Category Archives: Conference

Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

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A more effective and compassionate approach to immigration and asylum

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary held a joint fringe meeting at Lib Dem Conference in York with Social and Liberal Forum, addressing the Immigration Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Ed Davey MP spoke of some of the impact that Brexit would have on immigration issues, and how he was using some of the new Lib Dem policies in the debates around the Bill.

Only some amendments would be allowed, those that fit in with the “Long title” of the Bill, which ties it to European issues. Success on many of the amendments to the Bill will depend on full support from Labour though.

There is the big problem of those without settled status from the EU who are living here. If they haven’t applied and gone through system there will be huge problems by 2020 for them. It is outrageous to take existing rights away. A declaratory system would be a much better way. Talking of the proposal of the ending of free movement of labour, he spoke of how this was going to impact on those from the UK who worked in the EU.

Interestingly, whilst talking about the benefits of immigration, he also talked about how people’s attitude to immigration is beginning to change as the impact of Brexit is becoming more apparent. People are realising there is a real benefit to immigration as the impact on loss of health care staff is going to affect them and their friends.

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We must make sure they weren’t just empty words

On Sunday I was delighted that Conference overwhelmingly passed the emergency motion on knife crime and youth work that I was so pleased to propose.

The excellent motion, drafted by our lead member on the LGA Children’s Board, Cllr Lucy Nethsinga, made clear the clear link between the dramatic cut in youth services across the country and the subsequent increase in knife crime.

In passing the motion, Conference reaffirmed the Party’s commitment to invest in both universal and targeted youth work. However, we need this affirmation to lead to more than just empty words, words that sound good in the conference hall but never appear in the manifesto.

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Why we need the Supporters’ Scheme

On Saturday I was at a Lib Dem Women event for International Women’s Day, and in a few of the excellent breakout sessions, found myself sitting next to a highly engaged and articulate woman who I presumed was a Councillor or PPC. It transpired that she was not even a member of the Lib Dems, but “still considering” whether to join, due to time constraints and not being sure if she was ready to commit. When I mentioned the prospect of a Supporters’ Scheme her eyes lit up. “That sounds ideal,” she said.

It’s not the first time I’ve met someone who considers themselves to be a Lib Dem supporter but doesn’t feel ready to join the party. Indeed, on the doorstep over the past few months, from Streatham to St Albans, I have spoken to countless people who have told me they will deliver leaflets, perhaps consider coming along for a canvassing session, and certainly vote Lib Dem – but they’re not actually members, and they’re not ready to be. Making that commitment to joining just seems like a step too far for those who consider themselves to be politically aware but are time poor, or maybe just not quite ready to stand up and say they’re a Lib Dem.

There are then numerous reasons to endorse the Supporters’ Scheme. It’s been well documented that I was previously a Labour supporter – I didn’t join the Lib Dems until last August. But in the two years leading up to that decision, even though I was leaning towards the Lib Dems and am very much a Liberal in every sense, shaking off the tribalism that had been part of my life since I was old enough to understand that people had different political views felt like an enormous step.

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A fork in the road for the Lib Dems

The long predicted realignment in British politics has started. Whether it helps or harms the Lib Dems depends on how we respond to it. We can embrace the future with confidence and open arms or we can turn in on ourselves and stick to the old ways.

We are at a fork in the political road and our future success or failure depends on whether we make the right choices. Some important decisions will be made at Spring Conference and it is imperative that we get them right.

They are the keys to the success of our …

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Welcome back to York!

As we mark the beginning of 2019, the countdown to Spring Conference has begun! And on behalf of the York Liberal Democrats, I would like to say how pleased I am to be welcoming everyone back to York in March.

For those who have not been to York previously – York is a beautiful, well-connected and unique city, with a lot to offer.

Visit York estimates that this year’s Conference will provide a substantial boost to the local economy, valued at more than £600,000. Combined with the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I know that the city’s wonderful pubs, hotels, B&Bs and restaurants will be packed out – so remember to book in advance! 

Conference will not only provide a short-term economic boost and provide national exposure for the party, it will also showcase York as a destination for large events and conferences. I know from my own experiences that Conference provides members with an excellent opportunity to meet our MPs, peers, Councillors and campaigners from right across the country and, of course, the chance to debate and decide national party policy.

