Federal Committee report – Spring Conference 2021 motion selection

The Federal Conference Committee met via Zoom call on Saturday, 16 January for the agenda selection for our second virtual conference. The meeting was a lengthy one, which was in part due to the large selection of varied and interesting motions we received, but also to give us breaks from staring at computer screens for a number of hours.

As you will be aware, this year we will not be heading up to the historic city of York, but instead you will be able to take part in Conference from your own home via our third party provider, Hopin. You will be able to find more information about the virtual conference. If you are planning to attend conference, we highly recommend taking part in the interactive exhibitions and the fringes.

The FCC wants to pay its thanks to the continued amazing efforts of the Conference Office team and members who have worked so incredibly hard.

You will see from the timings of Conference that it is slightly different to the usual format, and we hope that this will give more people an opportunity to attend virtually, but also it has meant that we have been able to increase the number of motions selected – compared to previous Spring Conferences. The agenda of Conference will be published very shortly.

A total of 11 conference motions, plus two emergency slots, one later deadline slot on the COVID pandemic, and two constitutional amendment motions were selected. Not including the two constitutional amendments this is 14 policy motions to be debated at Conference.

The agenda will also include the Committee and Parliamentary reports, the Leaders Q&A and a number of Q&As and set pieces set aside for Spokespeople and/or Leaders of the Welsh or Scottish Lib Dems. The full agenda will be published shortly.

On the topic of motions selection, we always receive a very large number of motions for selection at Conference, and unfortunately cannot always choose all of them for selection at Conference. This year we received 27 motions and have selected 11 motions, plus the two constitutional amendments, and reserved slots for up to 3 additional motions (two emergency slots and one reserved item on the COVID pandemic).

Below I have included the selection grid of motions, and if they have been selected or not selected, please note with regards to the selected motions – some of the names may change between now and publication of the agenda. With regards to proposed constitutional amendments these are automatically selected; however, ruled either in order or out of order. I have not included why the motion was not selected; this has been provided to the submitters of the motion. Please note that you can submit amendments, emergency motions, and the COVID later deadline by 8 March at 13:00 via the Conference website.

Business Innovation, Skills and Higher Education

Utilities – Selected

Crime, Justice, Equalities and Civil Liberties

Protecting Human RightsNot Selected
Safe and Legal Routes to Save Lives – Selected
Lifting Barriers to Work for Disabled People – Selected

Economy and Tax

Supporting Businesses, Workers and the Self-Employed in the COVID-19 pandemic – Selected
Fairer Share – Reform of Council Tax and Abolition of Stamp Duty Land TaxNot Selected

Education and Families

A Better Response to the Impact of COVID-19 on Education – Selected
Accessibility in Education – Selected

Energy and Environment

UK Transition to Energy Efficient Power DistributionNot Selected


The EU – UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Future of the UK-EU relationship – Selected

Health and Social Care

Autism Support – Selected
Young people and Gender DysphoriaNot Selected
Beveridge 2.0 – Building a National Care ServiceNot Selected

International and Defence

Leading International DevelopmentNot Selected
Steps towards Peace between Palestine and IsraelNot Selected
International Development – Selected
Acting on the Russia Report – Selected
Sign the TreatyNot Selected
TurkeyNot Selected

Political and Constitutional Reform

Defending and Advancing DemocracyNot Selected


Call for a reassessment of the HS2 projectNot Selected

Work, Social Security and Pensions

Stand up for Unpaid Carers – Selected
Supporting Unpaid Carers in the 21st CenturyNot Selected

Business Motions

Giving Members the Right Not to Stand a Parliamentary CandidateNot Selected
Beveridge 2 – Plan Within a Social ContractNot Selected
Selection of new Liberal Democrat Life PeersNot Selected

Constitutional Amendments

Changes to the Role of Vice-President – In order
Amending the Complaints Procedure – In order

* Nick Da Costa is Chair of the Federal Conference Committee

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  • Health and Social Care :
    “Beveridge 2.0 – Building a National Care Service – Not Selected”……..
    “Beveridge 2 – Plan Within a Social Contract – Not Selected”.

