Tag Archives: 2020 autumn conference

Party Awards: Cllr Anood Al-Samerai: Embodying liberalism, fighting tenaciously with kindness

We conclude our series celebrating this year’s party award winners with Southwark’s Anood Al-Samerai who won the Patsy Calton Award, set up by Liberal Democrat Women to recognise exceptional women. You can watch the video of the whole party awards segment here and the submission made by Anood’s nominees is under the cut.

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Party Awards: Simran Meji – reaching out with relentless energy

This week we are highlighting winners of the Party Awards at our recent Conference. The Bertha Bowness Fischer Award is presented to a new member who has made a big impact. It went to Simran Meji. See the video of the whole party awards session below and the submission made in support of Simran under the cut.

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Party Awards: Anton Georgiou and the Brent Liberal Democrats – winning against the odds

Next in our celebration of this year’s party awards winners is the Dadabhai Naoroji Award, given to the local party which has done most to promote its BAME members to public office.

You can watch the whole party awards ceremony here and the full submission for Anton and the Brent Lib Dems is under the cut.

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Party Awards: Thay Thayalan, a strong campaigner with a problem-solving, can-do attitude

Our third Party Award features Thay Thayalan, former Mayor of Kingston, who won the President’s Award at this year’s Conference. Watch the whole Party Awards segment below and read the full submission in support of Thay under the cut.

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Party Awards: Gregan Crawford, the Data Dynamo

One of the highlights of Party Conference is the annual presentation to those people who have gone above and beyond. The Harriet Smith Award was established to recognise those who had never held elected office. This year, it was won by Edinburgh’s Gregan Crawford. Watch the whole party awards session here and read the submission in support of Gregan under the cut.

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Six things I learnt from Lib Dem Virtual Conference

1. Multitasking is a benefit and a hindrance

It was hugely enabling to be able to attend lively, stimulating debates and hear from the great and the good on how we can make Britain better for everyone, whilst in my slippers and nursing my baby. It meant that my other half didn’t have to manage our toddler on his own for a weekend and we could still enjoy our family meals and bedtimes together. The downside was that we still had family meals and bedtimes: my ability to get fully immersed in conference life, meeting people, attending sessions, ruminating on what had been discussed was diminished because in between or even during sessions, I was trying to soothe a crying child or distract a toddler from a tantrum. It felt great to be able to juggle family and political life, but it is a juggle – and there were definitely moments where I felt I was doing neither justice.

My learning: I should treat virtual conference like real conference, and ensure I book out time and space to get engaged rather than seeing it as an opportunity to do it all.

2. Virtual sessions enable the speakers to speak and the audience to listen

How many times at a conference or event does the room get dominated by the loudest voice or someone who pretends they have a question when what they really just want is a mic? The video nature of sessions during online conference enabled us to hear from the panel, and for the chat to highlight the biggest talking points that should be put to the panel, rather than the Chair somewhat rolling the dice based on who put their hands up. The best sessions were ones where there was someone monitoring the chat and able to feed back to the Chair on what common or contentious discussion points were, and then where the Chair made best use of the people and time to field this. I would love to see real life Chairs able to be so strong in managing the room and conversation to keep things on point.

3. Video should bring down the barriers for people to speak rather than put people off.

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It wasn’t really a Virtual Conference


OK, you might think I am being pedantic, but the word ‘virtual’ carries some weight, so bear with me.

The term ‘virtual reality’ emerged from online gaming. Players place themselves in an imaginary universe, and adopt a character or avatar while they are there. In multi-user games they interact with other avatars, without wondering much about the real person behind them. Virtual reality headsets take this one step further by providing a 3D fully immersive experience of the imaginary landscape.

Virtual reality is usually compared with ‘real life’; the first is a creative construct, the second is the world we actually inhabit. In what sense was our conference last weekend virtual?

Before there was widespread access to the Internet we communicated with our family, friends and colleagues in many ways that were not face-to-face. We used a variety of written methods – letters, notes and memos – and we used the phone. I don’t think we ever saw these as virtual conversations; they were real conversations with real people. In the same way, once email became ubiquitous it was seen as an extension of our other modes of communication.

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Willie Rennie’s speech – Lib Dems are a Third Way for Scotland

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Willie Rennie’s speech to Conference was broadcast on his birthday on Sunday. It had been recorded in North Queensferry a few days before.

They filmed the speech twice, the first time outside, but there were interruptions from a flypast, a potato lorry and runners from his local club – no amorous pigs or other assorted livestock, though as has happened in the past.

Watch here. The text is below:

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25 September 2020 – conference day 1 press releases

  • Ed Davey opens Liberal Democrat conference
  • Failure on test and trace is putting public health at risk
  • Liberal Democrats back proposals for “world class” mental health support for health and care staff
  • Liberal Democrats urge Government to tackle spread of fake news
  • Time to campaign for Universal Basic Income has come, Liberal Democrats declare

Ed Davey opens Liberal Democrat conference

Speaking on the opening of the Liberal Democrats’ first digital conference today , Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has warned the coronavirus crisis is taking an “enormous toll on people’s lives and livelihoods” and urged his Party to listen, challenge Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and …

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WATCH: Ed Davey’s speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

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Ed’s first Leader’s speech took place not in a packed hall but broadcast as he stood at a lectern in LDHQ.

