Tag Archives: 2012 Brighton Conference

A welcome rebalancing of the media/members ratio at conference

Tim Farron 2015 bournemouth

Tim Farron, with Rosie Farron, awaits the cue to deliver his first conference speech as leader at Saturday’s night conference rally.Photo by Paul Walter.

Pssst. Let me tell you a little secret which you may not have noticed if you haven’t attended Lib Dem conferences. As we went through the coalition years, the numbers of members attending conference dwindled. No doubt someone is going to dispute this and quote detailed numbers. But it was pretty obvious and, towards the end, feintly embarrassing.

While the numbers of members attending conference went down, the numbers of media, police, security guards and sycophantic business people buzzing around soared.

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You don’t have to go to conference to be a conference rep

Vince Cable and Paddy AshdownNot only do you not need to be a conference rep to go to conference, you don’t need to go to federal conference to become a federal voting conference rep.

It’s often assumed that it is only worth becoming a conference rep if you are going to go to conference, and as a result local parties further away from the venues in particular often do not elect a full slate of conference reps. However, whilst this is the primary role for voting conference …

Posted in Conference and Party policy and internal matters | 6 Comments

Opinion: Why Richard Reeves is wrong about the ‘Nanny State’

When I joined the Liberal party in the 1980s, no one then used the term ‘Nanny State’. Originally it was a term the political right wing started to use; I do not recall when exactly. The terms betrays its upper case origins, a class that can afford to pay for a Nanny to look after the children.

Richard Reeves has recently published a Demos book that was handed out at the ‘What is Cleggism?’ fringe meeting at the Brighton conference last week. His use of the term ‘Nanny State’ is not new for the Liberal Democrats; I noticed Ed Davey use …

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Tom Brake writes … Lib Dem Conference is so much more than just political war-gaming

Before departing for Conference in Brighton this year, I happened upon a blog post on Prospect which bemoans the way in which Party Conferences have evolved from being policy-making platforms into gory showcases for Party brands in the mould of late 90’s movie ‘Primary Colours’ staring the fleet-of-foot John Travolta. Instead of serious politics, they’ve become simply a form of political mood music, so the accusation goes.

Sadly it’s all too easy to write off modern politics as less cerebral than it once was. But having authored a detailed policy paper about police reform and debated complex justice issues from …

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Opinion: Reflections from Brighton 2012

While it might be a stretch to say that the 2012 Lib Dem conference in Brighton was an unmitigated success, it is hard to come away from the conference without feeling a little better about life and about the party.

Certainly the only consistent low point of the week was being blown sideways by the gales sweeping in from the English Channel. (On reflection I think it may have been a mistake for me to tell friends that the weather is always good in Brighton!)

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Are you a Liberal Democrat conference rep who went to Brighton?

If so, I’ve got a question for you. Below is the text of an email sent out by 38 Degrees following their lobbying campaign around Liberal Democrat conference.

The lobbying itself – over the climate change debate – was pretty well done, in particular firing up supporters to want to lobby the Liberal Democrats – but doing so without throwing the sort of brickbats at the party that would make the lobbying less likely to be effective. (It’s a common problem with lobbying campaigns: you whip up an audience by saying the target is evil, and then found the said recipient …

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Nick Clegg’s speech: analysis from Matthew Parris, Lance Price and myself

On Wednesday night Radio 4’s The World Tonight lined up the three of us to talk about Nick Clegg’s speech to the Brighton conference. You can listen to our discussion, along with interviews with other conference attendees here:

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Nick Clegg’s speech to conference: “A fair, free and open society”

Much of the pre-speech briefing was about how Nick Clegg’s conference speech would major on how the party is becoming one of government. This is not a message aimed at the party itself really, as the debate in Brighton has been over what to do in government, not whether or not to be in government. Much more, the message was aimed at the media who love to attack the party for pushing policies they disagree with, dressing up disagreement with them as meaning the party can’t be serious about government or taking tough decisions.

Instead, Clegg argued that the party is up …

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+++ Paddy Ashdown to chair 2015 general election campaign

Party leader speeches at conferences rarely contain completely untrailed and fresh news. Nick Clegg’s does: that Paddy Ashdown will chair the party’s 2015 general election campaign.

Although his name wasn’t one of those I speculated about previously, it is a logical choice because the party’s plan is to fight a 1997-style general election campaign, with a tough national vote share environment hopefully bucked by very effective Parliamentary by-election style campaigns …

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Opinion: Why I will withhold my standing ovation from Nick Clegg today

Today, for the first time at the numerous leader’s speeches I have attended, I intend to remain seated when Nick Clegg gets the standing ovation for his speech.