    A real shame and needs to be explained. Katharine Pindar and Michael Berwick-Gooding have put a tremendous amount of work into this and deserve better.

  • Would have liked to see Beveridge 2.0 go through and at least be debated based on what I have read about it.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jan '21 - 12:09am

    Thanks very much, David. Michael and I have just been discussing it, but since we haven’t yet had the courtesy of being informed personally about our non-selection, we have not yet got their reasoning. However, we will not be giving up on the Beveridge-2 Plan within a Social Contract. It has won the approval of a fair few Lib Dem members now, and we contend that it is needed as a response and a renewal for the country after Covid 19.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jan '21 - 12:12am

    Thank you, Sean. This is a project which is living and will be forwarded now in other ways.

  • Joseph Bourke 19th Jan '21 - 1:30am

    The Economy and Tax motion choice is a little surprising:

    Supporting Businesses, Workers and the Self-Employed in the COVID-19 pandemic – Selected
    Fairer Share – Reform of Council Tax and Abolition of Stamp Duty Land Tax – Not Selected

    We already have a motion passed last year for Universal basic income https://www.libdems.org.uk/a20-ubi that specifically recognises “During the coronavirus epidemic, millions of people have fallen through the cracks in the government’s financial support.”

    The Fairer Share campaign https://fairershare.org.uk/ has gained significant support among progressive organisations and over 100,000 signatures to its petition.

    Torsten Bell at the Resolution foundation tweets “Sunday Times reports Chancellor is considering scrapping stamp duty & council tax to replace them with an annual proportional charge based on property values. This is 1) the right thing to do 2) unlikely to be about raising taxes (revenue neutral at best) https://thetimes.co.uk/article/rishi-sunak-eyes-tax-rises-in-march-budget-gmd3qpmkb

    James Meadwway, (former Economics SpAD to John McDonnell): https://twitter.com/meadwaj/status/1350751776258072577 writes ” Political challenges for left are: (1) if default setting is Tories=austerity, you need to update this; (2) if Labour trying to avoid talking about wealth taxes, Tories can outflank them.”

    Generation rent writes “This is very promising – Treasury is looking at property tax reforms that @FairerShare has been leading calls for. Currently council tax penalises renters and owners of cheaper homes – wealthier should be paying more” https://twitter.com/KennyFarq/status/1350753242385362945

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jan '21 - 8:57am

    Katharine, I am sorry to see that your motion was not selected. And it is not too good that you were not informed before the motions were made public. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why was your motion submitted as a business motion? Isn’t it really a policy motion? Is it possible that submitting it as a policy motion might give it a better chance next time?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jan '21 - 9:25am

    Nick, I know this point has been made before, but it would be good if we could be given more information about the motions that were not selected – what they were about, and the reasons why they were not selected

  • suzanne fletcher 19th Jan '21 - 9:48am

    Deeply upset and disturbed at the non selection of “sign the treaty”. I have seen the reasons why, and just to say here that i wish there were a way that ideas and principles for motions to be worked on with FCC so that they can be presented in an acceptable form. the same could be said of the Berevidge ones’s. I haven’t seen them or been involved in any way, or seen reasons for rejection, but as a party it would have been very good to have had a debate on such.

  • Matt Severn 19th Jan '21 - 9:53am

    14 policy motions is far too many to be discussing. Conference spends too much time in policy debates and not nearly enough time sharing and learning how to make progress and win.

  • The whole business of having a national committee deciding what can and cannot be debated is very 1988. It is always going to cause rows with certain issues being deliberately kept off the agenda.

    These days organising an email consultative ballot of members is perfectly feasible and straightforward. Trade unions do it all the time. Why not try it for conference motions? It might have the added benefit of producing motions that are better drafted and better informed.

    The conference Committee could always reserve for itself the right to select some motions (1 or 2) if they think key issues might be overlooked.