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Would you like free rail tickets to conference?

Fancy you and a friend travelling to Conference in style? London North Eastern Railway have kindly given us two First Class tickets to give away for use on their trains!

To be in with chance of winning a pair of tickets, just join the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference group https://www.facebook.com/groups/ldconf/ and “Like” the post announcing this. You must be a party member to be eligible.

The lucky winner will be picked at random on 15th February from those who liked the post, and announced in the comments below.

Not registered for conference yet? It’s running 15th-17th March in York, and you still have time to book! https://www.libdems.org.uk/spring-conference.

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What will the party debate at Spring Conference?

The party meets again at its Spring Conference in York on the 15th-17th March, and if you have not registered yet there is still time! Federal Conference Committee has also now met to decide the agenda so we can reveal what topics will be up for debate.

Motion selection proceeded in the usual fashion that by now will be familiar to many readers – in the first round, members of the committee debated the suitability of each motion for debate considering how well it was drafted, how recently the topic was last debated and so on. Once that has happened, timings are allocated to each motion, and the committee considers the relative priority of the remaining motions.

Of the 19 motions submitted, 6 were eventually selected for debate. Constitutional amendments must be selected for debate if they are in order, which applied to one of two submitted amendments. A 105-minute slot has also been reserved for a later deadline on Europe, as given the current state of politics any motion submitted now would certainly be old news by March!

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‘How should the UK change its refugee family reunification policies’: LD4SOS at Brighton Fringe meeting

There were plenty there to hear our panel of speakers and enjoy the refreshments provided courtesy of Lib Dem Voice despite us clashing  with a big consultation on the supporters scheme.

Tim Farron MP started off with a review of the overall position and welcomed the approval earlier in the day of policy motion F16 with all 5 amendments, most notably amendment #1 (LD4SOS). He reminded us that in debates we are not just talking about policies but real people who are affected. He talked about the experience of visiting  Calais, where it was clear that what people were looking for was safety, not a nice life on benefits.

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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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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

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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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Jo Swinson’s speech to conference – in full

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

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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.

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Why are there giant snails around Brighton? #bemoresnail

Members hurrying from conference chamber to fringe meeting hall in Brighton have asked the question:

Why are there giant colourful snail sculptures dotted around Brighton?

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What’s happening at Conference today? The debates and speeches

Who knows what emergency motions we’ll be discussing today? Will we even have a Government by that stage? Will Theresa May still be PM?

The day starts without expectation of controversy but you never know in a party business session as we look at recognising the new Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality.

Policy debates today include promoting a fairer distribution of wealth, and a motion that sets out our demands for a better Britain.

And there will be keynote speeches from Scottish Leader Willie Rennie and Vince Cable.

09.00–09.20 Business motion: Renewal of Recognition of SAOs
Business motion: Recognition of AOs and SAOs

9:20-10:25 Emergency motions or topical issue discussions

10:25-11:30 Policy motion: Promoting a Fairer Distribution of Wealth

11.30–12.30 Policy motion: Demand Better: Liberal Democrat Priorities for a Better Britain

12.30–12.50 Speech: Willie Rennie MSP

12.50–14.10 Lunch

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Gina Miller, the next leader of the Liberal Democrats – not

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Gina Miller, businessperson and Brexit campaigner, just received a long and strong standing ovation, after delivering a spirited speech at the party conference in Brighton.

Ms Miller was quick to quash media reports that she might be angling to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. Those rumours have presumably been spread by people who know absolutely nothing about our party.

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The Independent View: time to support the UN nuclear ban treaty

Less than a year ago, the United Nations’ nuclear weapons ban treaty opened for signature. States from across the world are stepping forward to sign up to prohibit nuclear weapons – over 60 on current count. This is a giant step forward on the road towards global abolition. The treaty follows decades of grassroots campaigning across the world – CND has been calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons since its founding in 1958 and we are delighted at the development.

Over one hundred countries are likely to sign the treaty, but will Britain make the most of this crucial …

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Federal People Development Committee explains supporters proposal

Last night at 6:15pm I went to the truly vast Oxford hall within the Brighton Hilton. You could almost hold the FA Cup Final in the Oxford Hall, it is so big.

There was an excellent meeting, chaired by Miranda Roberts, which explained the supporters proposal.

