Lib Dem spring conference in York and coronavirus

We’re keeping under close review our plans for the York conference in the light of the spread of coronavirus. Based on the health advice from the NHS and government, along with that from York Council, there are no current plans to cancel the conference.

We will, however, be ensuring that those coming to conference are reminded of health advice, such as the need for regular hand washing and the circumstances under which people should self-isolate. Hand sanitizers will also be made widely available.

Obviously if the advice we receive changes, we may have to revisit these decisions as the health of our colleagues and our suppliers must come first. It would be a decision for the Federal Board to take.

The latest NHS advice is available here.

This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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This entry was posted in Party policy and internal matters.


  • Laurence Cox 4th Mar '20 - 8:42pm

    It’s time we thought about what the purpose of Conference is. The large majority of members don’t attend it, so that any motion passed there doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the membership. Just as companies are moving away from physical travel towards teleconferencing, we should be thinking about holding virtual conferences using technology such as online voting, as we already do for Party elections.

  • @Laurence Cox quite. Not to mention the carbon footprint. And the disenfranchisement of 98% of members.

  • Tony Greaves 4th Mar '20 - 9:10pm

    The primary purpose of conference is the gathering.

  • Spring conference is 13-15 March 2020 – today is the 5th…
    Given current advice and the rate at which the number of cases is increasing in the UK, commonsense says cancel.
    Go ahead and expect to garner negative publicity…

  • John Barrett 5th Mar '20 - 8:53am

    While I accept that the full impact coronavirus is as yet unknown, it is worth bearing in mind what the present impact of other causes of death in the UK are, before it is the reason for cancelling the conference next week.

    Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. Every year around 100,000 people in the UK die from smoking related problems. People at conference are free to smoke (outside the hall).

    The number of deaths each year due to alcohol use is around 20,000. Drinking is a major part of the social side of conference. It would not be conference without the social side of things.

    Obesity kills many hundreds of thousands of people each year yet over 50% of people at conference will probably be overweight or obese. Eating meals out and socialising is a significant part of the social side of conference.

    Looking at the bigger picture, there are many things everyone could do to live a much healthier life which would have a much bigger impact than the coronavirus in the UK this month, yet many people choose not to do so.

    Many years ago I ran a campaign to increase hand washing, as it was estimated that one in five people globally wash their hands after going to the toilet. An estimated 289,000 children under five die each year of diarrheal diseases directly caused by dirty water, poor sanitation and the inability to wash hands with soap. In the UK a significant proportion of people do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.

    The above examples do not in any way underestimate the impact of corona virus, but it is worth taking a look at the wider picture as well.

  • “using technology such as online voting, as we already do for Party elections.”

    I think the jury may be out a little on how well this works!

  • Pauline Spencer 7th Mar '20 - 5:09pm

    Unless government advice regarding large gatherings changes in the next few days it seems reasonable to proceed. However it will be important to wash/ sanitise hands regularly and avoid hand shakes and other close contact.Perhaps those over 70 and particularly those with chronic respiratory conditions need to consider staying away. You are not much good to the cause of liberal democracy in a box!

  • Michael Hall 9th Mar '20 - 10:03am

    I wonder when Conference Extra will be coming out. I thought it would be out today with only a few days to go before the Conference starts.

  • Can the Conference.

    It doesn’t seem sensible to go ahead with this conference in COVID-19 times. Putting hundreds of our most committed activists, from all corners of the country, in one place at one time is high-risk. These are people we can ill-afford to lose.

  • Can the Conference. Show the public that we have a sense of responsibility. Don’t look selfish, it’s not a good look.

  • I really think that we should cancel this conference. While the opportunity to get together with fellow Lib Dems is wonderful, on this occasion, as we have been in the past, we need show that we are ahead of the curve.

    Almost every other country in Europe is taking this problem much, much more seriously than Boris Johnson and the British establishment. We need to show once again that the Lib Dems are the adults in the room.

    Just as we were shown to be right on the 2008 Crash (Thanks Vince), and as more things go wrong are starting to be seen as being right on Brexit (if sadly electorally totally misguided), we can show ourselves to be right on this one as well.

    You never know, it might even become part of a strategy.

  • I take a packed tube and train to work you more likely to get ill that way , than at the conference and more likely a pollution related illness before you get the virus.

    However, I do think the responsible thing to do is to cancel the event, but people will be out of pocket in regards train tickets and hotel stays and any other expenses.

  • Read this Twitter thread about the Italian situation, and shudder.

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