Category Archives: Conference

Anything relating to the spring or autumn conferences

Conference: the right decision even if it’s a regrettable one

I very much share everyone’s upset and frustration about the cancellation of our Autumn Conference. I’m set to lose a great deal of money on my non-refundable, fully-paid in advance hotel booking, and I’ve spent many hours and a great deal of angst on a speech that I’m not going to deliver. And, above all, I very much wanted to attend conference in person for the first time since my re-election in 2019 – now nearly three years ago!

But I fully support the decision. The death of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday isn’t just the death of an individual. We haven’t cancelled conference just out of deference to the feelings of her family, or the many other people up and down the country who feel a personal sense of loss. This is the death of a Head of State, which demands a different level of response. It’s right that as a party, we respond at an institutional level, and pay respects to the long years of service Her Majesty gave to this country.

But more importantly than that, this is a period in which the powers of the Head of State transfer from one person another, and it’s a sensitive constitutional moment. Even more so, because it hasn’t happened in this country in most people’s memory. Of the six former prime ministers present at the Accession Council on Saturday, only one of them – John Major – would have had any memory of the previous accession, and even he was only nine years old at the time.

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WATCH: South Cambridgeshire PPC Pippa Heylings’ speech to Spring Conference

South Cambridgeshire is one of the “Blue Wall” seats that the Lib Dems are targetting for the next General Election.

PPC Pippa Heylings was given a keynote speaking slot at Conference. This is her speech:

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Ed Davey’s speech to Conference: Lib Dems can defeat this awful Government

A powerful selection on Ukraine, a call for Priti Patel to be sacked, a celebration of Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, a tribute to Lib Dem by-election stalwart Erlend Watson, a decent gag about Dick Turpin, an evisceration of the Tories over sleaze and partygate (including a call for a public enquiry into Boris Johnson’s relationship with Lebvedev) and an attack on Tory MPs for keeping Boris Johnson in power, setting out what the Lib Dems offer for health and education and a look forward to the local government elections in May…all this and more delivered by Ed Davey to Lib Dem members gathered in York.

 

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Lib Dems adopt most ambitious policy in UK to help Ukrainian refugees

Ongoing bureaucratic barriers to refugees fleeing Ukraine and the appalling UK Government attitude to them, the bravery of young political activists in Ukraine who are having to defend their country against invasion, the courage of young activists in Russia who are protesting Putin’s actions, the need to end our dependence on others for energy supply, the importance of standing up for the right of sovereign nations to be part of Europe, the chilling prospect of how we respond to escalating brutality from Putin’s army. These were just some of the points mentioned in an emotional and powerful debate on the situation in Ukraine this morning.

This afternoon at 5:40 pm, we’ll be hearing from Kira Rudyk, the leader of our Ukrainian sister party Holos from Kyiv. If you want to hear her, it’s not too late to register here.

The policy we passed today was the most ambitious to help Ukrainian refugees of any major UK political party.

We call on the government to enable refugees from Ukraine to come to the UK without having to apply for a visa, to work with allies to create accessible routes to safety for all refugees displaced from Ukraine, to provide economic, military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to reverse the international development budget cut.

The party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said even the government’s latest sponsor scheme would still force Ukrainian refugees to “jump through bureaucratic hoops” to come to the UK.

Ukrainians have been let down by the UK government in their hour of need. Priti Patel is presiding over a chaotic shambles – and the result is that Ukrainians who we should be supporting are being turned away simply because they don’t have the right paperwork.

Even the government’s latest scheme will still leave refugees having to jump through bureaucratic hoops before coming to the UK.

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Farron & Morgan: We’re the party that backs British farmers

The Lib Dems are gearing up to win over farmers in the May elections when eyes will be on the blue walls of rural heartlands in places like Somerset, Herefordshire and Westmorland – key Lib Dem, Conservative battlegrounds in May.

The Liberal Democrats have put the Conservatives’ former rural heartlands on notice at their conference this weekend. It comes as the party has passed sweeping reform aimed at targeting the farming community that is “fed up with being taken for granted by the Government”.