Miranda is the chair of the Federal People Development Committee. She took us through the process. There was a briefing on a similar scheme in Canada and within the UK Which consumer organisation.

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What’s on at Conference today? The debates and speeches

Europe, housing, the economy, land tax and sustainable development are on the policy agenda today.

Anti Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, not even a party member, will be giving a keynote speech. She’s had some attention as a future leader of the party despite not being a member so her remarks are bound to spark media interest.

The other keynote speaker is Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds.

And there will, of course, be the debate on membership subscriptions which, with a big increase in the Federal Levy, may actually prove more controversial than usual.

09.00–10.00 Policy motion: An Affordable, Secure Home for All

10.00–11.00 Policy motion: Europe

11.00–11.20 Speech: Gina Miller

11.20–14.10 Lunch

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What’s on at Conference today? The debates and speeches

The controversial migration paper is the most likely opportunity to upset the leadership today. Many Liberal Democrats have expressed alarm at its negative language. Expect passion.

Other debates include ending discrimination in mental health provision, a longstanding Lib Dem priority and a paper on foreign affairs.

Also up today, Vince takes to the stage for the first time for his annual Q & A session. What other party leader would submit to genuine, unscripted questions from members for an hour in public?

There are keynote speeches from Sal Brinton and Jo Swinson.

As far as accountability is concerned, the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Parliamentary Parties come up for scrutiny.

09.00–10.00 Report: Campaign for Gender Balance
Report: Parliamentary Parties

10.00–11.00 Policy motion: Ending Discrimination in Mental
Health Provision

11.00–12.30 Policy motion: A Fair Deal for Everyone: Prosperity
and Dignity in Migration

12.30–12.50 Speech: Jo Swinson MP

12.50–14.10 Lunch

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What’s happening at Conference today? The debates and speeches

It’s an intense first day of debate at Conference. Abortion, Windrush, animal welfare and power for people and communities form the policy discussions. The day ends with a debate on reforming the Party’s disciplinary processes. Have sufficient changes been made to satisfy those who referred it back in Southport?

Keynote speakers today are Layla Moran and Tom Brake.

09.00–09.05 Opening of conference

09.05–09.40 Report: Federal Conference Committee
Report: Federal Policy Committee

09.40–10.25  Policy motion: Improving Animal Welfare

10.25–11.15  Policy motion: Righting Wrongs: Restoring the Rights of the Windrush Generation

11.15–12.30 Policy motion: Establishing Real Freedom of …

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This Weekend You Can Help Stop the Climate Emergency

I’ll admit it, I do not always come to conference fully prepared.  Well, to be honest, I’m often reading the motions or amendments for the first time in the hall.  As a result I have sat in debates and wondered “why has Y been carved out” or “why hasn’t this great idea been extended to X” and occasionally “how on earth has line Z made it in”!

I know I am not the only one –speakers in debates often raise everything from minor tweaks to wholly new directions in policy in their speeches and interventions, only for a summation speech to respond with the reproving reminder “some good points have been made and we would have liked to have considered them at the consultation stage but alas they were not raised…..”

Well conference-goers, do not spend your weekend being (as I have) a disappointed would-be policy tweaker. Bring your ideas to the Consultative Sessions!

In particular, as a member of the snappily-titled Climate Change and Low-Carbon Economy Policy Working Group I want to urge you to come and spend your Saturday lunchtime in our clean, green company.

The Working Group has produced an initial consultation paper, but detailed policy formulation is still at an early stage so your thoughts, ideas and inspiration on this cornerstone of Lib Dem policy would be very welcome.  We put forward some excellent policies in the 2017 manifesto that have been developed recently by the Vision for Britain: Clean, Green and Carbon Free report.  Our task as a Working Group is to build on this strong base.

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My view on our conference motion to end discrimination in mental health care

The problem with conference is that it is impossible to get to everything! I was hoping to speak on Sunday morning in our debate on the policy motion entitled, “Ending Discrimination In Mental Health Provision”. Regular readers of LDV know that mental health policy is an area I feel strongly about, so I am gutted I can’t get there due to a conflict.

 So I’ll blog my speech instead…

Currently, in our country if you are someone without a mental disorder you have an absolute right to refuse medical treatment or refuse to be detained for medical purposes.