  • suzanne fletcher 19th Jan '21 - 10:34am

    @Matt Severn – a fair point, but winning to do what?
    Getting seats at whatever level is of course what we are about, work hard for, and do. but it concerns me that winning is becoming an objective in itself.
    What is pertinent is what we actually DO with our policy.
    For starters it needs to be taken account of by parliamentarians. the situation changes all the time, but there is plenty in there for them to fall back on, but without mentioning any names or even themes it has often appeared that not only those elected, but researchers and our media department have no idea about what some of our policies have to say.
    A lot of work goes into developing a policy, working up a policy motion, getting support, getting it onto the agenda, having the debate.
    But then what?
    It isn’t a priority to get it published on the website for reference to it for those who have campaigned to be able to promote.
    Nobody takes the time to write the policy into bite sized chunks to make accessible and publish. Well hardly anyone. I have spent lots of time doing this with asylum and refugee policies from policy papers and motions agreed at conference. It takes a lot of time to do and get onto a readable document, but it can be done.
    On a website it can then be quoted time and time again. Or at least could be.
    We could do with a debate at conference on what we do with our policy when we have made it ( apart from some bits appearing in a manifesto every general election).

  • Nick da Costa 19th Jan '21 - 11:07am

    Some responses to the above comments, and thank you for your engagement with the report.

    @Katherine Pindar – apologies, my intent to publish this report when it has been feedback to me that everyone received their feedback regarding their motions selection/non-selection. I thought I had received an update from all involved. So please accept my apologies in this regard. If you have not had your feedback yet, please do drop me a line at [email protected] and I will chase up for you.

    @Catherine Jane Crosland – Usually the feedback (i.e. reason for non-selection) has not been published (apart from in the case of constitutional amendments which are ruled either in order or out of order), this has – in part – been to avoid people being embarrassed if the policy motion submitted has not been of good quality or not drafted well. I was previously in favour of not sharing this feedback publicly, as we do get motions submitted that have not taken advantage of drafting advice and thus are not good motions for debate. Increasingly, motions like this have become less and less, and I have changed my mind on the matter (i.e. about publishing the reason for non-selection – or at least a summarised reason for non-selection.) I will bring it to the next FCC meeting for discussion on the matter.

    On the topic of drafting advice – this is something that the FCC offer before the motions submission deadline, and something that I highly recommend (and actually I enjoy doing.) If you are thinking of submitting a motion, then please do take advantage of the service – even if it is signposting to relevant people within the party who can help, or help flesh out the ideas/topics of the motion. Unfortunately, deadlines after the motion selection deadline mean that we cannot offer drafting advice to motions already submitted – as the agenda needs to be published so people can start thinking of and developing their amendments.

    @Matt Severn. Regarding your comment – this is why we have an extensive fringe and training programme available at the online conference too – which will give lots of opportunities in this regard. The agenda and directory will be published soon (I have not got a date to hand), and you will be able to see what is available.

    Naturally, I also recommend visiting the exhibition too!

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Jan '21 - 12:33pm

    Catherine, thank you for your support, but ours was definitely a business motion, asking the party to set up a Commission. Michael Berwick-Gooding and I had sent in an earlier business motion on Beveridge-2 last autumn, and the reason for rejection was then the irrational one that it did not contain new policy. It was not meant to (we knew a policy motion concerning welfare would be rejected anyway, because it had been discussed the previous year), and neither is this one! We had given detailed explanatory notes with the current motion. It is a great shame that it has not been selected.

    Nick da Costa, I have now sent you an email as you suggest. That we did not receive feedback on Sunday, or at worst on Monday morning, is disgraceful. Our motion was sent in by me on behalf of my local party, Copeland and Workington, also by Michael on behalf of his Basingstoke constituency, and by him again with the names of ten supporters. This motion had massive support, and FCC do not even treat us all with respect. Please also spell my name correctly.

