Interview with the new Chair of FCC – Geoff Payne – Part 3 of 3


Do we need to have more radical fringe meetings – i.e. Invite more thought provoking / radical guests to fringe meetings;

Yes! I would love to see more radical fringe meetings.  Without wishing to be seen to cop out though, I should add that FCC is not directly responsible for running the fringe.  We make the rooms available and promote the opportunities to book but we are dependent on party members and other bodies coming forward with radical ideas.  I would like to see more fringe meetings focussed around controversial items on the agenda.


Do you feel the different number and variety of training offered at the conference are satisfactory, if not what more could we do?

Training is very popular but, again, it is in a similar category to the fringe in that it is not directly provided or overseen by FCC.  I am aware though of concerns that not enough training can be accommodated at a conference.  What is provided however does receive very good feedback and I would welcome ideas as to how it could be improved further.


What will you and the party do to increase our media exposure when a conference is on?

Media exposure depends to an extent on how eye-catching our agenda is.  That is certainly something that we prioritise and can directly control.  The more interesting conference is, the better our coverage will be.

It is no secret though that our political position and polling determine our media profile rather more than anything FCC can do and that is something that the whole party will have to work hard to address.


What is your view do you feel are the areas of possible change going forward and why?

We must continue building the party from the bottom up.  We will do our part on FCC by making the conference as exciting and engaging for members as we can and by ensuring that we get the best coverage possible.

Part of building the sort of agenda we want is ensuring that we get a high quality of motions submitted.  To achieve that, we offer a drafting advice service whereby members can submit draft motions and receive advice on the drafts.  They all come to me and I distribute them to members of FCC: (

We need to ensure that diversity is at the forefront of everything we do.  We must make sure that the people we call in debates and those who chair conference are representative and reflective of modern Britain.

Embracing technology is also a must.  That means guaranteeing that conference is live streamed.  Expect a pilot around electronically submitted Speakers’ Cards in the future as well.


Do you have a clear understanding of what members think about Lib Dem conferences?

We have a pretty good idea.  We look carefully at what people feedback to us online after a conference and we obviously talk to people at the conference itself.   Party members generally do not hesitate in letting us know their views – and we really welcome that.

After every conference, we have a specific meeting where we go through the comments received from members in the online feedback, from the stewards and from party staff and spokespeople.   We have just finished going through the review of Southport.

We have acted on many of the comments received.  We pay particular attention to views about the venues, the balance between delate and non-debate items on the agenda and issues of access.  At Autumn Conference, we hold the Access Forum where people can come along and talk to us directly.  We are always interested in learning more though.

Do get in touch with us via the party website or connect to us via our Facebook page. Just search for ‘Liberal Democrat Federal Conference’.


Do you have any other thoughts about your roles a Chair of FCC not covered or anything else you may want to add / revisit?

Nothing other than to say that registration is open for Autumn Conference ( and to give one more plug for our ‘refer a friend’ scheme!

We are finalising arrangements with the two conference venues for next year and hope to announce them shortly. If anyone reading this is tempted to come to a conference but is worried about never having gone before then my message is to take the plunge!  It is well worth it.  There was a time that Vince Cable attended his first conference and Jo Swinson attended hers.  We were all first-time attendees once!  Come along. You will get a very warm welcome indeed.


Thank you, Geoff and Good luck, in this very important role.

My pleasure. And thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions.

* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team

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This entry was posted in Interviews and Op-eds.

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