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Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

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Ahead of next month’s Liberal Democrat Conference, the Independent has a few superlatives on the party’s biggest gathering yet:

One thousand extra pass applications are being processed for next month’s conference in Liverpool. Security controls are being tightened and hotels in the city have experienced a rush in bookings.

More than 7,000 delegates, members of the media and commercial attendees are expected to travel to the conference, compared with its usual attendance of about 6,000. The number of journalists attending is likely to leap from 1,000 last year to more than 1,500.

The number of organisations, including firms, unions and charities, taking stands in the conference exhibition hall is increasing from 67 in 2009 to 90 this year. Record numbers of fringe meetings are also being organised.

The speculation that David Cameron might address Conference seems to have gone since I blogged last week that he wouldn’t be doing so. Instead the Independent reports “alarm”, “fear” and “disquiet” that party members’ debates will “boil over” and “lay bare” dissent over coalition policies.

So, about this alarm: Party members will relish the lively debate and increased media interest as a result of the Coalition. Lib Dem conference will be the best attended of the main parties’ conferences, as a proportion of its membership. Will the feeling be markedly different from that at Special Conference back in May, where party members overwhelmingly approved the coalition agreement?

Read the full piece in the Independent, get your conference registration in here, keep an eye out for the conference agenda here and follow Lib Dem Voice throughout, both here and on Twitter.

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19 Comments

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 5th Aug '10 - 11:39am

    Shame that young Nicholas is absent from so much ot it though.

  • Andrea Gill 5th Aug '10 - 11:43am

    I am astonished to read that previously 1000 journos attended. They always make it sound like Andrew Neill just attended on his lonesome… 😉

    @Rich – wonderful idea!

  • Andrew Suffield 5th Aug '10 - 12:19pm

    I am astonished to read that previously 1000 journos attended.

    A lot of “journalists” at conferences (anywhere) are from small or student papers and getting cheap entertainment. They’re fairly invisible.

    party members’ debates will “boil over” and “lay bare” dissent over coalition policies

    I thought they were all going to be slavish obedience to the Tory masters? Or was that last week?

    It amuses me how journalists have apparently no comprehension of what happens at Lib Dem conferences.

  • Suspect that figure for journalists includes a lot who just attended for one day, editors and presenters who only come to speak at a fringe meeting, plus photographers, technicians and the like. The number actually writing up stories on the conference will have been fewer than 100 I suspect.

    I think we need to be relaxed about ‘dissent’. Even if we had a majority Lib Dem govt there would be plenty of people unhappy with various things we would be doing – especially the spending cuts. I’m not enthusiastic about them myself but they are grimly necessary.

    However I do hope that we will focus on ideas and policy development at our conferences over the next few years (being proactive rather than just reacting to proposals people don’t like). We have traditionally been ahead of the game in all sorts of areas. Now we actually have a chance to implement some of our proposals this is more important than ever. Not least because we will have to produce a manifesto in a few years time.

    I haven’t seen the agenda yet – and I realise it will have been tricky to develop much in the way of policy ideas in the short time since the election – but I hope it will allow plenty of opportunity for debate on new policy ideas and direction.

  • Ian Eiloart 5th Aug '10 - 12:43pm

    The thing is that, if the Indie reports that this conference is more or less lively or controversial than previous conferences, none of the other papers will be entitled to have an opinion on the matter, having stayed away in droves!

  • Patrick Smith 5th Aug '10 - 2:04pm

    I agree that this will be the biggest and most Liberal reform policy framing Conference ever but too many journalists attend to report another event.

    One indelible fact is that it will take 5-10 years of `Coalition Government’ to turn back the tide of Labour`s mess.

    Labour legacy of presiding over the greatest divide in equalities in modern history whilst claiming they represented the best aspirations of the working classes is now a `busted flush’.

    But there are social alarm bells ringing out and for example there is a torrid legacy of 13 year`s of increase in an underclass of youth in our schools.