The push to win the farming community comes after the North Shropshire by-election which caused a political earthquake in true blue Shropshire.

Alongside the “Back British Farmers” party policy reform the Liberal Democrats have also launched specialised farmers campaigning packs for local Lib Dems to gain support from farmers and paint true blue rural heartlands in orange diamonds.

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Morgan: Ambulance crisis motion passed at Conference

Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire yesterday evening passed a party policy motion at the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference to tackle the ambulance service crisis.

In the new policy, called ‘The Crisis in Our Ambulance Services’ passed by Liberal Democrat members this weekend the party calls for:

  • Emergency funding to be made available to ambulance trusts to reverse closures of community ambulance stations and cancel planned closures where needed.
  • The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid to commission the CQC to conduct an investigation into the causes and impacts of ambulance service delays.
  • An Ambulance Waiting Times Bill to be passed into law requiring accessible, localised reports of ambulance response times to be published.
  • A campaign to retain, recruit and train paramedics and other ambulance staff.
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Chamberlain: Ending corruption and sleaze vital to democracy

The government has been mired with sleaze. The Conservatives attempted to keep Owen Paterson as an MP and thankfully failed. Boris Johnson is the first prime minister to be interviewed by the police under caution. He is dodging the question of whether he will resign if he is fined over partygate.

Yesterday, the Lib Dem Spring Conference voted for a package of reforms. These include putting the Ministerial Code into law and making sure it is fully independent of the prime minister; appointing an Independent Adviser to oversee the Code and launch their own investigations; and introducing a range of sanctions for those found to have broken the Ministerial Code.

Sanctions could include apologies, fines, and demanding a minister’s resignation.

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Update on Conference deadlines: Emergency Motions on Ukraine

I am certain that many of you have been following the terribly upsetting news in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion.

The Federal Conference Committee has agreed that due to the ongoing and evolving situation in Ukraine that we would allow a later deadline for an emergency motion on the topic of Ukraine. The deadline for this will be Thursday, 10 March at 13:00.

The motion will then be announced on Friday morning before the commencement of Conference. Any motions submitted already on Ukraine can either be carried forward to the new deadline, alternatively those who have already submitted emergency motions on Ukraine may want to consider withdrawing their motions and submitting updated motions for the new deadline. 

You will be able to submit a motion via: https://www.libdems.org.uk/conference_submissions

This will allow members time to prepare and submit motions that may take into consideration the changing situation over the next days in the lead-up to Spring Conference.  The emergency motion will be debated in the Sunday morning Emergency Motion slot and the Federal Conference Committee will provide further information on this closer to the date.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate reaching out.

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+++Physical conference returns to your actual Brighton next autumn

The chair of the party’s conference committee, Nick de Costa, has made this announcement:

I can announce that the dates for autumn 2022 conference will be: 17-20 September 2022 at the Brighton Centre.

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Values and Principles – the summation speech

Conference, I want to begin by thanking Duncan Brack, who led the work on this Principles and Values motion with Alyssa Gilbert, on behalf of FPC. Duncan was kind enough to let me take his moment of glory this morning. And he did so because he felt it was important for a new member like me to share my experiences of the LibDems with all of you. So he handed over this slot to me because he felt it would be good for the party. And so we begin, with our principles in action.

Conference, the values put forward in this motion are values that I know we already share. And I know you share them with me because you’re all staring at a screen right now instead of having a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. I suspect I don’t have to work too hard to convince you of the merits of Liberty, Equality, Democracy, Community, Internationalism, and Environmentalism.

Instead, I want to tell you about how I have seen these values practised at all levels of the party, pretty much from Day 1 of my time with the LibDems.

This motion isn’t just about what we believe, it’s also about how we behave. It isn’t just about a set of principles on paper- it’s about how we translate these principles into action. Every single day.

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Lib Dems urge sanctions and Olympic boycott on China over Uyghur genocide

The Liberal Democrats have passed a motion at their party conference that calls for sanctions on Chinese officials and a boycott of the Winter Olympics.

The motion also calls for family reunification of those forced into “re-education” camps and calls on the Foreign Secretary to grant asylum to Uyghurs fleeing persecution.

