WATCH: The moment Tim Farron was pwned at Conference

Tim Farron made a barnstormer of a speech in the migration debate at Conference last week, and was largely credited with fending off the threat of a Reference Back.

However, the Chair of Lib Dem Immigrants, Lisa Maria Bornemann, pointed out a flaw in his argument, to the great amusement of everyone in the hall except Vince. Watch our Leader’s face. And contrast with Tim’s realisation that he had been well and truly pwned. I was sitting right behind him and just after this he turned to me, still laughing, and said something along the lines of “Well, that’s me done.”

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Why bi-visibility day is important

Today is Bisexual Visibility Day. Even now, bisexuals come in for a fair bit of prejudice even from other parts of the LGBT community. LGBT+ Lib Dems have put out a statement to mark the day:

Today we are marking the twentieth annual Bi Visibility day, which aims to raise the profile and visibility of bisexual people within our society – a society which so often overlooks them. Whilst great progress has been made in advancing rights and acceptance for gay and lesbian people (although of course, there is more to be done), bisexual people often suffer from assumptions based on the gender of their current (or last) partner and the prejudices of their peers. Media portrayals can trivialise their experiences, treat them as curiosities, or suggest that their sexual appetites are greedy and promiscuous. In such a climate, young bisexuals can feel pressured to “pick a side” and this is part of the reason why bi people suffer from far worse rates of mental illness than either gay or straight people. On top of this, the needs of bisexuals are often overlooked in the provision of health and social services.

Their chair Jennie Rigg added:

As Liberals, we stand against conformity and judging people based on their gender or the gender of their sexual or romantic partners. As a bisexual woman, I refuse to be put into a box by others because of the gender of the person, or people, I form relationships with. Today I celebrate Bi Visibility day by being even more visible than I normally am, and stand up for my bi siblings who do not yet feel able to be as visible as I am. My fellow bis are valuable and valid whether they are out or closeted, and I will continue to fight for their rights.

Follow the LGBT+ Lib Dems Twitter account for useful resources throughout the day. Here are some other Lib Dems marking the occasion on Twitter:

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LibLink: Tom Brake: Parliament must be recalled to introduce People’s Vote legislation

Tom Brake has called for Parliament to be recalled in the wake of Theresa May’s statement yesterday.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, published on Politics Home, he argued that a People’s Vote was the only safe exit to the chaos over Brexit.

The purpose of recalling Parliament would be to enable the Liberal Democrats, other parties and Parliamentarians from across the House to work with you to ensure that legislation for a final say on the deal or People’s Vote is drawn up immediately. A People’s Vote could then be held before the European Elections in May.

With the EU and your own MPs lined up against Chequers, Chequers has no future. No Deal, which you persist, wrongly, in claiming is the only alternative that could be offered to Parliament will not command a majority in the Commons.  In these circumstances, a final say on the deal, so that people can choose between any deal the Government do eventually secure or staying in the EU is the only safe exit from the chaos the Conservative and other Brexit supporters have inflicted on the UK. Such a final say on the deal will of course require an extension to Article 50 so the legislation can be drafted, the question considered and the election conducted, but our EU partners have indicated an extension would be granted for this purpose.

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Checking my underwear

Dateline: Brighton, September 2018

Wandering into Conference a leaflet is thrust into my hands. It touches on current Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.

One paragraph of the leaflet sets the tone “sex self-ID that would allow any man to get his birth certificate reissues in the opposite sex. Just like that. On demand. With no change to his body and no medical supervision.”

The rest of the leaflet is a list of scenarios each more prurient than the last. None of these scenarios are evidenced as ever having happened, no evidence that a trans woman has ever abused the trust of other women in these sensationalist and inflammatory ways. Just a list of “what if”.

Leaving aside the paucity of the author’s hypothesis there is another consideration, if not sex self-ID then what?

The author suggests “changes to his body” and “medical supervision”.

While this article is not a treatise on the NHS most people recognise that for anything beyond measles that means triage, waiting times, a postcode lottery, financial limits and gatekeepers.

In the context of the current gender recognition process (leading to a Gender Recognition Certificate and a new Birth Certificate) that means two medical practitioners from suitable disciplines with experience in treating gender dysphoria.

