Tag Archives: 2019 autumn conference

Conference pays heartfelt and fulsome tribute to Paddy

There were 20 minutes set aside this morning in the main hall to pay tribute to Paddy Ashdown.

In the front row for the session were Jane, Kate and Simon Ashdown.

(Baroness) Liz Barker presented the salute to our founding leader with a quiet and heartfelt voice. She emphasised that this was a tribute to a partnership – Paddy and Jane.

The section started with a video on the big screen. Relaxed and sincere tributes came from Ed Davey, Nick Clegg, Tony Blair, Jane Ashdown and (Baroness) Cathy Bakewell (who worked with Paddy during his early days as an MP in Yeovil).

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The Ronseal of British politics – A storming speech from Jo

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I was “up in the gods” for Jo’s speech this afternoon in Bournemouth.

The first thing to say is that the speech seemed to me to be visually very powerful. Jo is a commanding, strong presence on stage. She stands centre stage, with no lectern or notes, barely glancing visibly at the distant autocues. Her posture and gestures are bold and decisive.

And her speech was bold and decisive.

In the round, I thought her speech was a barnstormer.

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WATCH IN FULL – Jo Swinson’s speech to conference today

Here is the ITV version of Jo’s speech:

You can also watch the Guardian version as follows, with cutaway shots, by sliding the bottom time slider to 33’31”:

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Full text – Jo Swinson’s first conference speech as leader

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Vince Cable’s speech to Conference

The convention that an outgoing Leader gets a valedictory speech at Conference was adhered to. It was a gentle, self-deprecating affair, but it attracted a thoroughly deserved standing ovation…

Thank you for your warm welcome.

It is one of our traditions that former leaders have a last hurrah at Conference before we leave the stage.

It gives me a chance to thank people who have helped me along what has sometimes been a rocky road and to answer those people who are asking me “what are you doing next”.

On the precedent of previous leaders I should be expecting an offer

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Sam Gyimah explains why he joined the Liberal Democrats

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A few hours before his stunning unveiling as the latest Liberal Democrat MP, Sam Gyimah told The Observer why he has joined the Liberal Democrats:

Centrists are being cast out of both main parties. Lots of people are politically homeless. Who can you work with to build a movement?

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That Brexit conference motion in full – and links to all the papers for Bournemouth

Here below is the Conference Brexit motion in full. It is motion F17 “Stop Brexit” to be debated at 11:50 on Sunday. In the main Conference Agenda document, this motion simply appears as “F17 Europe” with no detail. This was to allow a motion to be written closer to conference that is up-to-date. The motion text appears in the Conference Extra document which has now been published.

You can find all the Conference papers here and the excellent Conference app is available for iOS/Apple and Android. With the app you can read through the agenda and fringe meeting list. You can then add items to your phone calendar so you can assemble your “wish list” of conference activities all in one place and get the usual reminders etc.

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A Fairer Share for All – a missed opportunity

At our Conference next month we will be discussing the policy motion and paper A Fairer Share For All.

What I particularly like is the policy to have “a £50 billion capital Rebalancing Fund to address the historic investment disparities between our regions and nations”. (I proposed a motion on poverty last year and it included a Rebalancing Fund but it was rejected by Federal Conference Committee.) 

The policy paper is not radical enough. It does not call for the end of relative poverty in any timescale. Also it does not include all of our existing policies as set out in our 2017 manifesto, such as reversing the cuts to Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group; 

It is unclear about what it wants to increase the benefit levels by. Existing policy is to increase benefits by the CPI rate of inflation each year, but the policy paper only states we would consider this “if more needs to be done (2.2.15 and 2.2.16). Other policies in this category are restoring the benefit level to its 2015 real value and increasing it by the increase in median earnings if higher than the CPI rate of inflation (2.2.16). 