Liberal Democrats have consistently called on the UK Government to take urgent action against those perpetrating these atrocities, including the use of Magnitsky sanctions.

Ahead of the vote at their party conference Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran has written to every UK Government Minister urging them to back a boycott of the Winter Olympic games due to happen in February 2022.

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The Guardian on Lib Dem strategy: Bringing down the “blue wall”

In an almost effusive leader column, today’s Guardian praises Ed Davey, Lib Dem strategy and calls the Chesham and Amersham victory stunning. It says the Liberal Democrats are determined to make that win just the first step in bringing down the Conservatives’ “blue wall”. Boris Johnson can’t be ejected from Downing Street without a Lib Dem revival. Although Ed Davey will not be telling delegates to go back to their constituencies and “prepare for government” there are good reasons to believe something is happening, including the May by-election results.

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Democracy and Public Debate

Fake news and hate speech online – much of it spread via the giant tech platforms. Government ministers brazenly lying. Threats to the integrity of our elections through the dissemination of misinformation on social media. National newspapers that are increasingly partisan, and a local press too financially enfeebled to hold politicians to account.

In recent years, the quality of public debate in Britain has deteriorated sharply, thanks to all these factors and the increasing rejection of traditionally accepted norms of behaviour. And this threatens the very fabric of our democracy. We have lost a set of shared truths and facts around which we can base political debate. What can be done to reverse the decline?

A policy paper prepared by an FPC working group, to be debated at Autumn Conference, proposes a bold and distinctly liberal set of initiatives that carefully balance our rights and freedoms, especially the right to free speech, with the need to combat online harms and allow misinformation to be challenged.

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Some thoughts on Motion F12: Tackling the Climate Emergency: Proposals for Carbon Pricing

Motion F12 states that Lib Dem carbon pricing policy should be to reform the UK Emissions Trading System (ETS), and seek to return to the EU ETS. Carbon pricing was last debated by the party in 2005 and a simple carbon tax applied upstream to ‘primary fuels’ was supported then. Since then there have been several successful real world applications of the revenue neutral carbon pricing policy known as Carbon Fee and Dividend or Climate Income. In this system a steadily and predictably escalating carbon fee is placed on fossil fuels ‘upstream’, (i.e. at the point of extraction or production rather than consumption). This sends a clear message to producers and consumers, enabling them to plan ahead with the certainty that decarbonisation will be worthwhile.

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China: What should be our long-term response?

This year’s autumn conference will see the launch of the party’s Federal International Relations Subcommittee on China to help the party and its members understand and deal with the multifaceted challenges of a rising authoritarian China.

In March 2019, when the UK was part of the EU, the Joint Communication EU-China: A Strategic Outlook came out. It defined the EU’s approach to China in the following way:

China is, simultaneously, in different policy areas, a cooperation partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.

The broad-based nature of the relationship allows us to take such a differentiated approach, although it must be said that the possibilities of cooperation are continually narrowing as China takes more strident positions in the world, backed by its Wolf Warrior diplomacy.

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Autumn Conference will be all at sea

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Lib Dems in Torquay have alerted us to the fact that a number of cruise ships have been anchored off shore since the first lockdown. Apparently long-term docking fees at the usual cruise ports are unaffordable for many cruise lines, and in any case there are simply not enough berths available worldwide for all the ships.

Some careful research and negotiation have resulted in the proposal that is being considered seriously by the Federal Conference Committee – that Autumn Conference this year should be held in one of those underused ships.  The resources are perfect on the ship which offers a large theatre that could serve as an auditorium, several other function rooms for fringe meetings, and plenty of bars. What is more, accommodation and restaurants are on site and will be included in the registration fee. If the weather is fine then members will be able to use the swimming pool.

To counter the perception that Autumn Conferences are always based on the South Coast the ship will spend the four days cruising around the British Isles, stopping to pick up Alistair Carmichael in Orkney.

The cruise ship option comes with some particular opportunities and challenges for a “hybrid” conference, with some members able to connect remotely via the Hopin platform. Data connectivity is straightforward enough but movement of the ship on the water may cause incoming and outgoing speeches to speed up and slow down due to the Doppler effect.

