea and said definitely No. A barmy idea, a barmy army, he said. He did say, though, that Britain and France were the only countries with any large military capability so if the EU wanted to be more self sufficient on this, there should be more long term thinking on building it up so we didn’t have to rely on “uncle Sam’ to bail us out.

Right and left abhor us being in government more than they abhor each other

Why are our poll ratings not better when we’ve done so much in government is the next question.

Nick says that it’s the first coalition at a time of real economic crisis. The powerful financial and media vested interests of right and left “abhor the Liberal Democrats in government more than they abhor each other.” They want to reclaim their binary system and us being in government puts a spoke in that.

He says that polls look much better where we can tell our side of the story and where we do that, we are going to win. 

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Saturday debates open thread – Mental health, manifesto, green laws

This is what’s happening in Liverpool today and how to follow it. It should have been published a while ago but got lost in the technology.

Today’s timetable

 F1 Formal opening of the Federal Conference byLord Mayor Cllr Erica Kemp CBE 

Report: Federal Conference Committee

F3 Report: Federal Policy Committee

Policy motion: Mental Health 48 Speech: Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP 50

Policy motion: Stronger Economy, Fairer Society, Opportunity for Everyone 50

Speech: Jo Swinson MP

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A snapshot of the mental health debate

Mental health is important to Liberal Democrats because it’s instinctive to us to want to break down barriers that hold people back from living the best lives they possibly can. When we see people’s lives blighted, limited and restricted because they can’t access help and support for mental ill health it makes us furious and determined to right it.

This is something that has always driven Nick Clegg. His first major speech as leader was on the subject of mental health and the party has set in train a series of reforms which has made mental health care more accessible and given patients more right. In time, we will no longer have the scandal of someone with a broken leg being treated immediately while a self-harming teenager gets sent home and put on a waiting list which might lead to a year’s wait before even seeing a psychiatrist, let alone receiving any targeted help to alleviate their symptoms.

The party debated a wide ranging motion on mental health this morning. Here are some of the highlights:

Anyone who has supported a teenager through mental ill health would have found Alex White’s speech incredibly moving. She was frank about her own issues, about the waits she’s experienced for treatment. She explained what was wrong with the current system and how we need to fix it:

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#ldconf gets under way: Rally live blog

Rally entertainment Spring Conference Liverpool March 2015 Photo by Liberal Democrats
I’m sitting in the auditorium between Paul Walter who is taking photos which by the magic of technology will illustrate this post later, and Deborah from Derbyshire, who’s at her first Conference. She’s been saying what a wonderful atmosphere it is here. In front of us Nick Clegg, Jo Swinson and Paddy Ashdown are watching the singers who are entertaining us with bright and uplifting songs. It’s a little bit of West End musical magic to make us smile.

We’ve already had a video where some of the fantastic Team 2015 volunteers who staff the LDHQ phone banks tell us about themselves. Including some guy called Nick who said he was the Deputy something or other.

Mustang Sal

And now we have Sal Brinton making her first platform speech in her new role. She enters the hall on her wheelchair to the strains of Ride, Sally, Ride. She managed to get from Mustang Sally to Ian Fleming to modern politics in her opening paragraph.

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Liberal Democrat Spring Conference agenda published

The Agenda has been published for the final conference before the General Election. Besides the main debate on the election manifesto, there are policy debates planned on

  • Mental Health
  • Five Green Laws
  • A better deal for Britain’s workforce
  • Freedom of expression in Europe and Beyond
  • Education Funding

and speeches from Danny Alexander, Jo Swinson, Vince Cable and Norman Lamb.

Nick Clegg as usual is doing a Q&A session with members as well as delivering the closing speech.

For more details including the fringe programme, training and ministerial Q&As see the agenda and directory here.


Mental health – an issue whose time came at Glasgow

Nick clegg and norman lamb at scottish action mental health photo by dave radcliffe from the liberal democrats flickr streamBased on my circumambulation of the Glasgow conference corridors, there were three highlights concerning mental health:

1. Oxford West and Abingdon conference representative, Matthew Sumption made his maiden speech in the pre-manifesto debate. He’s currently taking time out from university study. But, my goodness me, what a brave young man he is. He basically stood up and said that he is undergoing treatment for mental illness.