    Suzanne, I know you made huge efforts to gain widespread support for your own excellent motion. It seems that FCC lives in a private plastic bubble that hundreds of Lib Dem members hammer at but cannot gain entry to. Commiserations.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jan '21 - 1:04pm

    Katharine, thanks for your reply. I haven’t seen your motion, so I know I can’t really tell, but I would just have thought that requesting a Commission on a specific policy – a new social contract – was within the category of “policy motion”. Business motions tend to be about things like changes to how the leader is elected, or how the regional parties are structured, or how candidates are selected – that sort of thing. It just might be an idea to consider making it a policy motion next time – but of course that’s absolutely up to you

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jan '21 - 1:11pm

    Nick, thanks for your reply. I understand that its important not to embarrass anyone, but you could just say something tactful like “we felt this motion would have benefited from drafting advice”.
    It does seem important, in the interests of transparency, that members should be able to see which motions are being rejected, and why. I am glad to hear that you are now in favour of this, and that you are going to bring this up at the next committee meeting

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Jan '21 - 1:55pm

    Suzanne, I had signed the “sign the Treaty” motion, and was sorry to see it rejected. I feel that we will need to different sort of anti nuclear weapons motion next time, with less focus on the treaty, and more focus on the reasons why the party should oppose nuclear weapons – human rights reasons, environmental reasons etc

  • Paul Barker 19th Jan '21 - 2:04pm

    The Elephant in this Room is that We spend far too much time & energy developing detailed Policy that We dont need & Voters have little interest in.
    What we should be doing is clarifying our Principles & finding ways to make them understandable to potential Voters.

  • Apologies, I missed 1 from Worcestershire.

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '21 - 3:20pm

    @Paul Barker “What we should be doing is clarifying our Principles & finding ways to make them understandable to potential Voters.”
    I agree, but I think it’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, and often its the implementation of those principles in policies that makes them understandable.

    Those principles can be rather abstract and broad-brushed, whether it’s the oft-quoted commitment to “building and safeguarding a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” or the prominent invitation to “build a greener, fairer, more caring Britain” on the party website. There’s nothing unique about those principles per se; no political rivals will be calling for the opposite.

    It’s the policies that put the flesh on the bones of those principles and values, demonstrating how the party wants to deliver its vision and what are its priorities. And I think that this is more important for a party of the centre: being to the left or the right, we can usually predict where Labour and the Tories will stand in any debate, but it is less obvious which side of the fence Lib Dems will lean towards.

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '21 - 3:34pm

    suzanne fletcher “A lot of work goes into developing a policy, working up a policy motion, getting support, getting it onto the agenda, having the debate. But then what?”
    From the outside, I don’t know whether it makes me feel better or worse to know that someone on the inside has the same concerns!
    In recent years I’ve mentioned ad nauseum two particular conference votes (“abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools” and “ensure that selection in admissions on the basis of religion or belief to state-funded schools is phased out”) that have failed so far to make it into two manifestos or any statement I’ve seen from the party. How can I be sure whether or not they’re party policy, especially when one looks like it goes against the party’s apparently official position on grammar schools? And how would I even know about them if I didn’t spend too much of my time on this site?

  • I agree with Paul Barker about the elephant in the room – too much time and energy is spent developing policies of little interest to anyone.

    I also agree with Peter Watson that statements of principle so abstract and anodyne that few would disagree have negligible value.

    We should be in the middle ground and the necessary starting place for that is a broadly agreed analysis of where things are going wrong, digging deep to find the prime causes, and not getting side-tracked by symptoms. Rather than spend too much time working up detailed policies on this or that which we will never get close to enacting, we should focus on understanding what is causing so much unhappiness and inequality. Why, for example, is the economy not delivering for everyone?

    With a coherent analysis of the underlying problems the policy objectives more or less write themselves; together they form a convincing political platform. And we could use that platform to, so to speak, beat up the government when they do the wrong things. Detailed policies only need to follow on later as they will necessarily be subject to events, political horse-trading and so on which is a job for the MPs and one which party committees, however talented and dedicated they may be, cannot do.

    Farage did exactly this, never wasting time on detailed policy but instead working to convince people of his analysis, namely that the EU was their problem and that it is a hostile force dedicated to stealing the control they felt leaching away. The solution flowed directly from that – Leave.

    That was a nonsensical analysis, of course, as many, including the fishermen he so shameless exploited, are discovering. Just imagine what a good analysis could do for the country!

  • Denis Mollison 20th Jan '21 - 9:41am

    Thanks to Nick for giving us some feedback, but we need a much more informed and inclusive process.
    My guess from the above is that the FCC are showing a tendency to play safe, supporting motions that will be so widely supported that frankly we don’t need them, and excluding ones that might prove controversial.
    But one can’t judge without seeing them all.