Let me tell you about my gatekeepers.

My third psychiatrist was a sincere doctor from Iran. They cared about their patients, understood the genuine and immediate health care implications of gender dysphoria – depression, stress, frustration, anger, self-harm, self-loathing and suicide. They wanted to help not just by treating the symptoms, but the root cause as well. Everything a good doctor should be.

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Why a “Movement for Moderates” needs radical Lib Dems at its heart

Moderation is in crisis in Britain. Extremists have taken over our politics, while those who aim to speak up for the moderate majority find themselves with little influence over the levers of power. 

The problem for moderates today is that there can be no return to the old post-war consensus, built on the notion that ever-increasing prosperity would gradually trickle down to everyone. That theory died in the financial crisis 10 years ago. No one today can drum up any enthusiasm for ‘third way’ centrism, even when tempered with a solemn promise that it’ll be kinder and more sensible than the alternatives. 

Today, Britain can only be healed by a new social contract, one that leaves no one behind and gives hope to every individual and community. This requires a huge shake-up in how we organise the affairs of our country, but the only plans on offer so far are founded on extremist dogma. Those of us who want moderation to thrive again must put forward our own compelling vision for change. That’s what Lib Dems can offer — a radical, progressive plan to reshape Britain. 

So don’t be misled about the nature of this Movement for Moderates. Lib Dems propose real change, inspired by our almost maniacal devotion to the dispersal of power and privilege, in both the private and public sectors. Our programme sets out to disempower the autocrats and extremists — and to unleash the forces of moderation — by giving communities and citizens the means to control their own destiny. 

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Could we be facing a November General Election?

The Sunday Times today has a report that Tory strategists are starting to think about a General Election in November. I would be very surprised if they were only just starting to think about it now.

The chances were always that there would have to be some recourse to the country if Theresa May couldn’t get whatever deal she managed to get through Parliament.

How on earth, though, could Anna Soubry and Jacob Rees-Mogg fight an election on the same manifesto? If, as is being suggested, the Tory manifesto goes for a hard Brexit basic Canada style trade deal, how could the likes of Sarah Wollaston, Nicky Morgan and Justine Greening back that? I mean the Chequers (Dis)agreement sells our predominantly service based economy down the river and the Canada deal is worse than that. We also have to remember that Canada is already part of a major free trade alliance in America. The EU deal provides them with new opportunities but they don’t need it to survive. In contrast, we would be isolated, forced to accept terms that would be injurious to us from the likes of Donald Trump and trading on a much worse basis with our closest neighbours than we are at the moment. There is no upside to this at all.

How on earth could David Lammy, Stella Creasy, Hilary Benn and the bulk of the Labour Parliamentary Party fight an election on a manifesto written by Corbyn’s team. We know he is a Brexiteer. We know that he put absolutely no effort into the Remain campaign during the referendum. There is no way he would run on a stop Brexit platform. We need the Labour leadership to go out there and win the arguments among its voters and, just like in the referendum, they won’t. And we know that in any snap election, the Tories will, to distract from their own divisions, go after Corbyn’s character and record  in a way they didn’t manage in 2017.

So we could be the only party across the UK going into this with a clear and coherent policy – Stop Brexit Chaos with the Lib Dems. And we would really have to articulate that message with clarity and purpose.

In Scotland, we would be the only party going into this with the eminently consistent position of supporting remaining in both the EU and the UK. That puts us on the side of most people in the country.

We have to recognise, though, that we would be fighting in a First Past the Post system. Conversations would, I think, have to be had with people of a similar mindset to us. There is no point in splitting the vote. We have to stand pretty much everywhere because that is critical for Short funding, but all of us of who want to stop Brexit across all parties would have to make some pragmatic decisions on an informal basis about how we campaign in individual seats.

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Lib Dems call for recall of Parliament, Jane Dodds calls for PM to go and Rennie challenges Scottish Tories on People’s Vote

Here’s a quick summary of the Lib Dems’ reaction to Theresa May’s statement on the Brexit negotiations yesterday:

Tom Brake called for Parliament to be recalled:

The Prime Minister has had the most humiliating European summit in recent memory and returned with a tattered Chequers deal, making a no deal Brexit more likely than ever.