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Constitutional Amendments at Bournemouth conference

As vice chair of the Federal Policy Committee, I’m proud of the substantial policy papers that FPC is bringing for debate at this conference. The future of the NHS and care system (including the many threats to them from Brexit), making a serious effort to support the least well off in society, tackling knife crime and other crime, and a real actual plan for tackling climate change, are all major issues where our answers can really help us in communicating Liberal Democrat values to voters. They, and the many other motions, are the real work of conference and I hope they succeed in getting us lots of positive attention in September.

At the other end of the spectrum of political importance, conference will also spend an hour late on Sunday afternoon, doing one of its other jobs, some internal organisational housekeeping (F23 and F24). Back in 2016, the party carried out a substantial review of the party’s constitution and how the party is organised, and made a number of quite important changes. Following that, we committed to reviewing how the new systems were working, and to bringing back any further smaller adjustments needed. This set of constitutional amendments is just that: the bulk of it (what’s called Part 5 in the agenda) is really small changes, which will no doubt invite lots of amused satirical responses (putting in one committee which got accidentally missed out of a list of all committees, removing stray apostrophes, that kind of thing). But some are a bit more significant so I thought it might be helpful to explain the thinking behind them, especially as unless you know what they are about, it’s not always very clear!

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Autumn Conference FCC Report

As well as setting out the agenda for this Autumn, we also discussed future venues for Spring 2020 and beyond. We know many of you are eager to book travel and accommodation as soon as possible but this is the one area where the committee observes strict secrecy until an official announcement can be made – when it has leaked out before we have found commercial companies block-booking accommodation in advance, putting the prices up for ordinary members. Staff are in the process of finalising arrangements to ensure favourable rates and the venues will be announced as soon as this is completed.

Returning to this Autumn, regular readers will be familiar with the process by now. In the first round, FCC considers the timeliness, accuracy, quality of drafting, overlap with other motions and so on to decide which motions can be debated. In the second and any subsequent rounds, timings are allocated to motions and motions culled in order to fit into the limited debating time available. Over the last couple of years, we have had more pressure on debating time as the 2017 General Election disrupted the Federal Policy Committee’s schedule for policy papers. We are now roughly back on track, which has left a little more time for member and local party motions. The selection process is name-blind, which means that the detail below on who submitted a motion was not available to committee members until after sections have been completed.

The full text of motions will be available once the agenda has been typeset for publication. If you are thinking of submitting an amendment or emergency motion to autumn conference, the deadline is 1pm on the 2nd of September – but please do consider making use of the drafting advice service, as many motions and amendments fall purely to to problems with how they are structured. The deadline for that is the 20th August.

Business and the Economy

Brexit Bonus (Bexhill and Battle) – not selected
Bringing Prosperity to the Regions (North West Region) – not selected
Business Tax Reform: Fair for business and fair for society (12 Party Members) – selected for debate
Corporate tax avoidance (Oldham) – received after deadline
More Sustainable and Responsible Business (13 Party Members) – not selected
Well Being First (30 Party Members) – not selected

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I’m so looking forward to Conference this year

Well, with all that excitement behind us we can now look forward to the warm glow that will infuse Autumn Conference this year. I can just imagine what the Rally will be like, with all those new MEPs and councillors celebrating alongside our new leader.

We will be by the seaside again in Bournemouth from 14th to 17th September.

Registration is now open, and as usual the early birds get the cheapest rates. For a full member’s pass you pay £70 before 14th June; after that it becomes £90, or £150 after 2nd August. As always there is a hefty discount for first-timers who only pay £60 whenever they register.

Those rates come down to £20, £30 and £40 respectively if you are a full-time student, or if you claim Universal Credit/Employment & Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit/Income Support or Personal Independence Payment. A while ago I asked whether apprentices were included as students and indeed they are.

This year all our new Registered Supporters are also very welcome to attend. They pay the same registration rates as party members, however they will not be able to vote on motions.

Once again I’d like to draw attention to the ring-fenced Access Fund. Members generously contribute to it each year, including a regular donation from Lib Dem Voice, and it is used to enable people to attend Conference who might otherwise not be able to do so. It provides support for people with a range of disabilities and also offers grants for childcare, accommodation or travel for those on low incomes. Full details about how to apply are here.

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