So, what’s been going on at Conference?

It’s not always easy to blog from Conference. Wifi can be temperamental and distractions are plentiful. However, your team will have lots to tell you over the next few days.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s been going on so far:

The Rally:

Vince Cable got really personal. He said that he’d had a fair bit of pressure put on him to slash adult education. He refused to do it, because of his own family experience.

His mother had a long spell in hospital following a nervous breakdown. He talked about how adult education had given her a second opportunity to build a career.

That was a very personal moment in a tub-thumping, UKIP bashing, EU loving extravaganza.

Pubs

9:15 am is a cruel time to have a motion on pubs, particularly when many of those attending will have been sampling York’s finest the night before.

Speakers gave their experiences of the large pubcos shutting down pubs. One, Ken Wright from Camden, shocked me by saying that there were only 3 independent pubs left in London. He also described how the pubcos chip kegs and analyse every pint sold.

The motion was passed and an amendment from Cambridge highlighting the excellent work of Cambridge City Council in that regard was passed.

Immigration

After an at times passionate debate, the new policy was passed. The main points are that there should be exit checks so we know who is in the country, that EU migrants should have to wait 6 months before claiming UK benefits, that asylum seekers should have to look for work after 6 months, and ending indefinite detention for immigration purposes.

I was given one of the one minute intervention slots and used it to talk about the problems with the family migration system and how unfair the new income restrictions are.

Although there had been a wide range of amendments submitted, only one relatively mild and sensible one, allowing all international students, not just those in STEM subjects, to stay after graduation for 3 years if they find work. Even that was rejected despite a reasoned and well-argued summation by Kavya Kaushik.

The main points raised during the debate were a separate vote which would have meant that all asylum seekers would have to seek work immediately on arrival in the UK without any time to settle.

Julian Huppert emphasised how poisonous the debate on immigration had become during his speech, reminding us that more Tory MPs had signed the motion expressing concerns about Romanians and Bulgarians arriving here than the number of Romanians and Bulgarians that had arrived.

One member one vote consultation

A thoughtful hour was spent at lunchtime discussing potential changes to the party’s structure which would see all members being given a vote for the main party committees and at Conference. While the idea had a lot of support in the room, a note of caution about the need to improve accountability of the committees was also  expressed.

Nick Clegg’s Q and A

Nick Clegg did his customary question and answer session. You wouldn’t see any other leader take questions as enthusiastically as he does. What was particularly good is that, although people were supposed to submit questions in advance, he took further questions from the floor which hadn’t been vetted in any way.

Our Nick Thornsby asked Nick if they would go on to consider raising National Insurance Threshold as well as tax threshold.

He also took questions on Syrian refugees. “I got my way in Government,” he said, referring to the fact that the most vulnerable refugees will now be able to come to the UK.

He was also robust on the Tories’ tax priorities, ridiculing the “unmarried person’s tax penalty” and  making the point that Liberal Democrats had been talking about raising the tax threshold for half a decade. The Tories had discovered its benefits just a few weeks ago. He said that he had had to fight at every single point to make the pledge happen.

He also spent some time debunking the myths around tuition fees, saying that more people from disadvantaged groups, including BAME communities, were going to university. He also added in that we needed to value vocational qualifications as much.

Quick bits of gossip:

When going back to the Lib Dem Voice broom cupboard to raid the chocolate stash, we were surprised to find a Government Minister using it to rehearse their speech.  Surely to do with the fact that we have a dressing room and there are two lights surrounded mirrors in it.

Which parliamentarian was apparently retweeting stuff while they were still on stage speaking?

I would love to be able to share with you some of the many photographs I’ve taken, but the wifi will just not play ball enough to let me do it.

However, you can have a look on my Twitter feed for some of the sights of the weekend.

Now, I’m off for dinner in a 19th century brothel.

 

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

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3 Comments

  • “Julian Huppert emphasised how poisonous the debate on immigration had become”

    Labour and the EU caused the problem. The poisonous debate is only because it is almost impossible to solve it.

  • Caron writes —“. I’m off for dinner in a 19th century brothel ”
    Which made me wonder if she met members of the Bus Pass Elvis party when she was there.

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