How to get the most out of Conference – key deadline coming up

Every year I swear I’m going to read all the Conference papers in good time, carefully craft speeches before Conference begins and be well prepared. I’d sort my diary well ahead of time so I knew what I’d be doing and when.

Every year the reality is somewhat different. For in-person conferences, I’d be reading the papers and motions and writing speeches on the train on the way down, having panic-thrown every item of clothing I possess into a suitcase to take with me. I suspect that I may be far from unique in this.

This year’s Conference begins in just 17 days’ time. You can find all the papers, including reports from the party’s committees, and policy papers on subjects such as the nature of public debate, federalism, universal basic income, tackling the climate emergency and what Liberal Democrats believe here.

There are several ways you can participate in Conference. The first is to make a speech in any of the debates that you are interested in. If that sounds daunting, just pick a paragraph in any of the motions and try and think of three points to make about it. You don’t have to take up all the time. In fact, the Chair of the debate will probably thank you if you don’t, because they will fit more people in.

The second is to propose an amendment to a motion. If you think a motion doesn’t quite go far enough, or calls for the wrong things, or misses something out, you can submit an amendment. Federal Conference Committee then chooses which amendments to put forward in the debate. The deadline for doing that is next Monday, 6th September, at 1 pm.

The third is to ask a question. Each of the party committees has produced a report and you might want to ask a question about it which the Committee’s chair will have to answer. For example, the party has a new Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, so you might want to ask the chair of the Federal People Development Committee about how that is going to operate and what it plans to achieve.

What generally happens is that questions are printed in the Conference Extra and when the Chair answers, you then get the chance to ask a follow-up question. This is a really important part of our internal democracy – holding to account those in positions of power.

The Parliamentary Parties also submit written reports and their Chief Whips answer questions, so if you want to find out more about how the party’s position on Afghanistan for the recall of Parliament was arrived at, for example, you can ask them.

The sooner you prepare for Conference, the more serene and unfrazzled your experience will be. Take it from one who knows.

So, spend some time this week reading the papers, thinking about potential amendments and crafting questions. Then submit them here before 1pm on Monday, 6th September.

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

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