Two years down the line and the only consensus the PM has made across Parliament and the EU is that Chequers is unworkable.

Instead of pontificating to television cameras, May must now recall Parliament to explain how she got the country into this terrible mess, what her plan is to get us out of it, and when we can have a people’s vote and an exit from Brexit.

Welsh Leader Jane Dodds reckons we need a change of PM:

Theresa May pledged to the country to get the best deal possible but her unwillingness to compromise has left her isolated and now she’s doubling down on her fantasy Chequers deal. You cannot simply keep trying negotiate a deal which has already been ruled out by almost everyone involved and expect an eventual success, politics does not give marks for effort.

Brexit did not, and should not, mean whatever the PM decides it means. It took us 18 months to get the Chequers paper and her religious support of it shows the PM has no realistic plan for Brexit, that’s why she must resign. She has failed to listen to the people, failed to listen to the EU and never quite accepted she lost the General Election. I fully understand the difficulties she faces within her own party, but the buck must stop with her as PM and party leader.

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Winning in London in 2020

It’s little over 18 months before the Greater London Authority and London mayoral elections. Doesn’t time fly? This time they are more important than ever. Not only are these critical elections for London, they also garner national media attention, so a good showing will help deliver a stronger national performance for the Liberal Democrats at the next general election.

That means now is the time to do some serious research so we can devise our strategy on how we can win in London in 2020.

This is why I have helped commission and fund a full professional, programme of polling. I brought in Populus to undertake both qualitative and quantitative research in London to identify potential switchers, who they are, where they are coming from, where they live, and what issues are important to them.

Without giving away too many secrets the research confirms the recent surge in Liberal Democrat support, and demonstrates that pushing the Tories into third place in the capital is an achievable if challenging goal.

The Tories in London will undoubtedly have a pro-Brexit candidate. As they retreat having a relevant offer for the majority of the cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and tolerant voters of London – who voted heavily to Remain – it seems likely that the Conservative candidate’s votes will be restricted to the party’s core of right-wing supporters.

In line with other recent research the polling also revealed a large group of unaligned voters, with high intention to vote and open to considering the Liberal Democrats.

All of this indicates that a strong strategy focussed on the switchers, their concerns and priorities will gain a strong positive response. The challenge as always will be to demonstrate our values through relevant and distinctive policies (not the other way around) on crime, housing and the environment.

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How Israel frustrates Palestine’s education

In the current issue of Times Higher Education (13 September), you’ll find a piece by Palestine’s Raja Shehadeh, about the way Israel discourages foreign faculty from teaching in Palestine.  Precisely half of the 64 foreign academics working in Palestine, have been adversely affected by denial or restriction in their permission to work, over the past two academic years. 

Once a university has invited a foreign academic to join its faculty, Israel uses an opaque two-tier system of control, through the Civil Administration in the occupied territory and, if an application clears that hurdle, the power of veto by Israel’s Interior Ministry.  The process is uncertain, Kafkaesque and has every appearance of being discriminatory, to impair the fundamental purpose of education, the dissemination of knowledge and the deepening of understanding. Unable to plan their future, such applicants give up, seeking employment elsewhere. Some Palestinian-born faculty educated in the US or Europe have also been denied residency. 

Israel’s handling of these applications seems tainted with illegality. In his ground-breaking book, Occupier’s Law, published in 1985, Shehadeh showed how the Civil Administration in the West Bank, which issues (or withholds) work permits, was created as part and parcel of ‘solutions for the legal problems encountered in achieving the goal of annexing the West Bank without its inhabitants,’ itself a profoundly illegal process. 

The second tier of Israeli control, however, lies within Israel’s Ministry of the Interior, which issues (or withholds) entry visas for residence in the Occupied Territory. Even where visas are issued, visa extensions may be denied on the grounds that foreigners may not reside in Israel for more than five years. But they are, of course, residing in the Palestinian territory, not in Israel. Under the Laws of Occupation, it may be debatable whether this illegally transfers powers that should remain within occupied territory. Yet it clearly transgresses operative clause 5 of the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (December 2016), which requires all Member States, and that of course includes Israel itself, ‘to distinguish in all their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.’  

