I am writing this from the position of having – after two false starts – finally been ‘processed’
or ‘accredited’ by the police in order to exercise my right as a member of this proud and democratic party. This has come after delay, rejection of my form, and increasingly agitated discussion with various people wasting vast amounts of time. Suffice to say that in my 11 years on Conference Committee, I would never have accepted the imposition of such a system. I am possibly luckier, too, than some Conference-goers in knowing how Conference is organised, and who has the ultimate responsibility when things go wrong.
The possibility of general bureaucratic bungling comes from the fact that so many people still have not been ‘processed’. Regardless of assurances that nobody has (yet) been excluded, many people have had objections to their application, most seemingly trivial; and hundreds of people still do not know if they can attend. Some of those will not have booked travel or accommodation, and face paying over the odds due to others’ incompetence.
But it appears that something more sinister is afoot, with more than one member being contacted this weekend by the police with demands for details of their passports in order to attend Conference. Let’s be clear, there is NO reason whatsoever that they need this information, nor that a member of a political party should be required to provide it or face being barred from participating in the sovereign decision-making body of that party not by Conference Committee, but by unaccountable bureaucrats acting for the police.
GMP (and Conference Committee) evidently need reminding that the May 2010 General Election result killed off compulsory ID cards and the database state – or did it?
It now appears, sinisterly, that people who happen not to have a passport produced in the post-Blair era of security paranoia and the database state are having their accreditation made more difficult and responses are being delayed. It is unclear whether Conference Committee was ever told about this.
I’ve always enjoyed a good working relationship with my local police. As a local councillor I held regular meetings with the neighbourhood team. I served on the Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership. I’m still a member of my local NAG. Evidently the common-sense, consensus policing of Reading is non-existent in Greater Manchester, where interference in the internal processes of a political party appears to be considered fair game.
It should be the job of the Conference Committee ‘appeal process’ that people well-known to the
Party, such as Liberal Youth executive members, who are having their accreditation blocked should
be supported. The Conference Committee Chair (and whoever else is involved) should point out
that these people are not coming intent on causing any disorder greater than, perhaps, the moving
of a procedural motion. They should also not leave Party staff – who didn’t take these decisions –
exposed at what is already a frantic time of year in the Conference Office.
A number of LGBT members, specifically transgender members, are being discriminated against. I am told that the process discriminates against trans members such that they cannot register under
the police system and are being offered a separate process. That is appalling. I have asked for the assessment of the equality impact of the process to be published. I am not alone in doing so.
Equally appalling is the fact that the vast majority of members have been forced to lie to the police in order to get accredited. Principally this is because the ‘date of joining’ information requested is not held anywhere. In my case it’s a year out.
Meanwhile, on a planet many light years from freedom, a very, very small number (indeed) of people calling themselves Liberal Democrats take the ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ view of the likes of John Reid. The company they keep speaks volumes.
To prevent this ever happening again, Conference Committee should be empowered to work with our ministers in Government to prevent further police interference in the legitimate business of a
legitimate political party.
I have tabled an amendment to the Accreditation motion (F9) which gives a much clearer instruction
to Federal Conference Committee as far as the intrusion and bungling of the accreditation system is concerned: never again.
Finally, I would like to hear from Lib Dem members who are still facing being barred from Conference, or who have simply heard nothing; I will give them help and advice, and make representations on their behalf so they can do what they should in any case be entitled to do. Contact me at gareth [at] garethepps.org.uk