So what’s happening at Conference? Part 3: The Fringe

Here’s the third part of my guide to Spring Conference in York this weekend. Just think, this time tomorrow, we’ll be on our way. Anyway, part 1, the debates, can be found here and part 2, the training, is here.  Oh, and don’t forget to download your Conference App. It’s now been further developed and the issues I mentioned the other day are largely sorted.

It will certainly help you manage your schedule, but, as I sad the other day, it can’t make decisions for you when there are 10 things that you want to go to at once. Planning my fringe is where I am most likely to use a lot of very bad language. And the epicentre of profanity for this Conference is the 1-2pm slot on Saturday. Not only is there a consultation on One Member One Vote, but there’s the Seekers of Sanctuary fringe with Sarah Teather and the ActionAid debate for International Women’s Day. I could actually scream. Not to mention the mental health and criminal justice event. And did I say that Stephen Tall was speaking at a meeting on evidence led education. I’m sure there will be some people who with all that on offer, will want to discuss land value taxation. And there’s Farron on social housing too.

Because I am so traumatised by the choice, I have set up a poll so that you can tell me which you think I should go to. Please vote.

You see what I mean? My teeth are gnashing. Heaven knows what I’ll end up doing. Probably going to Betty’s and eating cake.

It’s not always this bad. On Friday evening at 6:30, there’s only really one choice. The rally. Funnily enough it’s about Europe. And it has the Almighty Vince, Farron, Sarah Ludford and Catherine Bearder. And rumours reach my ears of a special guest. That’s all I’m saying. Be there.

There’s then a round of fringes. There’s only three I really really want to be at: the CentreForum et al one on managed migration, the Social Liberal Forum on responsible capitalism and the digital bill of rights Big Brother Watch event. History (social reformers), Education Association AGM and Green Lib Dems on alternatives to nuclear power (actually, on update, on “Defending the green crap” – see comment below) make up the rest.

The later evening is easy. Unless you are lucky enough to have been invited to the Liberal Youth or the Centre Forum reception (and I haven’t), there’s always the Local Government Association/Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners. But I am not bitter and ALDC are wonderful.

There are three rounds of fringes on Saturday evening. In the first session, the constitution is well covered, with Lords reform and STV. You can discuss where new housing can go with the Greens or talk with Heathrow about their vision for the future. I’m guessing you won’t want to go to both of these. You can discuss zero hours contracts with the lawyers or fundraising with the English Party. And how to engage with women from diverse communities with Liberal Democrat Women. If you’re of a green persuasion, though, you might want to discuss policy priorities for 2015 with the Sustainability Network or you can discuss whether we can win seats in the north with IPPR. I’ll just say yes for that one.

The second session has the Orange Bookers vs the Cameroons, but I’m neither so I’ll find something a bit more peace-loving hippy. Hmmm. I’m kind of toiling. The only thing I have is ALDC on housing and the difficulties of those tenants in the private rented sector. Liberal Reform have two meetings out of three in this session which is a bit strange.

Very late night, for me, it has to be Glee. For the uninitiated, it’s a sing-song that gets the endorphins flowing. It’s a bit wild, and you get to see Gareth Epps looking like The Master (c 1973) from Doctor Who. What’s not to love? If, in the unlikely event that you don’t want to be there, or you have a conscience, Lib Dems in Housing have Farron and others suggesting ideas for those who are priced out of the housing market. or the European Azerbaijan Society have a jazz reception.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is that there are a series of ministerial question and answer sessions during the days, alongside the debates and training. When you think about it, it’s quite incredible that any ordinary party member can go and question a cabinet or government minister. They are:

12:30-1:30 Simon Hughes and Norman Baker

1:00-2:00: Stephen Williams on local government

2:30-3:30: Danny Alexander

Sunday: 10:00 – 11:00: Norman Lamb

And finally, Membership Department are offering you tea and cake if you go and phone people and get them to join the party between 6 an 7 on Saturday.  Think how fabulous you would feel if you persuaded someone to join the party.

However you spend your conference weekend, have a great time. And please come up and say hello to any of the LDV team who are there. Joe, Stephen, Nick, Helen and I will all be there at various times. And a big thank you to Mary who’s going to be keeping an eye on the site from home.  Please be good to her.

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

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Mar '14 - 6:50pm

    Thanks, Simon. I’m sure I didn’t make up the alternatives to nuclear fringe. I’ll have another look.

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