Spring Conference reprieved

Spring 2013 Federal Conference agendaA couple of weeks ago Lib Dem Voice reported that party members were being consulted by Federal Executive about the future of Spring Conference, following a consultation session at Glasgow.  This was driven by financial pressures and the need for the Spring Conference to be cost-neutral.

Options included keeping it as it is but with cost savings, reducing its length from two days, or abolishing the Spring Conference completely .  The second option was preferred by Federal Executive.  Not surprisingly, the Federal Conference Committee did not support either abolition or any changes to the length of the conference.

Gareth Epps reports that yesterday evening the Federal Executive agreed to not make any changes, but to see how online technology could make the conference more accessible to the wider membership.



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  • Simon McGrath 10th Dec '13 - 1:35pm

    I campaigned for the FCC on a platform on making better use of technology to allow more people to participate.

    Gareth has kept his support for this rather quiet but it is great news to hear that he and the FCC are now going down this route.

    Next step, one member, one vote.

  • Let’s remember that it’s not just the financial costs of physically attending conference that stop people, a lot of people cannot afford to take the time off of work.

    Online participation in conference is crucial as well as enabling online voting across our entire party membership. The system of unrepresentative democracy currently used in the Lib Dems is tired and thoroughly outdated.

  • Gareth Epps 10th Dec ’13 – 4:10pm
    Well done on this, Gareth

    OH and I especially liked the ” Simon McGrath had better go back and read what I said when standing (successfully) for FCC “.


  • @Thomas Long of course not being able to take time of work is an argument to keep Spring Conference.

  • Andrew Tennant 11th Dec '13 - 10:05am

    I particularly liked what I suspect is a typo in the form of ‘not without’ in the below paragraph:

    “but not without compromising the core democratic decision-making functions of our Conference, nor diminishing the great forum for debate that it is, not just in the hall but in the exhibition and fringe.”

  • Simon Banks 12th Dec '13 - 9:34am

    This is a sensible decision. The reduction in length was particularly nonsensical because it would have made Spring Conference less cost-effective for representatives, whose travel costs would have stayed the same for less influence and learning. How many people would have travelled from Glasgow to Brighton, or from Brighton to Glasgow, for a one-day conference?

    Efforts to increase on-line participation are welcome and overdue. However, I dissent from what Thomas Long has posted. First, as a matter of respect for the language, it’s wrong to describe the present system as “unrepresentative democracy”. The clear meaning of “representative democracy” is that it’s based on people being elected by a wider group of people to represent them. That is precisely what happens at present. Those unable or unwilling for whatever reasons to go to conference can choose their conference representatives from among those willing and able, and question them afterwards. I e-mailed my report on Glasgow to all local party members on-line and got one comment (“It was interesting”). What Thomas is advocating is not “representative democracy” but something called direct democracy. This was the version used in Athens, where all citizens could attend public meetings and vote on policies and officers. It had limitations: women and slaves weren’t citizens. The Liberal Democrat version would exclude people who weren’t on-line. It’s still very much worth doing, as long as we recognise that it should be a process of engagement in the arguments,as happens at conference, and not of plebiscites from the blue; and as long as it’s supplementary to conferences and not a replacement for them . Why it can’t be a complete replacement I’m happy to argue, but for reasons of length, not right now.

    Finally, Thomas’ point about taking time off work is powerful applied to autumn conference, but one of the main reasons for retaining spring conference is that busy working people (though perhaps not single parents) CAN take two or three days off a year, including a weekend, without wrecking their holiday arrangements. Those who say they can’t, unless unluckily the specific dates are out for them, simply have higher priorities. Meaningful on-line engagement would almost certainly take up more of their time.

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