Conference Countdown 2015: The Directory has been on a diet

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In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

The reality of our new circumstances hit when the Conference Directory landed on my doorstep the other day. The Directory lists all the fringe and exhibition activity going on over the five days in Bournemouth. While there is still a huge amount to do and people will still be struggling to choose which  meeting they would like to go to in every slot, it’s noticeable that the fringe is a good deal smaller than it was last year. Mine is a good deal smaller still after my puppy, Hazel, got hold of it and decided to rip it to shreds.

By way of comparison, there were 10 pages of exhibitors last year and only 6 this year, and the balance has shifted so that there is a higher proportion of party stands than we have become used to.

On the fringe itself, if we compare a couple of time slots with last year, we can see the impact. On Saturday evening, for example, after the rally, there were 12 events in 2014 whereas this year there are only 4. I doubt that’s just to do with the fact that most of  us will be watching the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who.

Monday lunchtime is normally a very busy slot. Last year there were 29 separate events. This time there are only 13. There are more events which have clearly been  organised by the party – like the Official Conference Quiz late on Sunday evening

This contraction of the fringe will undoubtedly have an impact on the party’s income which in turn will lead to some fairly tough budgeting decisions being made for next year. It’s a shame when member registrations are actually significantly up. Although the directory has been published, there is nothing stopping organisations from adding to the fringe now.

I would not be doing my job properly if I didn’t abuse my position to shamelessly plug Lib Dem Voice’s own fringe event. We are doing something a bit different this year  and having a meeting based on foreign affairs. It takes place on the Sunday evening of Conference, from 7:45pm in Bayview 2 of the Conference Centre. Lord William Wallace, Baroness Kishwer Falkner and our Nick Thornsby will answer the question:

In what are some of the most challenging times for liberal values worldwide, how do we forge a principled, liberal foreign policy?

Another highlight of the fringe will be when Nick Clegg discusses the EU referendum and its effects on workers with Frances O’Grady of the TUC. I won’t be able to attend that as I am speaking (cue another shameless plug) at an event for the Child Poverty Action Group.

Nick is also out and about on the fringe on Monday evening, in conversation on Europe with Phil Collins from the Times at a Demos fringe. He also makes his valedictory Conference speech just before the lunch break on Monday.

We’ve become used to Liberty having a fringe meeting on the Monday evening but they aren’t doing that this year. They are having a stand, though. The NUT’s traditional fish and chips event on the Tuesday is also gone – although they have a stand and a separate fringe meeting.

We’ll be looking at each day on the fringe in more detail closer to Conference. There is still plenty of choice, even though the fringe is noticeably smaller than last year.

 

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

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2 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Aug '15 - 3:48pm

    “In what are some of the most challenging times for liberal values worldwide, how do we forge a principled, liberal foreign policy?” Modernise our policy on Trident.

  • John Marriott 25th Aug '15 - 7:51am

    I see that Nick Clegg is signalling his return to front line politics with a major conference speech on the EU. I just hope that, if asked again how he sees the EU in ten years’ time, he doesn’t repeat his disastrous mantra “About the same”!

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