However, if you have a mental disorder or have learning difficulties you lose that right and can be detained and treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 without giving consent.

As the charity Mind has pointed out, anyone with capacity who does not have a mental disorder should not be involuntarily detained. Forcibly detaining someone based on disability is completely discriminatory and should be stopped. As this motion says in lines 17-18, such detentions are in breach of the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I am particularly concerned that the Mental Health Act 1983, as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007, justifies the involuntary detention of those with learning difficulties whose behaviour is “abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible”. Behaviours in those with learning difficulties often have unrelated causes (sensory overload, for example), so understanding the cause of such behaviour, and treating the underlying symptoms is what is needed, not involuntary detention.

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Things to do on the Friday night before Lib Dem Conference

Are you heading to Lib Dems conference in Brighton?  Are you arriving on Friday?

If so, then you may have noticed that the conference doesn’t start until 9am on Saturday 15th September.

Well once you’ve arrived on Friday and have settled down, you might wonder about what to do with your evening. Fortunately, there are two outstanding Lib Dem options for your evening:

  1. #LibDemPint

A popular choice, Lib Dem Pint runs from 7pm to 11pm at the Palm Court Restaurant on Brighton Pier. Tickets are £5 on the door or can be bought in advance online here.This is always a busy pub …

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A challenge for Labour on the development of jobs and businesses in Britain

What can the Liberal Democrats offer Labour voters who don’t like the way their great party is heading under Jeremy Corbyn? What, particularly, has our party to offer the working people of this country who have seen their standard of living drop under the Government’s austerity programme and can’t expect better if Brexit happens?

As the party that supports neither unbridled capitalism nor full-blooded socialism, we allow markets to operate as freely as possible, but intervene to ensure they are well-regulated and competitive, and to offer individual citizens greater powers and rights. “We want to build a new economy that really …

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The immigration motion still needs improvement

It has not been easy to come up with a response to the party’s immigration motion and paper.

There is much in the paper that we are very happy with; but there are also areas where we feel distinctly let down. We’re grateful to the Working Group for their positive attitude in communicating with us and doing what they could to improve the policy.

After a lot of soul-searching and discussion, we have come up with four amendments that we feel the motion needs in order to demonstrate the liberal values we share.

1. Means-testing of families

The situation now: A UK resident …

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Miscellaneous Announcements

I wanted to take the opportunity on a Wednesday to make some small and varied points/announcements that I feel will be of interest. My announcement for this week is about the:

Autumn Conference

The Agenda for the autumn conference launched online today. HO staff should be thanked for the hard work they have done to get this ready. The Agenda and the Directory can be found at https://www.libdems.org.uk/autumn_conference_2018

To help promote the autumn conference there is a Local Party Conference Challenge

Challenge Criteria:– Between the dates of 1 August and 31 August FCC would like to challenge all local

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Report Back on the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) Held on 14th July 2018

As a member of the FCC, I attended the meeting held last Saturday (14th July). My comments follow the more informative article by Zoe.

The main purpose of the meeting was to go through all the motions that had been selected for FCC to review for possible inclusion at the Autumn conference. Subject area split the motions (54 in all):  Business Innovation and Skills, Communities and Local Government through to Work, Social Security and Pensions (14 different policy areas, in all).

Each member of the committee was given a policy area(s) with internal party contacts (mine was, for example, a member of …

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What will the party debate in Brighton?

Federal Conference Committee met this weekend – unusually at Amnesty HQ in London rather than LDHQ – to set the Agenda for Autumn conference in Brighton.

If you have not yet registered, please don’t forget – conference runs from the 15th to 18th September, and you can sign up at https://www.eventsforce.net/autumnconference2018. Or, if you’d like to take advantage of our new refer-a-friend discounts, see https://www.libdems.org.uk/refer_a_friend

As noted in my reports on Spring conference, the snap election last year delayed progress on several policy papers which have now come through so time pressure was again an issue. This did mean that some good motions that would have fared better had there been more time were dropped early in round one of voting. I should also mention that a Nem Con decision does not mean that no members liked a motion. FCC runs largely according to consensus, where only issues that might be controversial or result in a close vote end up with a formal show of hands. If only one or two people are arguing for/against a motion, it is often not worth pushing it to a vote. Running 63 votes in round one alone would risk the meeting becoming a multi-day epic!

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