I won’t do it with any rancour or anger. I am a great fan of Nick Clegg (I just cannot support him as leader of our party anymore, as I have outlined ad nauseam elsewhere). I will be there, seated, smiling and clapping enthusiastically. But I am damned if I am going to stand.

My reasons for doing so are based on …

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Another day at conference, another education policy launched

BlackboardTax, tax and a bit more about tax: that’s been the main theme of the Liberal Democrat conference, from the slogan on badges and the banner outside the building through to the content of speeches and the main policy focus of the media coverage.

When it comes to new policy announcements, however, it is education that has had a strong showing.

First there was the news on summer schools:

Lib Dems announce further £100m for summer schools to help children catch-up
Mr Laws said: “All too often pupils who have made big progress

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Two priceless conference comedy moments (for about five people on the surface of Planet Earth)

Colin Rosenstiel is a Lib Dem legend, star of constitutional minutiae and progenitor of bicycling anecdotes.

At 9am yesterday, there was a constitutional amendments debate. (Yes – riveting. A few minutes before it was due to start, the audience would have been out-numbered by those six Liberal MPs who could get into a taxi in 1970. The debate started with the words, “Good morning, fellow insomniacs!”)

At the end, Colin stood up and raised a point of order – the Lib Dem equivalent of firing a tactical nuclear weapon. Something about a separate vote. The comedy moment was the withering, over-the-top-of-the-glasses dismissal …

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Why I loathe leaders’ speeches. PS: It’s nothing personal, Nick

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m leaving conference on Wednesday morning before our leader speaks. It’s nothing personal — I think my record’s pretty clear on supporting Nick Clegg’s leadership — but I find leaders’ speeches tiresome.

The bullet points will have been carefully briefed to the press in advance, embargoed copies of the speech will be widely circulating — by the time Nick actually gets to his feet for the traditional 40-minute peroration it’ll already feel like a repeat, even if he does ad lib a couple of scripted (and, sorry, almost certainly lame) jokes.

Add to that the …

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LibLink: Stephen Tall – The Lib Dem Conference That Didn’t Bark

Over at the Huffington Post, LibDemVoice co-editor Stephen Tall assesses the party conference. His verdict? What’s significant is what hasn’t happened. Here’s how his piece starts:

On the face of it this has been a pretty tepid, even dull, Lib Dem conference. No rows, cock-ups or defeats. But it’s probably been the most important party gathering since the special conference in May 2010 when the party dipped its hand in blood to sign the Coalition Agreement.

Why do I say that? Because of what didn’t happen. Political commentators, especially of the left (yes, I’m looking at you, Polly) – the folk whose

Posted in Conference and LibLink | Also tagged | 17 Comments

Conference calls for our parliamentarians to reject Secret Courts

At most conferences there is at least one debate which proves how different we are from the other main parties. Different because we entrust Conference to decide party policy, in open debate, even where that may be at odds with the views of our parliamentarians.

Today’s debate on the ‘Secret Courts’ motion was a good example. The full title was F41: No Government Above the Law – The Justice and Security Bill.

This motion, submitted by two local parties, called on the Coalition to withdraw Part II of the Justice and Security Bill, which would empower Ministers to allow civil hearings …

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Danny Alexander: fairer taxes, with everyone playing by the same rules

Fairer taxes, crack down on tax avoidance, an emphasis on the mansion tax and a low-key, getting on with the work in hand delivery: that’s Danny Alexander’s conference speech in a nutshell.

Although not quite up there with his GMB speech (still well worth a read), it was an effective one as the delivery style matched the message.

Having often heard Danny Alexander talk in the past about action needing to be taken on tax avoidance and tax evasion, I noticed a change in emphasis this time, with more talk about what has been done. That’s a good sign of progress, …

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Conference gossip: “May I stroke you sir?”

From our “ooh missus” correspondent

There is a bizarre aspect of the Procedure adopted by the excellent and friendly security team in Brighton.

Hopefully I am not giving away any state secrets…

When you go through security they have to stroke your photo – three times.

They take your badge and stroke the photo with their finger. Literally.