There will be some additional benefits on offer on the ship. The casino will be open 24 hours a day, but only to those who did not sign the petition against FOBTs. The midnight chocolate buffet will be available every night at the specific request of Mark Pack.

Glee Club will take place in a real theatre with the ship’s resident dancers and acrobats providing much needed relief. We understand that negotiations to secure ‘The Cruise’ star Jane Macdonald to do a turn are going well.

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How Lib Dem Councils respond to emergencies

For many years I have groused that Conference makes celebrities of our MPs but ignores our Council Leaders, many of whom exercise far more power than their Westminster colleagues.

Ed Davey gets that, not least because some of us in Kingston have been bending his ear for years. He notably asked Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council (which Lib Dems have held for 35 years or so), to summate on the Carers motion, which was so close to his heart. And he frequently references his wife, Emily, who is the portfolio holder for Housing on Kingston Council.

I am unashamedly reporting on a fringe that not only focussed on local government but also drew on experiences in my own patch. The meeting, held yesterday evening, was run by the Lib Dem group on the Local Government Association, under the title 2020: Managing a crisis and major incidents, from Covid to flooding.

Cllr Ruth Dombey popped up again, ably chairing the session. The panel consisted of the Leaders of York City Council (Keith Aspden) and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Council (Caroline Kerr), with portfolio holder colleagues (Darryl Smalley from York and Tim Cobbett from Kingston). They all emphasised that the strong community involvement and partnership working that characterises Lib Dem run Councils put them in a very good position to respond to the Covid crisis.

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Midge Ure talks about the impact of Brexit on British creative industries

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We were promised a real treat yesterday evening.

Those of us who remember the 80s will know that Midge Ure was the lead singer of Ultravox. Significantly he was also one of the organisers of Band Aid and Live Aid, as well as co-writer of Do they know it’s Christmas. And here he was ‘in conversation’ with the BBC’s Gavin Esler and Lib Dem peer Paul Strasburger at our own Conference.

Of course, he had an axe to grind. If you think Covid-19 has damaged the music industry – and that is certainly true –  it is also reeling from the impact of Brexit. Back in January LDV highlighted the Lib Dem campaign about the huge bureaucracy that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for British musicians to tour and perform across Europe.

Gavin Esler began by stating that the creative industries in the UK are admired across the world – “they are the UK’s soft power”.

All three speakers were keen to explain that the post-Brexit issues not only affect music, across all genres, but also theatre, dance and even trade shows. Touring is the lifeblood of many of the performing arts; and for musicians it is often the best or only way to generate an income, now that streaming has substantially reduced income from recordings. And it doesn’t just impact on the performers but also on the livelihoods of all the support staff.

The difficulties seem to coalesce around two main problems. The first is trucking. Performances given in Europe by orchestras or well-established theatre companies, or by bands playing to large venues, need to move their equipment, instruments, sets, lighting and sound systems in trucks. Under the Brexit deal the trucks are only allowed to do two drops before returning to the UK.  Of course, very many tours will go to more than two venues – indeed they need to do so to be profitable. On top of that a huge amount of documentation is required, listing every item carried by the trucks.

A couple of years ago I was chatting with the Transport Manager for one of the major orchestras in the UK, and was astonished (though I shouldn’t have been) at the complexity of organising a tour across several countries with 50+ musicians plus other staff. One of his aims was to reduce the stress on the artists, so they could perform well. The logistics were challenging then – now they would be almost impossible.

The second problem is obtaining the temporary work visas required by at least 10 European countries for everyone in the entourage – performers, sound engineers, roadies etc. This is a bureaucratic nightmare.

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Confessions of a first time virtual conference speaker – Where’s the bar?

I can’t claim that this is my first Liberal Democrat conference – by a long chalk (snort!). That was back in 1992ish. And I think I made my first conference speech then (or shortly afterwards).

But last night was quite exciting. I attended my first virtual Liberal Democrat conference and made my first virtual conference speech.

I have to say that I was very impressed indeed by the whole set-up. Well done to Geoff Payne and the team for an excellent job putting it on!

