How many failed the conference security checks?

Before conference there were lots of pieces here on Lib Dem Voice about the new security hurdles over which people wanting to attend conference would have to jump. There was the occasional piece defending the new arrangements, but most were pretty hostile.

I am not usually one to pick at scabs, but I thought that once the dust had settled on conference season I would ask each of the police forces responsible for security at the three main conferences for some hard numbers. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act I did just that.

What were the figures for the Lib Dem conference? West Midlands Police told me that 6,550 people were approved by them and three failed their checks (a failure rate of 0.05%). Of those three, the party allowed one in anyway (making the failure rate 0.03%).

How does that compare with the other parties? Well, according to Merseyside Police, 11,580 people were approved to attend the Labour conference, meeting in Liverpool the week after us. Twenty-five people were however refused (a failure rate of 0.22%).

Greater Manchester Police gave me slightly more detail for the Conservative conference. In total, 12,337 people were approved following checks. That’s made up of 10,754 delegates, 1,388 ancillary workers (staff at the conference hotels and the like, I am guessing) and 195 security personnel. Twenty four people failed: five delegates, 15 ancillary workers and four security personnel (a failure rate of 0.19%). Oddly therefore the highest failure rate was amongst security staff.

Presumably, police checks are the same whatever the constabulary. The checks made on people who might bump into the Deputy Prime Minister or another member of the Cabinet are surely at least as tight as those on people who might happen across Ed Miliband. It is a puzzle therefore why we do so much better, with a failure rate of a quarter of the other two parties. Any ideas?

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  • Stuart Bonar Caron Lindsay 5th Dec '11 - 10:45am

    I’d back up that argument about those who didn’t submit themselves to the checks for good reason.

    And how do we know that these two people were not unfairly denied access to Conference? We could have done them a huge injustice. Just because our failure rates are lower than the other parties does not validate the decision to use that procedure.

  • You could make a rational case that this balance between competing liberties (admission vs. saving lives) is the best one, but that would be very different from saying that the comparative rarity makes an injustice less problematic.

    Of course, Stuart does not dismiss whatever injustices did occur in his plain statement of the facts, but his numbers are simply irrelevant to anyone considering justice rather than statistics.

    It would seem odd, however, for liberals to celebrate an injustice simply because it is comparatively rare, and hence I am not sure what editorial insight these numbers can ever offer to a moral question.

  • >> It is a puzzle therefore why we do so much better, with a failure rate of a quarter of the other two parties. Any ideas?

    Outliers? An entirely plausible explanation when dealing with such small values.


  • Simon McGrath 5th Dec '11 - 8:58pm

    @Gareth “Honestly, Stuart, raking over these old coals is a pretty lazy and ill-directed attempt at toadying.”
    What an unpleasant comment. Who is Stuart toadying to?

    It is not clear that there is any way the Party can deal with the transsexual issue which as I understand it, is that any checks run the risk of revealing their previous status and this putting them at risk. But certainly the FCC should work with the LBGT to see if there are any changes within their power to make or get made.

  • @Gareth

    Presumably you accept the need for some sort of security screening.

    For the benefit of those of us unfamiliar with the detailed workings of and arguments about the system, what was the issue?

  • Maureen Rigg 6th Dec '11 - 8:30am

    I am interested in Gareth’s comment that the same system will not be used in the North East. If there are details of how the system is different then I wish they were more readily available. It would be helpful in encouraging more members to attend. I certainly didn’t feel that we were “all here” in September. There seemed to be far fewer people than usual in the hall for major debates and set piece speeches.

  • @Maureen “There seemed to be far fewer people than usual in the hall for major debates and set piece speeches.”

    Most likely reason for that is the strength of the fringe programme. As a voting rep there were main hall sessions I felt morally obliged to attend, when otherwise I would have been at a fringe event.

    I think the cost of trains, petrol and hotels will have put off 100s more people than having to fill in a security form. But I’m curious to know what the security issue was as I don’t recall there being anything untoward on the form. What was the discrimination issue?

  • Jack Holroyde 6th Dec '11 - 10:24am

    @Caracatus ” It could be argued that had the checks not been in place, dozens of undesirables may have turned up.”

    They’re called Liberals.

    To all, sorry I let the side down – I’ve got a record of refusing to obey authority, a record of refusing to co-operate with the police force that shoots people in the head, takes bribes from Murdoch and kills protesters.

    I wanted to come to conference to discuss this, but there’s no way I’m kneeling before a bunch of corrupt, murderous, contemptuous bastards asking to be let in.
    For me, thats what being a LibDem is about, refusing to kneel down to those who abuse power.

  • Sorry if I’m being slow but I still don’t understand the LGBT discrimination issue, could someone clarify? Many thanks in advance.

    Aside from that I agree with Maria – the numbers while interesting are pretty meaningless without knowing the reasons behind any rejections. 100 people turned away due to legitimate and demonstrable security concerns would be acceptable (albeit surprising!) but a single person turned away for capricious or petty reasons would not. Until we know why the 3 people were deemed a risk how are we supposed to form an opinion? I’d be especially interested to know on what grounds the 3rd person failed the checks and why the party overruled the police in his/her case.

    And I’d say Alec’s correct – sample error is probably more than enough to explain differences between us and the other 2 main parties.

  • Catherine, you aint the only one who doesn’t understand the LGBT angle.

    >> They’re called Liberals.

    I daresay Tim Worstall would be surprised to hear his economic views described according to the laundry list you go on produce. I’m interested, d’you support the NHS and State education and welfare payments and so on?

