Conference: Social Liberal Forum at Glasgow

Social Liberal ForumThere is some welcome cause for cautious optimism among Social Liberals on the beautiful train journey to Glasgow (and, indeed, for those observing from the side-lines). A series of pieces, for example in the New Statesman and on Politics Home, by prominent figures reasserting the traditions of Beveridge, Hobhouse and Keynes have helped allay fears about the direction of the party and reminded the wider world we are still here.

The Social Liberal Forum has been busy, too. Yet again a large number of agenda items have had significant SLF input, resulting in a healthy balance to an equally healthily packed Conference agenda.  Here are a few highlights of the agenda and fringe for social Liberals:

The Balanced Working Life paper (F4, Sat 3pm) chaired by Claire Tyler, a real policy expert in the field, is a superb piece of work that will be of huge importance on living standards – a real battleground issue for the election. With only a couple of minor reservations (one of which is addressed by our Amendment 1 on the living wage), it represents a high-quality contribution to the policy debate.

Our joint fringe on Green Industrial Policy (Sat 8pm, Boisdale 2, SECC) held with CentreForum focuses unapologetically on growth and jobs, but putting sustainability at its heart. An agenda of the utmost importance for a party getting a hard time from environmental groups, perhaps rather unfairly thanks to the efforts of the Treasury and the man at its head.

Whose Party is it Anyway? (Sunday, 6.15pm, Argyll 2, Crowne Plaza). Does what it says on the tin.

The Race Equality debate (F18, Monday 9am) is important for a party that needs to take seriously its appeal to and engagement with BME communities. SLF has supported the work of the Ethnic Minority Lib Dems, an organisation that has gone from strength to strength in recent years and with whom we held a very successful joint conference on the subject in June.

Strengthening the UK Economy (F19, Monday 10am) is obviously a debate that has been built up. It is being covered at length elsewhere on Lib Dem Voice (here and here), so suffice to say that SLF has two amendments tabled, and I would recommend support of both.

Fairer Taxes (F26) is naturally an important subject, with a big debate around the 50p rate, but a number of mini-debates will be triggered too. I am particularly pleased at the business-like approach taken to implementing the long-cherished goal of a Land Value Tax (LVT) in the paper: a considerable improvement on previous efforts. The amendment on the Tory marriage tax allowance is not of SLF origin, but should unite people from all sides.

The Housing Benefit debate (F27, Monday 5.15pm) addresses the so-called Bedroom Tax, a subject that arouses strong feelings. I’m aiding the debate, so shall not comment on the specifics, but it is an important subject in an area of policy we urgently need to update.

After the Glee Club (which goes without saying…..) the Manifesto Themes paper (F40, Wednesday 10.50am) will be interesting, especially in the context of the debates that precede it. I am due to summate on an amendment.

There will be lots of other highlights too! And plenty on the fringe. SLF is running a number of services for Conference reps and those who are signed up to our email list. See you there!

* Gareth Epps is a member of FPC and FCC, a member of the Fair Deal for your Local campaign coalition committee and is an active member of Britain’s largest consumer campaign, CAMRA. He claims to be marginally better at Aunt Sally than David Cameron, whom he stood against in Witney in 2001.

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One Comment

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Sep '13 - 2:49pm

    I share the cautious optimism of colleagues within SLF that this Conference may well be an awakening for the Party membership to take back control and at least return it to at least Centralist, albeit I would personally prefer a very Left position.

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