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Lib Dem fury at Windrush betrayal

So, under cover of an incendiary and irresponsible statement by the Prime Minister on Brexit, the Home Office slips out a statement announcing that it is betraying the Windrush Generation by denying some of them the citizenship that it rightfully theirs.

From the Independent:

In a statement issued late on Friday afternoon, the Home Secretary said a number of Caribbean nationals who came to Britain between 1948 and 1971 would not qualify for citizenship because they failed to meet the “necessary good character requirement” due to committing criminal offences.

Windrush citizens are supposed to be afforded the same rights as British citizens, so the announcement is likely to prompt renewed accusations that they are effectively awarded second-class status.

You have to bear in mind that the criminal justice system has at times been institutionally racist and a black person going through it would have got a much rougher deal than a white person.

And the “good character requirement” has come under fire this week as, separately, it was revealed that children as young as 10 had been failed on character grounds.

Liberal Democrats have reacted with anger to this news:

The Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality said:

Ed Davey said:

The Windrush scandal was caused by Home Office hostility and inflexibility.

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Tim Farron writes: Corbyn is handing the incompetent Tories the next election

The guilty pleasure of my political life is the years I spent involved in student politics. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I attended no fewer than 10 conferences of the National Union of Students – as a result I accidentally became a connoisseur of the various factions of theLabour party. Even as a Liberal, if one spends much time in student politics you are bound to make friends with folks in Labour. To me, Labour is like a fascinating enemy country. We are at conflict with them, but I am somehow fond of their natives and traditions.

Those who today are running Her Majesty’s Opposition, were – back then- selling newspapers outside the Student Union building. Who’d have thought it?

I don’t know Jeremy Corbyn very well but quite like him on a personal level having had the occasional chat over the years. WhenLabour were in power, he was always in the Lib Dem lobby…

Jeremy and his former newspaper selling mates have a problem. They don’t know how to talk to people who aren’t already converted. Jeremy Corbyn has a 40 year history of talking only to friendly audiences on left-leaning causes. He speaks in favour of Palestine to pro-Palestine meetings, speaking up for Irish Republicanism to pro-Republican audiences, promotes unilateral nuclear disarmament to crowds who already agree with him.

The Labour leader is a master of preaching to the converted. I’m not sure how principled this is, but it is neither brave nor wise. If all you do is to go with the grain of the earnest and like-minded people around you, you will ruffle no feathers, win no converts and never get to test the effectiveness of your arguments.

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Reflections on Brighton

After a short period at the Lib Dem conference I am still in Brighton for a couple of days. Brighton is quite a good place to reflect on the state of the UK.

Thinking back, Brighton used to be in much better nick than it is now. Many pavements are cracked and broken, many of the houses and hotels look run down and in need of repair and renovation. The seafront is not particularly special and the West Pier is still a burned out shell. Here, in one of the UKs premier resorts, there are many homeless people on the streets and many beggars as well. Hardly the sort of Britain that we Liberal Democrats want to see!

Recycing largely takes place by means of unsightly bins strewn around the streets and the former green-run council’s recycling policies made a mockery of recycling anyway.

I suspect that much of this is the result of austerity, especially the massive cuts to the finances of the local council that no longer enable it to respond to the needs of the Brighton and Hove Community.

Brexit will hardly improve matters, because hotels and restaurants here rely heavily on European workers and they may not be available after March 2019.

Although I have no direct information, I suspect that housing is expensive and that many people, especially the young, have no hope of getting on the housing ladder and live in the private rented sector with its high prices and insecurity of tenure.

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Conference Success for Radical Association

Members of the Radical Association Executive have had a significant impact at this year’s Autumn Conference. I’m extremely pleased with the work that the Executive and our supporters have put into this Conference and thankful for all the time that you have given. Thanks to those efforts we managed to pass a significant policy amendment on each day of the Conference.

Our Director, April Preston, managed to significantly strengthen the party’s new disciplinary processes, with the addition of a proposed AIR (Anonymised Incident Reporting) system. This will allow encrypted initial reports to be made in which both the complainant and accused would be anonymous. The party can then inform the anonymous complainant what actions would be needed and who would need to be de-anonymised in order to turn the report into a formal complaint, and what support might be available to the complainant.