    I cannot see how being able to attend a Party conference without restriction is a fundamental democratic right . A functioning political Party should definitely provide these, but to consider as above implies that those of us who don’t attend them – either through choice, or restrictions such as distance – are missing-out from civil society.

    We aint.



  • Fair enough, Andrew; although it sounds a matter with potentially out-of-date legislation which the Police are bound by. Was it a genuine issue? Or, as Catherine said, it is meaningless to discuss maybes and possibilities without having access to more data? Maybe that was why the Party over-ruled the decision to refuse access to one person.

    Genuine question, where does Nigel Jones stand on these security checks?


  • Simon Titley 6th Dec '11 - 3:18pm

    How ironic. The banner ad at the foot of this post invited me to “Date a policewoman”.

  • Mmmm, Simon.


  • Jack Holroyde 6th Dec '11 - 3:34pm

    Re; Trans issues – delving into people’s pasts is not a way to greatly endear oneself to a trans person.
    The police would find no records of a persons existence before their transition -what to make of such a thing? Deed polls have to be declared for a CRB check, and a lot of us want their past identities to stay in the past.

    Alec, I was joking about liberals being undesirable. Ho. Ho. Ho.

    The point still stands that a corrupt police force doesn’t have my consent to police, let alone rifle through my personal records.

  • The issues surroundings trans’ difficulties sounds as if it relates to lack of recognition for this status in wider legislation. Not the Police.

    ==> Alec, I was joking about liberals being undesirable. Ho. Ho. Ho.

    I didn’t say you weren’t. I did say that your understanding of what it means to be a Liberal seems ad hoc, to say the least.

    ==> The point still stands that a corrupt police force doesn’t have my consent to police, let alone rifle through my personal records.

    Corrupt by whose opinion? Judicial reviews, criminal investigations… yours? You presented a manufactured list of grievances, including unfounded allegations (which officers exactly have been shown to have accepted bribes?) and at least one of which can be dismissed out of hand (Pc Simon Harwood was arrested by his own colleagues, and now is on trial).

    Once again, where d’you stand on the NHS, State education, welfare payments and so on?

    I have an acquaintance who is a health care professional and a former patient of Harold Shipman. The above-average death rate at his surgery and his penchant for recreational use of pharmaceutical drugs was, shall we say, not a secret.

    Yet his NHS colleagues ultimately tolerated him. And there are many other attested cases of malpractice resulting in deaths (as opposed to his specifically murderous activities) which have been allowed to go on in the NHS.

    Based on your reasoning that all Police everywhere are culpable for the individual examples you gave, so too should all NHS doctors and nurses be considered callous bastards for allowing the above to continue. See how ridiculous and petulant you sound?


  • Sorry if I’m missing the blindingly obvious, but why would the police have the faintest interest in whether someone’s undergone gender reassignment? Have I missed something? I can’t see any reason they’d care less, unless the individual would have failed security checks under her or his previous identity.

  • ==> especially with the question of personal NHS data being sold to private companies spotlighting its’ continuing relevance.

    As has been bashed out in said thread, the attempt to present this in terms of selling data to private health care providers is immediately refutable.


  • Ian Eiloart 7th Dec '11 - 8:53am

    Actually, your question can’t be addressed from the figures given. You’d have to have the same breakdown as for the Tories, given that the delegate rate is so much lower than the staff rate. And, even then, you can’t (as a rule of thumb) do statistics on expected numbers of four or lower.

    The staff rates may well have varied wildly between the venues, since (a) they were in different cities, and (b) the venues and local security companies themselves may have different checks when employing staff. If we’ve done anything different here, perhaps it’s being more careful about selecting private security companies.

  • Orangepan, as I’ve said here and on the thread dedicated to the sale of medical data, civil liberties in a LibDem context seems to be a amazing technicolour dream coat y’all wear. It has all of the spangly bits about not deferring to authority, but none of the difficult corners of, say, paying taxes to fund State benefits or the NHS and providing a cost-effective way of monitoring abuses of said services.

    Jack still hasn’t responded to my question of his views on soft-services like benefits or the NHS, so I only can speculate on them. To be frank, however, it’s quite likely though that he expects full non-Liberal State intevention in the form of generous benefits and so on, in contrast to his anarchist-like non-Liberal views on the Po-Po.

    He’s an oppositionist. He joined the Party when there was no chance of political power and every policy, no matter how bonkers, could be supported. Immediately on taking power with the responsibilities attached, he flees.

    If youse don’t want some form of ID card (the bloomin’ norm in post-industrial societies whether you admit it or not), then it should be assumed there’s going to be a lot of wastage with false claims ‘cos of difficulty. If that’s what youse want, that’s one thing… just say so!

    The Police and NHS/education/benefits are both arms of the State, and require some sacrifice of personal liberty to support them. Wanting full personal liberty from CCTV or ID cards or agents of the State such as the Police sits very oddly with the expectation of the subjugation of personal liberty through taxation for all the gratifying bits like free health care and university fees and so on. All in all, it reminds me of this little man.

    Not meaning to pick on Andrew Tennant – well, not here – but for all the amusement he brings, he does strike me as much closer to actual Liberalism than many of the plastic liberals who abound.

    >> The issue of security checks and the gossip surrounding them was the cause of much agitation for many members,

    I’m still very unclear on how it’s impacted on problematic cases like trans, but if information they provide is being passed on for tittle-tattle purposes – as opposed to entered on forms without discussion as we already do for passport applications or driver’s licenses – then it definitely is not on, and I hope the system is tightened up.


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