How you can help send someone to party conference


Spring Conference is a good place to start for conference newbies. Next year it will be held in York from 11th to 13th March. It is shorter and considerably less confusing that the full-length conference in the Autumn, most people don’t have to take time off work, and accommodation costs for two nights are substantially less.

But for many members it is still very difficult to find or justify the cost of attending conference – registration fees, accommodation and travel all add up. So how can we make ‘one member one vote’ a reality for all members whatever their financial circumstances?

As a member of the Federal Conference Committee I have been convening a working group that is looking at financial inclusion at our conferences. Several actions have been taken already. This year the registration fee for first timers is pegged at £35 (compared with a full rate of £55), and the claimant rate is just £16 provided you register before 18th December. Helpful as it it, that doesn’t address the main costs of travel and accommodation, so we need to go further.

If you have registered  for York you will have been asked if you would like to contribute to the Access Fund, and we are very grateful to all members who have done so already. Very shortly you will be hearing about how members can apply for financial support from this fund to attend conference.  The number of people who will be able to benefit will, of course,  depend on the size of the fund, so do consider contributing if you can.

So what else can be done? Online train fares are at their lowest – and often ridiculously low – around 12 weeks before you travel, which for York will be 18th December. Or you could car share, or stay with members of the local party in York. You can share ideas and offers on a members-only Facebook group – just search for ‘Lib Dem conferences on a shoe string’.

And here is another suggestion. If your local party is at all active why not have an event to raise funds to send one of your members to York? You could cover the costs of travel, accommodation and registration, and could invite applications from students, unemployed, claimants etc – you decide on the criteria.

So let’s get a record number of members to York, especially first-timers, so we can all enjoy meeting, sharing, thinking, gossiping and whatever else goes on at a Lib Dem Conference.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Stephen Ruffian 7th Dec '15 - 7:07pm

    Or why not stream the debates etc online and allow members to vote? Some of us have both financialimitations and family commitments that will continue to prevent us from ever attending such things.

  • Zoe O'connell 7th Dec '15 - 7:36pm

    Stephen – Recent conferences have all been available online, via a live feed on the party web site.

    Federal Conference Committee is looking at the feasibility of remote voting at the moment. Hopefully we’ll have something more concrete to report back after we’ve discussed it at the next FCC meeting (23rd January) but the state of the art in this area appears poor to non-existent.

  • It floods frequently in York – whether by divine intervention or by gravitational precipitation I leave it to others to decide.

  • Stephen Ruffian 8th Dec '15 - 12:31am

    Thanks for that, Zoe. I’ll stop.complaining about that aspect, then! Honestly.Hadn’t known that was done. Good stuff.

    Now there must be some.way of.doing long distance voting…

  • Tom Snowdon 8th Dec '15 - 8:42am

    Stefan Ruffian is right. For me the great flaw with OMOV is that deciding policy falls to a self-selecting group of members who can afford the time and cost of attending conference. That, together with the geographic imbalance caused by the location of a particular conference, means that the voting members might not reflect the majority of local parties.
    If we continue with OMOV for policy decisions we must find a way for all members to be able to vote, electronically, remotely from the conference venue. If all members have the right to vote we must make sure they are able to vote.

  • Stephen and Tom – your views about remote voting under OMOV are well understood, and there may be a solution. It is a technical and possibly financial problem.

    But I assume people will still want to attend conference – it is an amazing experience, especially the first time – so we do need to look at ways to make it feasible for all those who want to attend to do so.

  • Stephen Ruffian 8th Dec '15 - 1:18pm

    Mary, as exciting as it might be to attend, for some of us it really is never going to feasible unless pretty major lifestyle changes come into play! I can’t imagine that many like me, with young families, are ever able to attend and get our voices heard, for example.

  • It might be worthwhile trying to establish how many members do not have access to the required technology for OMOV. Then solutions could be found, for example by having someone in each constituency who would be willing to share their technology and expertise to those without them.

  • I’m happy to support on-line voting from home.
    Being self employed and having a dog to care for, I just cannot get away. Getting a week’s holiday away is akin to a military exercise.
    Having been a member for 30 years now, please use the modern technology to allow OMOV to all members and not just the usual Conference followers. I’m sure you could put rules in place to ensure its only accessible to recognised party members with a code to access on-line.
    I would even say that maybe Conferences as we have known them for decades, need to radically change to meet the widespread use of modern day technology. Even video conferencing has been around for a while, now.

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