So what happens at Lib Dem Conference? #1 The debates

in just three weeks’ time, thousands of Liberal Democrats will descend on the wonderful seaside town of Bournemouth for four days of debating, networking, discussion, dancing and singing.

I thought it might be a good idea to give first-timers a bit of a flavour of what happens at Conference.

One of the main things we do at Conference is decide the party policy. Every party member who is registered for Conference is entitled to vote. This year we will be discussing topics ranging from Brexit to terrorism and civil liberties to climate change to small business to gun and knife crime.

Members will be asked to vote on motions which are published in the agenda. If you have a read of the motions and think that there is something that you would change about it, you can submit an amendment, with the support of a local, state or regional party, federal committee, SAO or 10 memebers. You have to do this by 1pm on 4th September.

A debate starts with a speech proposing the motion. The next speeches will be proposing any amendments to the motion. Then speakers for and against motion and amendments will be called to argue out the issues. Finally, at the end of the debate, someone will sum up for each amendment in turn. The last speaker will sum up for the motion as a whole. Those summing up will rebut the arguments made against their motion or amendment and highlight good points made in their favour.

There can be a few surprises. If you like a motion but can’t live with one particular clause, you can ask for a separate vote on that particular line.

Also, if you think that we need policy on something but the motions and the amendments miss the point in some way, you could ask for it to be referred back to some party body, most often the Federal Policy Committee, to have another look at. There is a special procedure for dealing with that request.

If you want more detail about how Conference works, you would be well advised to read the Standing Orders.

There’s nothing like actually sitting in a debate to get a flavour of how it works and thanks to the wonders of You Tube, you can do just that. Below is the recording of the Sunday morning session of last year’s Conference in Brighton. There are debates on combatting racism, a policy paper on the Liberal Democrat vision for 2020 (when we thought the next election would be, silly us) and European research. There is also a keynote speech from Alistair Carmichael and a question and answer session on education.

If you watch nothing else, go to 1 hour 28 in and watch the wonderful Alex Wilcock eviscerate the Agenda 2020 policy paper with a typical establishment busting, radical analysis that we all need to hear. Enjoy.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Richard Underhill 25th Aug '17 - 10:34am

    Sorry to be a bit nerdy, but “you can ask for a separate vote on that particular line” is actually on a string of text, which might be less than one line, or more.
    Other organisations (such as Trade Unions and the Labour Party) do not allow separate votes, so some people may be unfamiliar with them.
    This is not the same as an amendment to delete, and maybe someone below will explain why.

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