Similar systems in the US have greatly increased reporting rates and we’re proud to say that this will make the Liberal Democrats a forward-looking beacon of best practice when it comes to building a welcoming movement that can take effective action against those who drag our movement down. We are extremely grateful to Becca Plenderleith, Chair of Scottish Young Liberals, for bravely sharing her own experience of being let down by the current system and making a strong case for AIR.

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Some Brexiteers do not play the democratic game

Democracy, in a civilised society, has its rules. One of them is, if not the respect, at least the polite tolerance of others. Humility and caution are two additional requisites, I would suggest, for whoever wishes to express political opinions.

A number of Brexiters, learning of a growing desire among many to see another people’s vote take place are, like bad sports players, now sliding into disrespectful and even injurious behaviours. The Spectator for example, published a few days ago an article entitled ‘The People vs Brexit‘. Its author, Mr Rod Liddle, writing:

The People’s Vote monkeys now buttress their demands for

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Observations of an ex pat: development bonds

Every now and then you have to blow your own horn. This is one of those occasions when I am going to do just that.

Last week I won a commendation from the award committee of Britain’s Ashdown Prize for Radical Thought. It would have been nice to win first prize and the cash that went with it, but the commendation provides me with a modicum of credibility and the hook to promote it.

The commendation was for my proposal for “Development Bonds.”  What, you may ask are Development Bonds? Well, I think they are a multi-level win/win solution for a transfer of capital from the developed to the developing world.

It works like this: Developing World governments  propose projects for consideration. Developed World governments approve or disapprove the projects using an agreed criteria. Financial institutions raise the capital through bond issues. Developed countries encourage investment in the bonds  by offering taxpayers relief on the repayments.

The template for the development bonds are America’s municipal bonds.  Contrary, to public opinion, municipal bonds did not originate in the US. They were common during the Renaissance when the Italian city states regularly used them to raise money for public building projects. But they came of age in the US in 1812 with a New York City bond issue to build the 327-mile Erie Canal which linked the nascent potential of the American West to the port of New York and through it the markets of the world.

Thousands of cities and local authorities around the globe raise money through bond issues. But America’s municipal bonds stand out by offering income tax relief on the repayments. This means that they attract not only institutional investors but also high-wealth private individuals. American municipal bonds are one of the chief financial instruments that have transformed the United States from a resource-rich, backward, often corrupt, virgin territory—not unlike Sub-Saharan Africa today—into the world’s only super power.

Development Bonds would achieve the following:

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Some thoughts on Vince’s party reforms

I have kept reasonably quiet about Vince’s reforms since his announcement on 7th September because I wanted to let others have their say.

My sense at Conference is that people were interested in what he had to say. Everyone had things they liked and things they didn’t. They were all going to respond to the consultation with varying degrees of pleasure and pain. This is how it is supposed to be.

I do want to slightly disagree with my fellow Federal Board members who have been talking to Politics Home about the process, though. They complained about being “bounced.”

Now, I don’t think that’s fair. Certainly, back in June, there was an attempt to slip in something about a Supporters’ Scheme into the motion of the Federal Levy and Subscriptions to be discussed at Conference. The Federal Board then said “Hang on a wee minute, here.” The Federal People Development Committee was given the job of looking at this in more detail. The Committee’s amazing chair, Miranda Roberts, one of the most competent and patient people I know, has written about that process here and here. The process of holding the leadership back had thus worked.

In between times, after articles had started to appear in the press over the Summer, Vince spoke to a special meeting of the Federal Board in July about what he was thinking about. At the end of August, Federal Board members were asked to contribute their views about his ideas. He hadn’t told us fully what they were, but given that his 7th September speech reflected most of the press coverage, well, you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist.

So, on the last day of my holiday, I had to drag myself out of bed at the crack of bloody dawn to write down my views for Vince. I actually forgive him, because I was able to take this amazingly atmospheric photo of the bay outside the holiday cottage as the sun rose.

By this point the only bit he hadn’t told us was what he was going to say about the future of his leadership. But then that didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out either.

I wrote him an essay of epic proportions which I might actually post on here one day.

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Extremist moderates, now is the time for us to lead!