You would have to have an incredibly hard heart not to be incredibly moved as he described caring for his terminally ill mum, his Nana and his 12 year old son John.

We know that there are around 700,000 young carers in the UK today,  but how much thought have we actually given to the reality of their daily lives.

Ed described giving his mum tumblers of oral morphine before heading to school to help with her agonising cancer pain.

I spoke to a friend of mine who cared for their mum and they told me how they had learned to do all sorts of medical things, including giving injections by the time they were 11.

The first time I nursed someone who was terminally ill, I was 20 and there was a whole family team of us. That was incredibly stressful and I will never forget the heartbreaking toughness and the heartwarming lovingness of that time. Ed was so much younger when he was in that situation.

It was an incredibly moving section of the speech. My WhatsApp was going mad as he was speaking.

Anyway, watch the whole thing here and read the words under the cut.

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So how was Virtual Conference for you?

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I am feeling a little delicate this morning. The Conference may have been virtual, but the hangover certainly isn’t. At my age, you would think I would know better than to sit up drinking with my friends in a virtual pub until 4am, but it certainly gave an authentic feel to the last night of our virtual Conference.

A week ago, I felt really gloomy as Facebook reminded me of Conferences past. I was really sad that I wasn’t packing up …

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Our first online Federal Conference

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Well, we did it; our first online Federal Conference!

We had over 3,200 attendees and I am really proud that we managed to offer the full experience usually on offer in the Conference Centre. The agenda ranged from racial justice to the BBC; from COVID-19 to Universal Basic Income and from Europe to the rule of law. We had debates, procedural motions, reports, votes, speeches, and questions – even the (virtual) conference fund raising buckets were passed round – and we were honoured with a visit from the Taoiseach.

There was a live chat in every session. It was lively and interesting throughout. We were able to meet old friends and new in the networking space – which many people said was strangely addictive! We noticed a much higher than usual attendance in our fringes. The training programme was extensive and well-received.

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Lib Dems back long term aspiration to rejoin EU

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Well, that was tense!

Of all the votes to have technical issues, it would just have to be the one between two hotly contested amendments, wouldn’t it?

Thankfully, the outcome wasn’t even close with 331 backing the more emphatic “Rejoin now” Amendment 1 and 1071  backing Amendment 2 proposed by Duncan Brack and eventually accepted by the leadership. It’s a huge number of people taking part and was the outcome I thought most likely but at times did not seem assured.

The debate was at times a bit fractious, with speeches on both sides going a bit over the top.

However, there were some very thoughtful and measured contributions which probably did more to persuade people.

There was a small moment of drama when Wera Hobhouse MP was called. It had been reported that she would support Amendment 1, but she confirmed straight away that she was supporting Amendment 2.

So what have we passed? You can read the main motion on page 11 here.

It’s as you would expect, pointing out the problems with Brexit, the Government’s appalling handling of it and affirming our support for freedom of movement, EU Citizens and all manner of food and environmental and security co-operation.

The contentious bit was this:

In the longer term, conference resolves to keep all options open for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including membership at an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms.

The amendment passed changed that last bit to:

In the longer term, Conference resolves to support a longer term objective of UK membership of the EU at an appropriate future date to be determined by political circumstances, subject to public assent, market and trade conditions and acceptable negotiated terms.

So here are some of the highlights of the debate in tweets:

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Speeches that got away – Supporting the Europe motion

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Written a speech for Conference and not been called? Send it to us at [email protected] and we’ll try and put it up during the debate so that your effort does not go to waste.

Over the years, our party line on the European Union has been consistent and resilient. Indeed, of all of our policies, it’s the one for which we are most known. Our credentials on Europe has led us to becoming the principal pro-EU party of the UK in the eyes of many. Our MEPs proudly wore anti-Brexit messages to the European Parliament. It is codified in our party’s constitution that we affirm the values of federalism and integration within the EU. Our dedication to pro-European values is not under threat.

But what is under threat, conference, is our message. Our presence in the minds of the public, already tenuous, may well be moribund should we neglect to represent those who would be hurt by a no-deal outcome. Conversely, should we abandon our commitment to Europe, I worry that it will be perceived as yet one more breach of trust. It is our steadfast and durable commitment to the anti-Brexit movement which sets us apart. That is why I believe that we should oppose no-deal now, and not rule out rejoining the EU in the future.

This is bigger than us as a party, and it is more than just our place in Europe that is under threat. It is the lives and livelihoods of Europeans in Britain, and Britons in Europe. It is our voice on the world stage. It is our poorest and most left-behind communities. Our values. Our security. It is even our human rights. That European values fall so closely to our own, conference, ought to encourage us to seek as close an alignment as possible with our friends on the Continent. That our future lies with Europe ought not to be under question.