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Nick Clegg’s speech: 5 initial thoughts from me – and reaction from members and pundits

Nick Clegg has just delivered his seventh conference speech – you can read it here. Five quick thoughts from me:

1. It’s rare to remember party leaders’ speeches. However, I’ve a feeling this one will be remembered. Not necessarily stylistically — its rhetoric or his delivery — but for a government policy announcement: the emphasis on mental health-care which Nick made a centre-piece and which he has said will be on the front page of the party’s manifesto. Yes, there were plenty of positioning soundbites. But, more importantly, this announcement demonstrated, better than any finely crafted words, the point …

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BBC: “Nick Clegg not executed on stage until 1320″

That was the rather startling tweet from BBC South-East reporter Louise Stewart:

But it turned out to be a typo rather than a stay of execution:

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Nick Clegg on the “great liberal cause” to boost mental health care: “I want this smack bang on the front page of our next manifesto”

Nick clegg rally glasgow 2014Nick Clegg will announce a new Coalition Government policy in his leader’s speech to the Glasgow conference today – putting mental health provision on a par with physical health by announcing waiting time targets for people with mental health problems in England for the first time.

He’s expected to say later that “Mental health conditions are one of the last remaining taboos in our society, and yet they will affect one in four people” and to make three commitments:

  • “if you are waiting for talking therapies to help
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    Wednesday debates open thread: Nick Clegg’s speech

    Traditionally not many people turn up first thing on the last day – most are sleeping off Glee Club – but it would be a shame to miss the second emergency motion. After that the day builds up to the Leader’s speech,  with, unusually, no break for lunch and no lunchtime fringes. (I wonder how many of us will be finding ways of wasting our time in Glasgow because we had assumed it wouldn’t be over until 3.30pm at the earliest?)

    So for the last time this year, do add your comments about any debates and speeches in the auditorium.

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    Tuesday extras open thread: Ending in Glee

    This is almost your last chance to fit in some fringe experiences this year – there are no lunchtime fringes tomorrow, and only six early ones.

    Tuesday begins with Britain’s global economic recovery and ends with Glee Club – make what you will of that. In between you can update yourself on such diverse topics as residential care, criminal justice, rail, disability employment, welfare, immigration, tourism, food security, tax avoidance, garden cities and devo-max for Manchester.

    Tell us how your day is panning out.

    How to find out what is happening

    You can view or download the directory, which lists all the fringe …

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    Tuesday debates open thread: The big one – our pre-manifesto

    The main event of the day is the pre-Manifesto debate which will take up most of the morning, giving way only for football.

    The first emergency motion will take place this afternoon. Delegates have been voting on which two motions to take.  In between there is a chance to hear Norman Lamb, Edward Davey and Tim Farron, and to discuss our aging society.

    So what ‘s does the agenda look like?

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    Monday extras open thread: Breakfast, lunch and party

    Today is the day to do breakfast. Let us know if it was worth getting up early to attend one of the many breakfast fringe meetings.

    There is much going on throughout the rest of the day – have you noticed that fringe meetings have crept into the business day now?  Whether you want to hear about good parking management, drink driving, end-of-life priorities, aviation, experiments on animals, mental health, farming, trams, police constables or internships, you may want to end the evening celebrating the UK music industry at a party with Danny Alexander.

    Here’s a photo of Stephen Tall not paying attention …

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    Monday debates open thread: Flooding and equal marriage (unconnected, of course)

    There is a definite theme to this morning’s agenda – climate change, flooding and housing – while the afternoon highlights core Lib Dem values with a presentation on equal marriage followed by a debate on equalities. In between we hear from some of the heavyweights in the party (in the non-literal sense) and we throw questions at Nick Clegg.

    Please adds your comments on anything that is happening today in the main hall.

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    Disco as you’ve never seen it before….

    Disco 2014Last night, saw the Liberal Democrat Disco, organised at conference by Cambridge local party to raise funds for its general election campaign.

    It was a great night with a packed hall featuring the “Battle of the LibDem deejays”.

    Alistair Carmichael was cheered the loudest, thus winning the accolade of “deejay of the night”. His set included Lulu’s “Shout” and Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5″. He finished on a serious note, explaining that we had passed over midnight into the Sabbath. Coming from the islands of Scotland (where they are very serious about these things), Alistair felt there should be one song of religious observance. He therefore played “YMCA”.

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    Sunday extras open thread: From Christian humanism to live jazz

    Thanks to everyone who joined us for the LDV Awards evening yesterday. So what will be the fun events today?

    There is a very full programme on the fringe today – from promoting healthy lifestyles to the Gibraltar reception, from cycling to the future of the BBC, with several sessions on various environmental issues. The RSPCA is offering beer and curry, and there will be live jazz at the Azerbaijan reception.