This was a title that just grew at the Brighton Conference. Paddy Ashdown started it by remarking at one of the huge Consultation sessions on Vince’s new ideas,“You’re all extremists! Or you wouldn’t be here!” By the end of Conference, extremism had attached itself to the formerly scorned idea that we activists are moderates, adherents of the Centre ground where the majority of the British public live. So, we are happy to admit a connection to the moderate majority, so long as it is known that we are extremists too!

Of course, we are not THAT sort of extremist – a rabid Brexiteer of the Right, or fanatical Corbynite of the Left. But we are pretty extreme in our demands from the leadership, not least to be consulted before ideas leak out to the voters we want to attract. Vince admitted in the Saturday Consultative session to being himself “a bit of a Stalinist”, but added wryly that this party would quickly have seen off Stalin.

There will surely always be a conflict between an open-minded, Liberal and democratic party and its leader, when the leader chooses to put forward radical new ideas in ways that attract the media’s attention but annoy the party faithful. For Vince to start talking about stepping down seemed a crazy distraction at first, given his security compared with that of either May or Corbyn, but it got some publicity, especially as the date remained vague. Then his proposing the extraordinary idea that his successor might not be a Lib Dem MP, or even possibly an MP at all, naturally aroused the media while infuriating the non-consulted party. That Gina Miller had been booked to address the Conference also titillated the media to speculate on a possible connection.

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A view from conference: the Party disciplinary processes debate

Around April 2015, I was seriously considering not voting for the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming general election. It wasn’t the mistakes of the coalition that worried me, it was something about the values of the party around that time that gave me pause to wonder if it was the right thing to do. I read about the scandals about complaints in the party, and it seemed that attitudes were not as progressive or inclusive as I expected. Complaints against members appeared to be inadequate and chaotic, leaving victims (especially women), feeling unsafe in the party. I wondered if I …

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Let’s scrap external exams

When it comes to education policy, we need blue sky thinking. And I think that scrapping external exams would be a fantastic example of this.

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the negative consequences of our exam system:

  1. Stress – Student wellbeing is considered collateral damage. Having yearly exams which have such a huge impact on your life is incredibly stressful, and I doubt that adults would cope any better than teenagers do. We are sacrificing our young people to a system which we know is harming their mental health, but which we

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Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting: Trans rights are human rights

The panel at our fringe: from left to right: Back row: Caron Lindsay, Liberal Democrat Voice editor (Chair), Sarah Brown, LGBT+ Lib Dems, James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance, Emma Ritch, Engender and, front row, Sal Brinton, Liberal Democrat President.

Most of you may notice the odd advert on Liberal Democrat Voice. These help LDV to contribute to the Conference Access Fund, making it easier for those of modest means to attend Lib Dem conferences. With the advert funds, we also sponsor or host fringe meetings at conference.

At Brighton on Saturday, we hosted a fringe meeting in the Hilton hotel entitled: “Transgender and intersex rights – spotlight on the media”. This fringe meeting reflected something we feel very strongly about at LDV Towers: that when people come to our fringe meetings they should be well fed and have good drinks! There were some very good nibbles and drinks at the back of the room.

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Conference motion: Reforming our party’s disciplinary processes

Embed from Getty Images

There is now a superb summary of all the conference motions on the Liberal Democrat website. This allows you to see, at a glance, the final passed motions, incorporating any passed amendments.

One really important motion was that on the party disciplinary process.

This process was initiated by a motion at 2016 conference to review the party’s disciplinary processes. There have been reviews conducted by Helena Morrissey, Ken MacDonald and Isabelle Parasram. The review was delayed by the 2017 general election. The process was debated at the 2018 Spring Conference, where it was referred back for further work.

The Federal Board has appointed a steering group on Sexual Impropriety Complaints, as recommended by Isabelle Parasram.

The motion at the Brighton conference seeks to set up an independent disciplinary mechanism with trained adjudicators and investigators. There will be a strict logging process for complaints, with time limits for resolution.

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Watch: Ian Kearns tell Conference why he joined the Lib Dems from Labour




On Saturday, Ian Kearns electrified the Conference rally with a brilliant speech explaining why, in June, he left the Labour Party and joined the Liberal Democrats.

You can watch his speech above and the text is below.