It’s just like attending a “terrestial/physical” conference except for the absence of a certain essential facility – of which, more later.

I haven’t spoken at conference for a while. In fact, I think the last time I spoke was in 2013 when we rejected the idea of an automatic block on internet pornography.

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Updated Agenda and Directory for Conference

You can now read online or download an updated version of the Conference Agenda.

For the first time this includes all the amendments to motions, and they have been inserted after each relevant motion. The original page numbering of the motions has been cleverly maintained by giving the inserted pages numbers like 16B. That means we can all refer to the motions without confusion, no matter which version we have to hand. The updated version of the Agenda is only available online and not in print.

You can also read or download the latest version of the Conference Directory, which includes a number of additions and corrections to the original version.

The two updated documents replace Conference Extra, which in past years covered amendments to motions plus any changes to the fringes, training and the exhibition.

Other papers are available to download:

Consultation Paper 144: A Federal England
Policy Paper 140: Giving Consumers a Fair Deal
Reports to Spring Conference
 

 

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Conference proposal to reform the role of party Vice-President

During our Spring Conference, this Friday (19th March, 2021), I hope you’ll join the evening debate on my Motion, F9, which seeks some reforms to my role as Party Vice President.

The role was created as a result of The Alderdice Review which called for a senior party figure to be given the authority to further the party’s work on diversity and, specifically, in relation to ethnic minority communities.

The Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality championed this call and, together with the then Party President, Sal Brinton and the Federal Board, ensured that it came to fruition.

I was first elected to this role in 2019 and was elected again in 2020. The electorate was the Federal Board. One of the major reforms to my role is my call for it to be elected by the wider party membership.

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Small businesses will be the engine of recovery say Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats hold their on line conference this weekend – the last before the Senedd – Welsh Parliament – elections in May. The Party is ambitious in its aim to win seats across Wales in both urban and rural areas and the conference this weekend will focus on putting the recovery first through policies on the environment, mental health and rebuilding our economy. The party has focused on businesses and green economic growth.

Wales is a nation of towns and villages, and small businesses. We know our small businesses will be the engine of our recovery from Covid, and will be key to rebuilding a resilient, strong and sustainable economy, putting right the failures of decades of under-investment in Wales.

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Spring Conference is next weekend. Got something to say? Let everyone know through LDV

Our Spring Conference begins next Friday and continues across the weekend. There is, as always, a busy agenda. Among the topics on Friday are local government, Covid-19, lifting barriers to work for disabled people and a speech from Jane Dodds. Saturday there will a Q&A with Ed Davey, debates on utilities, the Russia Report, Covid-19, Brexit and a speech from Willie Rennie. Sunday will see the leader’s speech and debates on autism, international development, accessibility in education and on refugees.

If you have views on these topics why not write an article for Lib Dem Voice? We expect to publish several articles towards the end of next week.

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Federal Committee report – Spring Conference 2021 motion selection

The Federal Conference Committee met via Zoom call on Saturday, 16 January for the agenda selection for our second virtual conference. The meeting was a lengthy one, which was in part due to the large selection of varied and interesting motions we received, but also to give us breaks from staring at computer screens for a number of hours.

As you will be aware, this year we will not be heading up to the historic city of York, but instead you will be able to take part in Conference from your own home via our third party provider, Hopin. You will be able to find more information about the virtual conference. If you are planning to attend conference, we highly recommend taking part in the interactive exhibitions and the fringes.

The FCC wants to pay its thanks to the continued amazing efforts of the Conference Office team and members who have worked so incredibly hard.

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Welsh Liberal Democrats come together virtually

Over 120 Welsh Lib Dem members joined our first ever virtual conference this weekend.

We welcomed Ed Davey virtually to Wales for his first Welsh conference where he spoke to us about the challenges facing the party and his burning desire that we as a nation must come out of this pandemic stronger than ever before.

This linked us nicely to our first policy motion: “Wales after COVID” which paid tribute to lives lost and calls for the dial on inequality in Wales to be reset with measures such as social care funding, universal free childcare, debt bonfires, green jobs and investment in housing.