At the risk of imploding the “ooh missus” connotations of this post, they do it to check whether someone has stuck a second photo over the top of the original …

Posted in Conference and Humour | 1 Comment

Opinion: Regional Pay – bad economics, appalling politics

Looking back at Eluned Parrott’s article Lib Dems should say no to regional pay, what has surprised me is some of the comments that this reasoned article has generated.

Perhaps the first thing to challenge is the myth that public sector pay is totally rigid, whereas private pay-setting is always flexible and highly localised. It simply isn’t as simple as that.

The reality is that extensive national patterns of pay exist in the private sector, from large companies down to even medium-sized firms. At the same time considerable flexibility does already exist in the public sector, for example whilst there are national …

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Vince Cable’s speech to conference

A few key quotes from the speech:

  • Vince Cable speakingOne of our central aims as Liberal Democrats is to show that coalitions work. And Nick Clegg’s major contribution as leader has been to do just that.
  • I believe we need an industrial strategy – a positive and ambitious vision, built around long-term investment in innovation, skills and science.
  • We must now implement the ‘pioneering’ coalition policy of splitting the investment bank casinos from mainstream personal and business banking, as in the Vickers report. Without Liberal Democrats in government you can be

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Conference now and then

Due to family commmitments, it’s a few years since I’ve had a full-on five day blast of conference. I did the odd day here or there during Menzies Campbell’s leadership. But I think my last proper conference saturation was during the Charlie Kennedy days.

Before that, my wife and I came regularly, often putting our daughter in the creche.

But time moves on, so this year I had a window of opportunity to “pig out” on Liberal Democracy, acting, very proudly, as a conference steward – something I have done periodically in the past.

My absence has allowed me to clearly compare the …

Posted in Conference and News | 2 Comments

Conference news snippets: economy, mansion tax, Dilnot reforms, business bank and Green Deal

In the key economy debate this morning, conference has backed the party’s approach to tackling the deficit:

Earlier in the day, Clegg was repeating his calls for a mansion tax in some form:

Our focus does remain on very high value property for the simple reason that I think most people in this country just don’t understand why people who have very high value properties just don’t pay their fair share, in the way that everybody does.

Danny Alexander has been calling for speedier action to implement social care reforms:

Danny Alexander will warn his Conservative colleagues on Monday not to delay plans to reform social care for the elderly and state pensions, amid Treasury fears that the changes would cost too much.

The Treasury chief secretary plans to use a question-and-answer session at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton to insist that the government goes ahead with both the Dilnot reforms and a single-tier state pension, according to officials.

Meanwhile, Vince Cable is winning out in the arguments with the Treasury over creating a new business bank:

Vince Cable reveals £1bn backing for business bank to help small firms…
In what Liberal Democrats are hailing as one of the major announcements of their conference, the business secretary will say that the new bank could leverage up to £10bn to help businesses struggling to find funds from high-street banks…

The Lib Dems say they have had to fight hard to persuade the chancellor to sign up to the bank, which will be funded from “underspends” by Whitehall departments. These are the funds that remain unspent by departments, which are then clawed back by the Treasury.

And here is Ed Davey and colleagues explaining the Green Deal:

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Nick Clegg Q+A at Brighton Conference, 2012

Nick Clegg Q+A at Brighton Conference, 2012

On the day of his wedding anniversary, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg took questions from party members at the Brighton Conference.

Storified by Mark Pack · Sun, Sep 23 2012 08:51:51

Heading into #ldconf main hall, hoping to ask @nick_clegg about online snooping in his Q+A session #CCDPMark Pack
Nick Clegg taking questions about his apology #ldconfMark Pack
5 Union Jacks on #ldconf stageset (part of photomontage). Think first time they’ve featured in a Lib Dem federal conference stage setMark Pack
No surprise, tuition fees came up first:
.@nick_clegg says problem was signing pledge; policy now being implemented is

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Opinion: Is it possible to be liberal and popular on immigration?

In those heady days that followed the post-debate Clegg-bounce during the last election, one issue suddenly began to dominate on the doorsteps: immigration.

Spooked by the Lib Dem surge, the Conservatives and their willing allies in the press sought to deflate the Clegg bubble by returning to dog whistle issues, such as immigration.

Whether this approach greatly affected the final outcome is questionable, but there is no doubt it forced many candidates on the defensive. Rather than having an opportunity to talk about our positive policies we were spending time trying to counter the perception that we were ‘soft’ on immigration.

