Last Saturday, Federal Conference Committee chair Andrew Wiseman invited responses in an article on Liberal Democrat Voice from members on the controversial issue of an accreditation system for Conference. Sussex Police had requested that party members would have to submit their identity details and past addresses so that they could be checked out by the Police to keep out people who might cause security issues.
Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Democrat blogosphere has been vocal in response. If there has been a post out there in favour of such a system, then I’ve not been able to find it.
At Liberal England, Jonathan Calder calls on FCC to stick to party policy, made in Birmingham last year, on this issue.
This is an odd way of doing things, particularly as it is rumoured that the exercise came as a surprise to some FCC members.
But it is even odder than that. The subject was debated and decided at the party’s last Autumn Conference.Andrew Emmerson has the text of the motion that was passed in Birmingham last year.
So my reply to this consultation is that FCC should abide by the democratic decision of the party.
Gareth Epps asks if Gateshead was the last democratic Liberal Democrat Conference:
It is my view (and I will submit it to FCC) that FCC should tell the police that the so-called “safeguards” offered are woefully inadequate and do not overcome the discrimination inherent in the process, and that their proposal is a direct attempt to meddle in our internal process and is totally unnecessary.
Richard Morris, on A View from Ham Common, suggests that FCC should have told us how they were implementing the Conference motion:
I would have thought at this time a piece describing the actions taken to follow the demands of conference, especially point 1, would have been a more appropriate step than asking for fresh feedback. It also sounds as if the FCCs ‘negotiations’ with Sussex Police involve meeting 2 policeman who told them that without accreditation another Brighton Bombing or Norwegian massacre is possible – neither of which would have been stopped by accreditation. That may be an unfair assessment of what you have done – but the article posted makes it hard to draw any other conclusion.
Andrew Brown on The Widow’s World says that the Party should not be penalised for its cheap membership rates, which allow people from all backgrounds the chance to participate:
The fact that the party has membership rates from £6 (for those on benefits, students and the under-26) is something to be proud of. This is a party which believes in providing access to all. It is not a reason to insist on draconian “security” measures.
Millennium Elephant’s Daddy Richard says the idea of accreditation defies natural justice:
If the police wish to stop you voting in a General Election, they are required to arrest you, and convict you by presenting evidence to a court. The proposals outlined by Andrew in his piece make no mention of whether the member in question will even be informed that the police have raised an objection, much less afforded the right to make a defence, which is clearly against natural justice.
We should be opposing this, not making it a part of our processes.
I argue that accreditation will not make one single person safer:
I will never forget waking up to the horrific scenes of the Grand Hotel in ruins when the Tory Party conference was bombed by the IRA in 1984. That bomb was planted weeks before the event. Are hotels in Brighton having all their guests accredited by the Police months in advance? I suspect there would be an outcry if they were.
As far as the awful events in Norway are concerned, physical security at the camp would have prevented Breivik from getting onto the island and carrying out his murderous plan.
Dave Page at Jazz Hands, Serious Business is sceptical of the FCC’s arguments that without accreditation the Conference could not be insured.
I have heard mixed opinions on this from people who work in large-scale event organisation, but it is clear that at Birmingham at least one delegate was able to attend on the party’s own insurance rather than the venue’s after his background check threw up red flags with the police. It is also clear that Nick Clegg himself attends many party conferences and events around the country with media in tow, for which accreditation is not required. It is also clear that the people who claim that insurance without accreditation would not be possible, tend to be people in favour of, or unopposed to, accreditation in any case.
Andrew Emmerson suggests that FCC are out of touch and will have to account for their actions on this issue in elections later this year.
The fact that they feel the need to bring this back up shows just how out of touch they are with popular lib dem thinking. I see one comment in agreement with within the article, the rest pour wrath and scorn upon it. If they can’t get something so simple right, then they are stale out of touch and need to be removed.
Elections will actually take place this year as luck would have it. This blogger recommends sweeping out the old and looking for candidates who will quite simply say “I’m a liberal, and I’m against this sort of thing”.
If you want to have your say, make sure you e-mail [email protected] by this coming Saturday, April 21st as the decision will be made at the FCC meeting next Monday.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings