Social Liberal Forum Conference. “Ownership and Democracy – where does Power lie?”

slflogoOn July 13th at a rearranged venue in the Central Manchester Friends Meeting House, we are organising the third annual Social Liberal Forum conference, in addition to the one in London on 1st June.

The overall theme will be “Ownership and Democracy – where does power lie?”.  I came up with the idea for this theme after attending an excellent fringe meeting organised by CentreForum at the 2012 Federal conference on “What is Cleggism?”. The debate included David Howarth’s contribution which you can watch on this video.

David Howarth made the point that whilst we all agree that Liberalism is about dispersing power, this is often not actually what we are doing in government. He gave one very interesting example, in a criticism of Richard Reeves’ Demos pamphlet, when he pointed out that Liberals should support a redistribution of wealth, because wealth concentrates power and Rupert Murdoch was cited as an example of that.

Since then I was struck by how at our party conference last year we supported a radical motion on industrial democracy, but once we returned to our constituencies we soon found that it was the Tories that were dominating government policy with their Beecroft report proposals about taking power away from workers.

So that invited the question: Where does the power lie? On this topic, not with us it seems! But more fundamentally, why would any worker want to support a government that takes away his or her rights? How do governments get away with doing this?

The question of power and how it is exercised is fundamental to politics and it is right therefore that this is the theme of our conference. One of the speakers we invited suggested this should be a weekend conference, and we would love to do if we could be confident that you would all like to attend for 2 days!

The conference starts with a session on the economy – the key test of the Coalition government’s record in office – and we are delighted that Vince Cable will be our speaker for this session.

Across the day we have concurrent sessions on industrial democracy, media ownership, empowering local communities, and the ownership of information. Speakers include Deborah Hargreaves from the High Pay Unit, Janice Turner, Evan Harris, Mark Pack and Gordon Lishman (co-author of the Theory and Practice of Community Politics). Other breakout sessions will consider mutualism in public services with Norman Lamb and redistributing wealth with Susan Kramer and David Howarth.

In the afternoon Steve Webb will give the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture. Steve has long been a friend of the Social Liberal Forum and whilst we are delighted about the pension reforms he has brought in, many of us are angry at the welfare cuts implemented by his department. We very much appreciate that he has agreed to speak to us on reforming the welfare state and the Q & A session should be interesting to say the least!

The final plenary will look at the overall theme of the conference, discussion by Prateek Buch, the Director of the Social Liberal Forum and author of the Keynsian inspired economic program “Plan C”,  and renowned economist Prof Mariana Mazzucato. Other conference speakers include the MPs John Leech and John Pugh.

The programme is being put together as I write, so there may be some changes and new speakers. We hope you find this programme as exciting as we do and we look forward to seeing you!  You can book a place here.

* Geoff Payne is the events organiser for Hackney Liberal Democrats

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10 Comments

  • Simon Beard 30th Apr '13 - 1:07pm

    Looks fantastice. However, in this context Quaker and Friends are synonims (Friends is the word Quakers use to describe themselves – Quakers is an 17th century instult that went a bit viral).

    Also Given that there are several Friends Meeting Houses (cf. Quaker Meeting Houses) you might like to call the building by its actual name – Central Manchester Friends Meeting House.

    Couldn’t think of a better place to discuss the radical redistribution of wealth and power though.

  • Geoffrey Payne 30th Apr '13 - 1:27pm

    Thank you for the correction, hopefully Mary can edit that in?
    Look forward to seeing you there!

  • Daniel Henry 1st May '13 - 11:04am

    But with unemployment being so high, and with people desperate for work, I’d say it’s an employer’s market right now. I reckon without employee protections then some employers would get away with treating workers really badly. (not all – I suspect that the majority wouldn’t abuse their power. But we shouldn’t even allow a minority to.)

  • andrew purches 1st May '13 - 11:14am

    A further aspect of this needs to be explored, and is something that has become very apparent whilst out canvassing: with more and more people having to live in very short term tenancies – no more than a year or two at best in most cases, we will be faced with an ever growing number of potential electors effectively denied the right to vote. The number of those short term tenants are too concerned with the inherent denial of stability in the way they have to exist,with or without any housing benefit, that the opportunity to register to vote comes a very distant way down any list of priorities.
    Without having any access to those in power through the ballot box means that an ever growing number of folk are effectively disenfranchised; and this should be a cause of concern.

  • Is it my pc or does the link to the following June conference in London need to be checked? It doesn’t link for me!
    “we are organising the third annual Social Liberal Forum conference, in addition to the one in London on 1st June”.

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