Conference Preview: Monday 16th September

This is the third part of my wander through the conference agenda. You can find Saturday’s here and Sunday’s here.

First up on Monday morning is a debate on the new Liberal Democrat approach to race equality. The motion argues that it’s really important to develop targeted strategies for each under-represented or discriminated-against group to tackle the issues which are specific to them. It calls for measures on things like school exclusion, university recruitment, equality monitoring for every organisation in receipt of public money and diversity in the school curriculum.

A massive confrontation on the economy?

The media will bill the debate on the economy as a great big row between Nick Clegg and his activists without really delving into the substance. It is certainly unusual for a leader to take part in a debate, but not unprecedented. Ming Campbell did it on Trident in 2007 and won by about 40 votes. Willie Rennie did it in Scotland because he wanted to us to support minimum alcohol pricing and won the day by careful and respectful explanation and persuasion.

The truth is that this debate should be magnificent, measured, intelligent and illuminating. The two amendments from the Social Liberal Forum are economically literate, credible and well crafted. If I were Nick Clegg,  I’d be inclined to at least be neutral on them, or even embrace them and to use his summation speech to show how we can be trusted to steward the nation’s purse strings while keeping fairness at our core. That’s the message he needs to get out there to the public. If there is any temptation amongst those close to him to turn this into an intra-party battle, they really should bin it now. If there is anything in his speech that resembles his rhetoric about being a party of government not a party of protest as has been his wont this year, someone needs to take a big red pen to it. Likewise, the speakers in favour of the amendments need to make sure that their tone is right, too. Going all Matthew Oakeshott on the Conference floor is unlikely to impress those who have a vote in this debate. Our future economic policy is likely to have a direct impact on people’s lives and needs to be treated with the focus and seriousness it deserves.

The morning concludes with a motion on cohabitation rights and a keynote speech by Vince Cable.

Tax and Clegg

The afternoon has a keynote speech from Kirsty Williams followed by Nick Clegg returning to the stage for his traditional question and answer session. You can still submit questions on any topic (maximum 25 words), to the speakers’ table right up till 12:50  on Monday lunchtime.

That’s all followed by a debate on fairer taxes. A further rise in the tax threshold so nobody on the National Minimum Wage pays tax is no surprise, nor is the inclusion of the Mansion Tax. We also have the option to choose whether we would maintain the top rate fo tax at 45% or 50%, although there are strings attached to the latter.

This debate contains the only mention of federalism, with Conference being asked to support fiscal federalism for Scotland.

There are two amendments, one calling for increased stamp duty on second homes and the other opposing the marriage tax break.

The “Bedroom Tax”

The final debate of the afternoon is on what has become known as the Bedroom Tax. The UN Special Investigator’s recommendation this week that it should be abolished, which has been met with a bit of a shoot the messenger approach from the Government, is bound  to come up. Conference is asked to approve a series of measures to improve the allocation of social housing so that people end up with the size of house that they need along with a call for an effective suspension of any reduction in Housing Benefit until these measures are in place.

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

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  • Eddie Sammon 13th Sep '13 - 3:32pm

    “The two amendments from the Social Liberal Forum are economically literate, credible and well crafted.”

    The Social Liberal Forum need to remove their support for QE. This is serious, if people don’t believe my argument that it benefits the rich at the expense of the poor (in a dishonest manner) then check out these articles.

    “Quantitative easing is good for the rich, bad for the poor…exacerbates already extreme income inequality”

    The Guardian: “US accused of forcing up world food prices”

  • To Vince,
    I would rather the state did not make ssumptions about my relationship. If I want married “rights” I should be married
    If I don’t want to be married but want to confer or receive some “rights” I can sign a contract. If I want these things but my partner does not then I can stay on his terms or leave on mine. A liberal state should stay well clear.

  • Malcolm Todd 13th Sep '13 - 5:37pm

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think VC’s speech is on cohabitation rights – that’s two separate things happening on the Monday morning, isn’t it?

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Sep '13 - 3:59am

    The way to attract ethnic minorities and other minorities is not to focus on measures we think they might be interested in, but to be ourselves. Focusing on school exclusion because we believe it will attract ethnic minority votes is highly offensive. Diversifying the curriculum, which is basically trying to re-write history, is also wrong.

    What’s this nonsense about a plastic bag tax too? We need to stop deciding that things are bad and then putting up their prices. It is highly judgemental and wrong. I’m feeling as though I really don’t belong here, but then again seeing a glimpse of tory welfare cuts fills me with horror.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Sep '13 - 4:06am

    I see the proceeds from the plastic bag charge are going to the charities, which they will partly use to pay their wages. I am angry about this – charities have no right to force poor people to give them money. What day is this being discussed?

  • George Mackenzie 16th Sep '13 - 10:26am

    The Bedroom Tax is the most shameful episode of this Government and especially of this Party.

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