Interview with the new Chair of Federal Conference Committee – Geoff Payne – Part 1 of 3

Members at a conference
Congratulations on being elected the new FCC Chair

Thank you! It is a really exciting job to have; one of the very best in the party.


What changes do you think that Andrew Wiseman brought to the FCC as Chair?

Andrew was a great chair.  He steered us through the immediate pre-coalition period, though the years we were in government and then the period of re-building afterwards.  He oversaw increases in attendance, vast increases in commercial revenue from 2010 and more recently the attendance of huge numbers of new members at conference.  One of the most significant changes that he successfully navigated us through was the abolition of conference representatives and the move to one member, one vote.  He will be a very hard act to follow.


What attracted you to put yourself forward to be Chair of FCC as compared to another representative body of the LD?

The simple answer is that I love party conference.  We are unique in having a conference that actually makes the policy of the party.

Any member, from a person who joined just a few weeks ago, to the Leader can submit a motion to the conference and make a case for it being passed. All votes are equal.  Success depends on the power of argument and the strength of the idea.  The same goes for individual motions on particular issues, wide-ranging policy papers and indeed election manifestos.

The FCC plays an incredibly important role in refereeing conference, ensuring debates are fair and selecting an agenda that is interesting, varied and which contains things that members actually want to talk about.

We have a great committee comprised of members elected from across the party.  It is a real privilege to be its chair


Obvious question – although it can be considered a little harsh – what do you bring to FCC as Chair;

I hope I bring experience of how the conference works – having attended pretty much solidly since 2001 and having been Vice-Chair of the FCC since 2010.  I have been a regular at the Access Forum and I have also chaired some of the more difficult debates in recent times (Israel/Palestine, All Women Shortlists, the new disciplinary processes – including one where a reference back was carried on a counted vote by just one solitary vote…).

I also understand how different parts of the Party work having joined in 1994 and campaigned in many seats since then.  I was chair of Liberal Youth, and I have been a Parliamentary candidate, Parliamentary Researcher, member of English Council Executive and long-standing member of Federal Policy Committee.


What is your vision for FCC:-

a) Spring Conference (as it is not making too much money)

b) Autumn Conference

You are right to identify that there are challenges around Spring Conference.  I have no plans to spearhead an FCC campaign to abolish it though.  I think that it is very important that party members have the opportunity to debate policy and hold party officers and committees to account and once a year is not enough for that.  It is also no secret however that we must make every penny of party money count. In recent years, the subsidy provided to Spring Conference by Autumn Conference has reduced such that excluding staff and office costs, it is has been in the black of late.  However, there is more to be done and it is more important than ever that we go the extra mile to attract commercial exhibitors, sponsors and every party member we can to attend.

Autumn Conference is our flagship event and offers our shop window to the world; showing people not only what our policies are but how we go about deciding them.  My vision for Autumn Conference is to ensure that we have radical, interesting and engaging agendas that people want to talk about and that we make it a really rewarding experience for members.

In our feedback, the overwhelming majority of attendees (over 95% usually) say that conference makes them proud to be a Liberal Democrat and more enthused to campaign for the party.  I want to continue achieving feedback like that!  Joking aside, it does demonstrate that conference is an investment in party members just as much as it is an investment in the image we project to the outside world.


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

Read more by .
This entry was posted in Interviews and Op-eds.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael 1 22nd Mar - 6:32am
    Stonking result in Durham - congrats to the team there. I thought we might see a fall in vote share given that we had increased...
  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 22nd Mar - 6:27am
    Glenn, but all structures of wealth generation and security provision are international, mostly global. If you carve yourself out of them, your national vote has...
  • User AvatarRoland 22nd Mar - 2:34am
    @matt >"What about the Millions of youth unemployed across the EU, who have been forced to leave their families, friends and communities, due to this...
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 22nd Mar - 2:17am
    Will supporters be shown on the Salesforce membership system?
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 22nd Mar - 2:13am
    We should not confuse being better educated and well spoken with being well off - some are poor. Conversely, some poorly educated, poorly spoken and...
  • User AvatarRoland 22nd Mar - 1:08am
    @Peter Martin - "I don’t know if my opinion would be typical of most Leavers but I’d rather remain in the EU than accept May’s...