Worse, the …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged | 7 Comments

Cable: no to regional pay; Clegg: yes to taxes on wealth; Alexander: tougher tax rules

News snippets from today:

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, the Liberal Democrat leader ruled out the possibility of the Government filling the gap in public finances through cuts to the welfare budget – something reportedly being mooted on the Conservative benches.

He said the Government would “start at the top and work down”, and was optimistic about his chances of persuading his Conservative colleagues to agree to a so-called ‘wealth tax’.


Cable said that introducing regional pay was “completely unacceptable” and “terrible economics”. He said that although the Lib Dems were prepared to contemplate a measure of public sector pay

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Blog of the Year Awards 2012: The Winners #LDBOTY

What’s loosely termed the awards “ceremony” for the 2012 Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year Awards has just drawn to a glittering close. As the last firework fades in Brighton’s night sky, I’m delighted to announce the winners:

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Blog of the Year Awards 2012: The Shortlists

Nominations for the Liberal Democrats’ Blog of the Year Awards 2012 closed on 14 September. Since then, the judges, Kirsty Williams (Assembly Member for Brecon and Radnorshire and Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats), Nick Thornsby (Lib Dem Blogger of the Year 2011), Tim Gatt (ITV News Digital Output Editor), Stephen Tall (Co-Editor, Lib Dem Voice), Alan Muhammed (Lib Dem Voice’s social media manager), & Helen Duffett (that’s me – Co-Editor (Associate) Lib Dem Voice) have been poring over the entries for the five categories.

It’s been a big task, and a fun one, to distil so many excellent examples of Lib Dem blogging and e-campaigning into lists of the best.

Congratulations if you’ve been shortlisted, but if you haven’t: remember that the shortlists are based on the judges’ subjective opinions. The awards are intended to be a fun way to celebrate the talent in the Lib Dem blogosphere, whilst introducing you to some blogs you might not have read before.

Next, a plug for the awards ceremony itself. If you’re at party conference in Brighton, do come along to the Pavilion Room, Grand Hotel, Brighton, from 9.45pm tonight, Saturday 22nd September.

Now, without further ado, here are the shortlists: (Drumroll, please)


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Is this how we get the most out of our schools?

With somewhat ironic timing Gove’s controversial announcement on the replacement of GCSEs by the English Baccalaureat was too late for it to be reflected in the conference programme. The deadline for amendments to motions has passed a week earlier.

But a version of the EBacc (not exactly the same as the one that was finally announced) had been trailed for some months, so it got a small mention in motion F6 this afternoon: “Getting the most out of our schools”.

This reference was grasped by some conference reps as an opportunity to open the debate into a wider discussion about the new …

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David Laws’ speech to conference: no soaring rhetoric but a clear determination to deliver

David Laws is no Tim Farron. It’s hard to imagine him rousing the passions of the party faithful as the party president does.

But what he lacks in crowd-pleasing rhetoric he makes up for in two things: first, a clear passion for education and secondly a seemingly effortless grasp of his brief.

There was little in the way of new announcements in his speech to conference, though he did confirm that the pupil premium would rise to £900 per pupil in 2013 and that by 2015 the Lib Dem pledge to dedicate a total of £2.5bn a year to the policy will …

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EXCLUSIVE: Lib Dem conference surveillance of members’ most intimate moments

LDV was given an EXCLUSIVE tour of the Brighton confence centre this morning, as final preparations were being….er….finalised.

Here, we can EXCLUSIVELY reveal evidence of secret last minute behind the scenes preparations to wire the Gents loo (of the East Bar at the conference centre) for not only sound, but vision also

Posted in Humour | 6 Comments

Conference preview: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

This year, the Liberal Democrat autumn conference has one day per theme, covering jobs, education, environment and tax.

Monday is jobs, with policy motions on creating jobs and policy papers on both sustainable prosperity and also on mutuals, employee ownership and workplace democracy. The first of these (F23) may generate some lively debate around an amendment that would delete the reference to keeping to the government’s “fiscal mandate”.

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Recent Comments

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  • David Raw
    @ Lorenzo Cherin. I’m afraid I don’t recognise the comment you attribute to Ms Reeves, and from what I know of her it sounds very out of character. A...
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    How can Labour and/or the L Ds present a useful and valid opposition when they have the same disastrous economic policy, namely Neoliberal Economics, as the par...
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    William, I am very glad you have raised the Social Contract idea in your excellent article. Since it is about the rights of all citizens in Britain, there is n...
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    David Yes but a very obvious effort by good members of that govt to improve it were met with right wing rubbish. Sorry to say it but what is the excuse o...