    Do let us all know about any events you went to, or any worth dropping in for.

    How to find out what is happening

    You can view or download the directory, which …

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    Opinion: Lib Dems must commit to end the housing crisis within a generation

    Matilda HouseThis Monday in Glasgow, Lib Dem conference will debate motion F21 “Building the Affordable Homes We Need”. The Liberal Democrats have a fantastic opportunity to tackle the greatest social challenge of my generation, the housing crisis.

    The economic and social cost of this crisis is huge. England needs around 245,000 new homes a year just to meet demand. Yet we are building half the homes we need. The latest figures show that the average income needed to buy a home is £36,500, higher than the incomes of more than half of the households in the country.

    Add to that the largest baby boom since the 1960s, between 2001 and 2012, and we can see that this is a crisis that threatens to engulf the hopes and dreams of a generation, many of whom will never be able to afford a home they can truly call their own. But, for me, this crisis has always been about more than numbers.

    photo by: celesteh
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    Nick Clegg’s conference rally speech: “We may be the underdogs but we have the values, beliefs and resilience to win”

    “This is the fight of our lives” – that was the message from Nick Clegg at last night’s conference rally. You can watch it here:

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    Sunday debates open thread: From first aid to child abuse via crime and public services

    Thanks to everyone who contributed to yesterday’s open thread. Please add your reports, comments and recommendations on today’s business in the main hall below, sticking to things that are happening today.

    This will be the first full day of action in the splendid auditorium here at the SECC. Expect a full house for the debates on Welfare Reform and Public Services. In between, why not check out today’s Extras thread (fringes and everything else) which we will be posting at 10.30am?

    So what is happening today at Conference?

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    All in a day’s Lib Dem conference: hustings, fringes, OMOV and sex work

    It’s felt like a slow start to conference – I’m habituated to the Friday night rally and meaty policy debates starting at bleary o’clock on Saturday morning. But with the rally moved to Saturday night, conference itself wasn’t opened until this afternoon.

    20141004_100527_resizedHowever, that meant there was time this morning for the first official hustings of the Party Presidential contest, with Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne all present. In fact, there was possibly too much time – 90 minutes in a too-efficiently air-conditioned room at times dragged a little. No fault of the candidates themselves – they were all fluent and thoughtful – but they also all agreed on pretty much everything of substance. All pledged to be the independent voice of the membership and to speak truth unto leadership power.

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    Saturday extras open thread: Conference Rally and the LDV Awards

    We hope you’ve spotted the open thread on the action taking place in the main auditorium today. In comparison, this thread is for you to talk about fringe meetings, the exhibition and all the other things going on around the main business.

    The fringe kicks off today with a few events at lunchtime organised by CentreForum, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary and Liberal Left. But the main events follow the Conference Rally which starts at 6.30pm in the main auditorium. After that you have a fairly limited choice of fringe meetings, probably because people tend to spend the early part of …

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    Saturday debates open thread: Welcome to Glasgow

    Whether you are physically in Glasgow or are following what is happening from home, this is your place to talk about the public face of the Conference – in other words, all the debates and speeches that are going on in the main auditorium.  Please use the comments below to add your reports on policy and constitutional debates or to draw readers’ attention to ones in the pipeline.

    We will be running a similar thread each day, so please confine your comments today to what is actually happening today. Tomorrow’s instalment will appear at 8.30am tomorrow morning.

    We will also be running a thread each day on fringes, so use that one for anything going on outside the main show.

    So what is happening today at Conference?

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    Lib Dem Voice at Conference: our events and what else we’re up to…

    As well as covering the Lib Dem conference, we’re hosting a handful of events in Glasgow. We hope readers who are there will want to come along and enjoy the following…

    LibDemVoice Awards 2014

    Saturday 4th October, from 10pm (Crowne Plaza, Castle 3)
    The nominations are in – check out the array of awards on offer here – voting will be decided by party members through our pre-conference survey. Put on your glad rags and enjoy the relaxed rivalry of our annual awards.

    “Who Wants to be Party President?”

    Sunday 5th October, 1-2pm (Crowne Plaza, Castle 2)
    Your chance to hear from and quiz the candidates in the contest to succeed Tim Farron as Party President. Chaired by former Party President Baroness Diana Maddock, all four candidates – Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne – will be there to make their pitch for your vote and to field your questions.

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