We were then joined by Party President Mark Pack who spoke of how we need to campaign in the years to come, the changes the party is making both federally and in Wales and the exciting future we have in Wales with 16 and 17 year olds now able vote in Senedd elections from 2021 and in local government elections from 2022.

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FCC report pre-Conference

On Saturday, 19 September the Federal Conference Committee met to review the amendments, late motions, emergency motions, topical issues, questions to reports and appeals for next weekend’s Autumn Conference.

As you will be aware, this is the first time that are holding our Conference completely online. The Federal Conference Committee would like to thank the Conference and wider HQ team for all of the hard work in bringing our Conference online. Throughout a really difficult period we have all worked together to offer a fully online Conference. You can see the introduction video from Geoff Payne, FCC Chair, and Hannah, from HQ HERE

The video will show you all the features of the online conference, including the auditorium, visiting, fringe sessions, training, the exhibition and the chat functionality.

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Exam Reform

Please consider voting for our emergency motion: “The exam fiasco of August 2020 makes a case for exam reform”, and let’s begin the debate about putting trust back in our teachers, and avoiding education by an algorithm.

Schools closing to all but the most vulnerable students opened the eyes of many in school communities. Those with children learning at home developed a new appreciation for the patience and resilience of their child’s teachers, as well as their ability to explain a fronted adverb. Students missed the one-on-one support of their teachers and the routine of the school day, and teachers grappled …

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Green Liberal Democrats conference is happening online

Green Liberal Democrats Green Liberal Democrats

As the pandemic rolls on, the climate and nature crisis lurk in the background. The air is cleaner in cities. The birdsong appears clearer. We appreciate the outdoors more than ever. Moreover, commuters are discovering the joy of cycling for the first time.

Meanwhile, the price of oil has plummeted, and, the UK is running without coal for the longest time since the industrial revolution – thanks in no small part to the Liberal Democrats’ achievements in government.

It’s also increasingly apparent that air pollution contributed to higher death rates while the outbreak of the virus itself was made the more likely by our destruction of nature.

We need to keep some of the benefits of lockdown and ensure the economic recovery is invested in green jobs and not the fossil fuel industries that got us here in the first place. The Green Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for the UK government to attach ambitious climate targets to any bailouts of dirty industries. Is this what will become known as “2020 Vision”? As we remove our smudged spectacles, the destruction of the natural environment can no longer be brushed under the rug (or spilled into the Arctic circle in the case of Russia).

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Update from FCC and amendments selected for debate

The Federal Conference Committee met on Sunday, 8th March to review the amendments, emergency motions and topical issues submitted for Spring Conference. We also discussed the most recent guidance with regards to COVID-19 and a few other reports back from the Federal Board.

On COVID-19; we’re keeping under close review the plans for the York conference in the light of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Based on health advice from Public Health England and government, along with that from York Council, at present, the Conference will go ahead as planned. We will, however, be ensuring that those coming to Conference are reminded of current advice, such as the need for regular hand washing and the circumstances under which people should self-isolate. Obviously, if the advice we receive changes we may have to revisit these decisions. Constitutionally, any decision regarding whether Conference goes ahead would be a decision for the Federal Board to take –  LINK

There will be plenty of hand sanitisers throughout the conference venue and the two official hotels; and please ensure that when you are washing your hands, that you do so for 20 seconds at least – or for the length of the chorus of The Land (plus the last line repeated). Advice and guidance will be published in the Conference Extra and Daily and will be available throughout the venue.

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Conference pays heartfelt and fulsome tribute to Paddy

There were 20 minutes set aside this morning in the main hall to pay tribute to Paddy Ashdown.

In the front row for the session were Jane, Kate and Simon Ashdown.

(Baroness) Liz Barker presented the salute to our founding leader with a quiet and heartfelt voice. She emphasised that this was a tribute to a partnership – Paddy and Jane.

The section started with a video on the big screen. Relaxed and sincere tributes came from Ed Davey, Nick Clegg, Tony Blair, Jane Ashdown and (Baroness) Cathy Bakewell (who worked with Paddy during his early days as an MP in Yeovil).

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