    A few months ago we had an online Policy Forum (was it called that?) where any individual member could make suggestions. It was completely unfocused: in my own areas of interest the same suggestion only slightly differently worded came up multiple times.

    Why don’t we instead use the Policy Forum structure to gauge interest in potential conference motions? Draft motions (preferably in short form)
    could be posted, requiring the usual level of support (x members / local party/parties /AO); ideally comments might be monitored by a supporter of the draft and a member of FCC.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Jan '21 - 10:56am

    Having finally received the feedback on why the Beveridge-2 Plan within a Social Contract was not selected for debate, authors Michael BG and myself learn that the party is just not prepared to accept so wide-ranging a theme put forward by ordinary members. It is apparently up to the Federal Policy Committee to initiate, though they have not after trawling for members’ ideas come up with any such overall plan. Michael and I will continue to further the Beveridge-2 Plan and Social Contract in new ways, and ask our many supporters to stay involved.

    Meantime the party has a wide-ranging collection of new ideas or variants of old ideas to consider in March, which we shall no doubt enjoy doing.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '21 - 11:19am

    Katharine, I’m sorry to hear that. You could try contacting the Federal Policy Committee directly to suggest it, perhaps?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 20th Jan '21 - 11:27am

    Katharine, I do get the feeling that motions from ordinary members tend to get selected only if they are about some quite narrow and specific area of policy. I suppose Beveridge 2 would cover several different policy areas – welfare, housing, education, employment etc. But we are often told that we – the members- make policy, and this should include the “wide-ranging themes” too. I feel that what the party rather lacks right now is a “theme”

  • Denis Mollison 20th Jan '21 - 12:24pm

    Catherine: 100% agree. We should be discussing big themes.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jan '21 - 12:49pm


    You are reacting so constructively, as a result of a really awful negative response to the excellent work you and Michael BG are trying to do. I can say that the reason is elitist, and not a surprise. Unless the party is changed it cannot offer to bring change.


    You know as you hear me say it, this site, this party, cannot cope with other than narrow themes or specific tirades. Anything broad and deep, forget it.

    It is little wonder Norman Lamb and others felt left out. It is not even about the EU, Beveridge 2, is about the essence of this party’s climb back.

    I say it again. There is a pandemic and yet parties talk of pubs!!!!!!!!!!

  • David Garlick 20th Jan '21 - 1:54pm

    Deeply Disappointing List with the environment, Beverage 2 big missed opportunites.

    Nothing to disturb the jounalists, political commentators or indeed the voting public.


  • neil James sandison 20th Jan '21 - 2:02pm

    nick da costa looking at the motions selected you seem to have gone for some nice white safe middle class items that would not frighten the voters prior to any elections we may or may not face this spring . I appreciate the timing of this conference enables the Liberal Democrats to show case the party prior to those elections but these motions are so passive they look timid and uninspiring why would anyone vote for us . I am particularly disappointed to see the Beveridge 2 report sidelined again because it was ideal for further member consultation and engagement and I believe reflected the real heart and soul of what is left of this party .Think again.

  • Nigel Jones 20th Jan '21 - 2:25pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland’ that Beveridge 2 covers different policy areas is a reason why it SHOULD BE DEBATED. I am getting more and more frustrated with party heirarchy that cannot see the need for dealing with the big broad interlinked issues that affect people’s lives.
    Detailed policy debate is for our MPs, though I must say that given the limited influence we have in Parliament, should we be spending so much time and effort on that, when what we really need is to communicate with the general public ?
    Another factor might be that (as I have been told before) FCC and FPC do not like motions from ordinary members that would give more work to be done by party groups or committees.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Jan '21 - 10:01pm

    Catherine, Lorenzo, Denis, David, Neil, Nigel – thank you all, it is heartening to read so much support for the party taking up big themes like the Beveridge-2 Plan within a Social Contract. The question is, how to harness the support, which has also been enhanced by several local constituency groups accepting the motion, and by a few Scottish Lib Dems and some members of the Social Liberal Forum doing so as well. I would dearly love for there to be a loose association of Lib Dem supporters of Beveridge-2 (you have almost created it here, maybe we should approach LDV editors!) rather than just looking for some major party figure to take it up. That said, not only the party leader, but also the party welfare spokesperson, and the party leader in the Lords, Dick Newby, could be approached.

