Conference agrees reduced nuclear deterrent by 322 votes to 228

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This morning’s debate on defence was heavily dominated by just one subject – whether or not Britain should continue to have a nuclear deterrent.

An amendment rejecting any renewal of Trident, which had no big name backers, came within 100 votes of defeating Danny Alexander’s motion. It was quite an achievement for the amendment’s proposer, George Potter, to get it at least to a counted vote.

The speech of the debate came from Glasgow’s Paul Coleshill who likened replacing Trident to a middle aged man buying a sports car as a mid life crisis – but one he could only use on 3 days a week. Our Nick Thornsby’s tweet about that was quoted on the BBC website where he was described a Liberal Democrat Voice journalist.

For the first hour of the 90 minute debate, chaired by Baroness Dee Doocey, the speeches and interventions were heavily in favour of Potter’s amendment. Towards the end, just as people were coming in to vote, they heard three speeches against it from. Certainly some representatives I spoke to were under the impression that the debate had been mostly against the amendment.

It is normally the case that speakers are called for and against a motion in proportion to the cards received. If, for example, the chair had 20 speakers’ cards, 16 in favour and 4 against, but only room for 10 speakers, they would call 8 in favour and 2 against, but they would space them as evenly as possible. It could, of course, be that more cards against the amendment were received during the debate, which would explain that curiosity. The Federal Conference Committee would do well just to look at how it was structured. It almost certainly would have not affected the outcome, but play must always be perceived to be fair.

The Trident vote brings to an end the Conference flashpoints which have all been won by the leadership bar the reference back on online porn. I have been on the losing side of every vote bar that one and the Housing Benefit motion but that’s democracy for you. You can’t imagine anything like such democracy at a Labour or Conservative event.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Conference and News.


  • Eddie Sammon 17th Sep '13 - 2:44pm

    We need to introduce online voting. All members can watch the debates online so there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be able to vote on them.

    There is also the problem of members with more money, and therefore able to attend conference, having a greater say on policy.

  • Martin Lowe 17th Sep '13 - 2:46pm

    No doubt @jedibeeftrix will have something to say about this.

    He always gets a tingly feeling when the phrases “Lib Dems” and “nuclear deterrent” are in the same sentence!

  • Part of the fun of going to conferences was giving the leadership the occasional kick in the teeth. It seems now that as soon as it looks like this is going to happen, the pressure goes out to avoid this and representatives generally do what the leaders want, which – for me – takes part of the fun and a lot of the point out of going to conference. I agree with Eddie that it would be worth experimenting with online voting – but you’d have to open it up in advance of the debate online, so that people like me who are working and can’t follow the debate live can still have a say.

  • “Conference agrees” .

    How irrelevant, like opposing the Tuition Fees and the NHS privatisation.

  • Best policy would be simply to get rid of Trident as an outmoded weapon of the cold war at the time we are telling other countries not to develop nuclear weapons

  • Simon Banks 19th Sep '13 - 6:21pm

    It is depressing that so many people vote without listening to the debate. I know I did that on one issue because I’d come in to be ready for the next debate and I thought I understood the issues before us, but it should be uncommon.

    I did think after several excellent anti-Trident speeches a weak speech in summation for the amendment followed by a strong speech for the original (part-time Trident) motion by Nick Harvey (respected for leading the Trident review and for being shamefully sacked) had cooked the amendment’s goose, but the margin wasn’t quite close enough for that. heigh ho, we’re now the party of trimming and hilarious compromises on defence. It was argued that the rather strange compromise advanced was at least something we might actually get a coalition partner to agree to. But on other subjects, even the leadership rejected that approach for setting out our distinctive policies, knowing we’d often have to settle for less. Odd.

  • You can still oppose Trident by asking your MP to sign EDM 150 using the facility below.

    Please act now.

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