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Why I tried to amend devolution policy -and how I was misrepresented

At Autumn Conference I moved an amendment to F8 “Power to People and Communities”. Our amendment, concentrating solely on English regional devolution was opposed not by a rebuttal of its text and my speech but, sadly, by means of mischaracterisation and misrepresentation of what was written and said.

Since attending the Agenda 2020 session at Autumn Conference 2015 and then the East of England Regional Conference (which near-unanimously passed my motion “Fair Devolution for the East of England”) I have proposed additional criteria to the policy of “devolution on demand” – three little words encapsulating a seemingly straightforward and liberal approach but in fact opening a can of worms.

Quoting from my speech: “Civil Servants drawing lines on the map in dark rooms in Whitehall is a dreadful prospect. An entirely locally-led permissive solution, without additional qualification, is equally flawed because it implies self-selective, first-come-first-served devolution. Those first off the blocks will form regions within no framework and with no obligation to consider the ability of other neighboring districts to form viable regions themselves. We can have neither a top-down imposed solution nor an unmanaged, unfettered free-for-all. This is all about process, not about lines on the map. There must be a clear direction and goals: no areas disenfranchised or disadvantaged by the prior actions of others”.

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Jo Swinson’s speech to conference – in full

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2018 Brighton Conference – Reporting by Journalist

John Crace of the Guardian made a snide comment on Monday – in his piece about Gina Miller’s speech he said we took a “two-and-a-half-hour lunch break. Presumably, because there wasn’t much more business to discuss.”

I couldn’t disagree with him more – and that’s not just because I’m a member of the Federal Conference Committee. Of course, there was plenty to say on Brexit, where Tories and Labour are tearing themselves apart. However, we debated so many other important issues – how we enable people to thrive in a world of rapid technological change, how we address increasing inequality through wealth …

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Reaching out and making friends, just like Vince says

Yesterday, Vince Cable told the Liberal Democrats to reach out and appeal to the millions of voters who are alarmed at the extremes of British politics.

A wee while earlier, some Liberal Democrat members had been reaching out in a manner that can only be described as optimistic.

Not the Leader’s speech is an annual tradition that started during the coalition years. A group of the Awkward Squad would gather in a nearby hostelry, watch the speech on Twitter and work out at what point they would have walked out had they been in the hall. There is less cause …

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2018 Brighton Conference – Affordable Housing

This was my second conference as a member of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC). I had just joined FCC for the Spring conference and was really an observer. For the Autumn conference, I was involved from the start. The whole thing was well organised, and the team work well together (you have to give credit where credit is due). There were approximately 2400 members – more or less in line with previous year.

One note of sadness, I learned about, was the passing of Robert Adamson (Chair of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association).  My Condolences to the bereaved family. Rest in Peace Robert.

Other than the sad news about Robert I enjoyed the conference. I enjoyed the interaction with the members, late-night meals and the different parts of the conference I was involved in. Outside the hall, I did see a lot of homeless people which I found distressing. Listening to a journalist on the TV talking about the Lib Dems he speculated that our policies need to reflect the concerns people talk about in pubs. One of the examples he gave was affordable housing, interesting he didn’t mention Brexit. I had the opportunity to speak to Gina Miller, we discussed why she had launched her new website “end the chaos”, she said she did this after listening to thousands of people and was surprised to learn that majority of them didn’t even know what Brexit was. The website was set up to provide core facts.

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Vince Cable’s speech today to the party conference in Brighton – in full

Posted in Conference | Tagged and | 47 Comments

Journalistic consensus is that Vince said “exotic spresm” instead of “erotic spasm”

“Check against delivery” is printed at the top of every pre-released speech. Vince’s speech today was advanced emailed with the phrase “erotic spasm” included – referring to the dreams of extreme Brexiters.

Posted in Conference | Tagged | 32 Comments

“Erotic spasm” infuriates Lib Dem conference goers

So, Vince Cable is apparently going to refer to Brexiteers being willing to trash the UK economy for the “erotic spasm” of leaving the EU. Is this really the best we could do when Conference has set out what our plans are for the Brexit endgame – withdrawing Article 50 if there is no deal or an agreement to extend it. We have so far been the grown-ups in the room. We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to being a Carry On film.

Every Conference goer I have met so far – and there have been quite a few – has reacted …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 33 Comments
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