    Too many young persons turning to violence and self harm from alcohol abuse, from the relaxed stance to its ease of access and 24 hour drinking culture.

    The rise of youth unemployment between 18-24 years and dearth of apprenticeships has been emblematic too of the frequent building and construction industry site closures where new housing and jobs for skilled workers should be acquired.

    Youth inactivity and loss of self esteem is the worst inheritance that the `Coalition Government’ is still to fully address.

    I believe that we need to prioritise job creation policies and remain confident that Vince Cable will do his part to lead Britain out of potential economic bankruptcy under Labour.

    I am convinced that all the `Coalition’ policies will depend upon good steer from our talented top table Liberal Democrat leadership under Nick Clegg.

    I predict that Nick Clegg will become an international statesman and take the message in German and French and Spanish to the EU.

    The liberal progressive beliefs of placing the people at the heart of Government to create the openness and AV reform will make a Fairer Britain.

    Finally,it is important for local residents to see evidence of how our `Coalition Government’ will put more powers into their hands over planning and new housing projects and new fairer local tax raising.

    It is ordinary families who will yet have their say on the important referendum on AV and in this our constitutional lodestar will taken to the people.

  • Nick Clegg.

    Liberal coward number 1.

  • Cheltenham Robin 5th Aug '10 - 10:06pm

    Cuse – thank you for that thought provoking comment, however, it is clear that you obviously don’t know the meaning of the word ‘Liberal’

  • It is years since I attended a conference, and I won’t be attending this one, mainly because I have a living to earn.

    This conference will be eerie, because Lib Dem MPs will not be promoting Liberal Democrat policies, they will be pormoting Conservative policies. At the national level, the Lib Dem case is not being put, and won’t be for another five years, in the unlikely event that the Coalition lasts beyond Cameron getting his new boundaries.

    Members need to ask themselves the following questions:

    (1) Should the party have entered into the Coalition in the first place? (Read Matthew Huntbach’s posts for a cogent explanation as to why the party had Hobson’s choice.)
    (2) Should the party have agreed to the arrangement lasting a full five years? (It was supposed to be necessary for dealing with the deficit, remember.)
    (3) Should the party remain in Coalition now that Cameron has reneged on the Coalition Agreement (on the NHS, long-term size of the public sector, etc)?
    (4) If the answer to (3) is negative, how to we effect our exit?

    Thus far, dissent from within the Parliamentary Party has been limited. Tony Greaves has spoken out against “Equity & Excellence” (and has said some rude things about Lansley, Gove and Pickles), and Simon Hughes has expressed opposition to Cameron’s on-the-hoof social housing proposal. There have also been two rebellions (on VAT and foundation schools).

    If Tony or Simon, or any other Parliamentarian, would stand at the rostrum and ask the questions listed above, the Conference really would be brought to life – and democracy would be the winner.

  • @Sesenco

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. The question is flawed
    4. N/A

  • Stuart,

    In what way is my question flawed?

    By reneging on the Coalition Agreement, I mean the adoption of radical Thatcherite policies that are not part of that Agreement. For instance, Equity and Excellence, aspects of the education reforms, and the permanent reduction in the size of the public sector. One would have expected Cameron to wait until he had consolidated his position before launching out into the breaking up of the public sector, but no, he is so outrageously brazen that he goes ahead with it at the earliest possible opportunity, showing utter contempt for his Coalition “partners”. Cameron is a touchy-feely liberal when talking to Nick Clegg, but a radical Thatcherite with his own backbenchers. Exactly what one expects of a “mendacious creep”.

    Stuart, are you a freemarket entryist (eg, Liberal Vision), a casuist who will defend anything Nick Clegg does, or a mainstream Liberal Democrat who cannot conscientiously support the downsizing of the public sector and creeping privatisation of essential public services? Which is it?

    David Cameron is a Tory. We are Liberal Democrats. There is a difference. And it shows.

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