    Following up ideas from Catherine here and Neil on an earlier thread, perhaps since there is to be no Commission we might ask FPC to set up a working group to produce an overarching Beveridge-2 report, bringing in progressive politicians and academics from outside the party, as envisaged for the Commission. Michael and I had better write another article! Do we need another closed Facebook or What’s App group? Do ask the LDV editors for my email address if you would like to discuss all this in that way. Many thanks to you all.

  • Well done Katharine for your persistence and campaigning zeal on what is, with Climate Change, the most compelling issue facing our country. Second, don’t give up. If the Party had more people with your principles and priorities it would not be in the situation it finds itself in today. What you have been campaigning for represents the very best of the Liberal tradition.

    The Party aims to be, and should be, inclusive in order to understand and relate to a divided modern society so full of inequalities. It needs to be representative of all areas and parts of society throughout the UK. FCC should ask whether its own make up (two thirds London and Home Counties) fulfils that criteria and enable it to understand the needs of a much divided UK 2021. This is deeper and more profound than what is often described as ‘identity politics’.

  • neil James sandison 21st Jan '21 - 9:36am

    Katherine Pindar lets not give up hope or be dependent on the great and good to make our case for Beveridge 2 Set up a facebook/ social media profile group with moderators and lets plan to get it onto the Autumn conference agenda in spite of the establishment .
    Can we lobby on a friendly stall at this conference ? . Perhaps SLF would allow you space for a discussion pamphlet .You are on the right track your motion would have enabled substantive member engagement and we should not be afraid to promote this over arching social contract with the people as a USP for the Liberal Democrats .

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Jan '21 - 11:17am

    Beveridge-2 Plan within a Social Contract will rise again! Thank you very much for your encouragement and kind words, David, and for your encouragement and suggestions, Neil. Facebook is not my natural medium, but I can give it a go. Perhaps you can help on that? Presence at Conference will be important, and we are hopeful of having a fringe meeting there, which we will pursue with our SLF contacts. Cheerful thoughts for an unexpectedly sunny morning!

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Jan '21 - 2:29pm

    Perhaps it is time to extend our democratic principles to policy motions. They could be available to Party members and Registered Supporters prior to being considered by FCC. Members could indicate their support for particular polices so the committee is aware of this prior to deciding.

  • Katharine and I did consider that setting up a Beveridge Group might be the way to pursue getting the party to take on a Beveridge-2 plan within a social contract. However, I believe this will take a long time to achieve. As we felt the time was right for a Beveridge-2 plan we decided not to setup a group but try to get the party to take up the issue. With FCC’s rejection of our motion it seems that they will never consider selecting it for debate in its overarching form. We need to persuade Federal Policy Committee to take it up, but I don’t believe this will be easy as the consultation paper which came out of the decision to talk about a Beveridge 2 did not set out what it wanted to achieve in terms of ending five social ills we face today comparable with the five Beveridge talked about in the 1940’s.

    If you are interested in getting involved in a Beveridge Group and you have registered on the members’ forum please send me a message there. My user name is Michael. You should be able to find me by clicking on “members”, then “find a member” and enter “Michael” in username. You should then have “Michael” at the bottom. If you click on Michael you can check it is me and then click on “pm” to send me a private message.

    James Moore,

    I agree with you that the FCC should not be selecting all the motions we debate at conference. I think some should be selected by the Committee and some by those attending conference.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Jan '21 - 10:48pm

    Peter Hirst, that is an admirable idea. But it seems that the Federal Conference Committee will decide on what is going to be debated regardless of any strength of feeling among members. Their response to Michael and I sending in the Beveridge-2 motion three times, once with the support of Michael’s Basingstoke constituency and once with the backing of my Copeland and Workington constituency, plus the third from ten individual members, was apparently to lose my submission! One FCC person was given the motion, consulting with who knows whom, and replied, until indignantly asked for the response to me, only to Michael.

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