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Fringe reports: Generous Society

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I feel slightly guilty because I haven’t found time yet to write about the beautiful and joyful Generous Society pamphlet that Julian Huppert wrote about recently.

This is a wonderful contrast to our recent habit of being as nuanced as we can to try to avoid upsetting people. It’s an antidote to the paint by numbers, soulless, brand based, dull centrist mush that we have been prone to cling to. Maybe one day we’ll learn that subtlety never won anything and that we need the sort of liberal heart and sprit that The Generous Society contains.

It has some superb illustrations and does not pull its punches:

No economist can calculate the beauty and wonder lost from our world because of the restrictions our society has placed on the freedom to create and contribute. We must reduce the burden on those who want the dignity and peace that comes with a secure, well-paid job – but instead find themselves ripped off, spied on, or otherwise mistreated by their employers. In a liberal society, you will not have to spend excessive physical and mental energy on basic needs.

I also liked the acknowledgement that in a liberal society, we recognise that there will be a small amount of  abuse of social security systems, but that the wider aim of ensuring that people have enough to meet their basic needs is more important.

In a fringe meeting on Friday, Julian Huppert chaired a discussion between Polly Mackenzie of Demos, Ailbhe Rea of the New Statesman and Generous Society author Tom King.

You can watch it here.

Ailbhe Rea said that her experience of her first Lib Dem conference was that we had a whole stack of policy but no underpinning vision.

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Ed’s first Q and A as leader

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Ed did his first Leader’s Q and A yesterday afternoon. Under normal circumstances, he would be wandering around the stage, addressing a packed hall. He was at the podium in LDHQ taking questions from menbers in a way that you don’t often find from  other party leaders. We allow supplementaries to pre-submitted questions which mean that he can be faced with just about anything, from the random to the policy to the personal.

You can watch it here from around 5 hours in.

Here are some of the highlights:

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Speeches of #ldconf: Layla Moran’s first as Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

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Layla Moran made her first keynote speech since taking over the Foreign Affairs spokesperson and showed that she has mastered her brief very quickly. She was as passionate and compassionate as you would expect and called out the Government on its failure to do enough to support human rights around the world.

 

Here is her speech in full:

And the text is below:

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Time for acceptance and respect: Trans Rights at Conference

I am trans and about as out as it gets. I’m not ashamed to be trans and I’m not ashamed to be out.

But I am afraid to be out.

Perhaps there are trans or non-binary people in the UK who are not afraid to be out at the moment, but I don’t know any. Being trans or non-binary and out in the UK is a scary thing as attacks on who we are (as well as attacks on us for who we are) have skyrocketed.

Trans and non-binary people in the UK live in a country where the media is, for the greater part, hostile to us—hostile to the very idea that trans and non-binary people should exist without being questioned about our right to simply be ourselves.

The older LGBTQ+ community in the UK have seen this all before, of course. Hit pieces that depicted queer people as being dangerous to “normal” people. For the most part such attack lines in the mainstream press have all but gone.

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Speeches of #ldconf: We are liberals. We give people the tools to make their own choices

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Harrow’s Adam Bernard proposed the Universal Basic Income motion last night. Here is his speech in full:

Conference,

In the preamble to our constitution, the basic statement of our values, we aspire to a society where “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

——–
In a motion about Universal Basic Income, you’d expect me to talk about poverty — and I will — but I’m going to start by talking about conformity.

I’m going to talk about conditionality and why it’s bad.

Conditionality is where we say “We’ll help you if you’re poor, but *only* if you’re the *right kind* of poor person”

It’s where we say: “Of course we’re nice. Of course this is a caring society. Of course we’ll help you. BUT first you have to prove that you’re poor enough. Prove that you’re disabled enough. Prove that you’re mentally ill enough. Prove that you’re looking for work in the right way, apply for jobs in the right way, jump through all the hoops, take what you’re given and don’t answer back.”

THAT’s conditionality. And this motion says we should get rid of it.

——–

Over the last few decades, conditionality has increased. It increased under Thatcher and Major. It increased under New Labour. It increased — to our utter shame — under the coalition. And it’s still increasing now under the Tories.

And every increase has a nice, *rational* explanation — reducing fraud, maybe, or incentivising work.

But in fact every increase in conditionality means more stigma, more pain, more families unable to put food on the table.

——–

William Beveridge — one of our great Liberal success stories — identified his Five Giant Evils: “Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness”.

He attacked Disease not by setting up “poor hospitals” only for those deepest in poverty, but by laying out the framework for the NHS, which provides care to all, rich or poor, no questions asked.

Now, in the 21st century, we are calling for the same approach to Want. A regular payment, sufficient for basic needs, to everyone in society. No stigma, no questions asked.

Yes, this will mean to rich people as well as poor people. And you should feel the same outrage at that as when rich people use the NHS, send their kids to state school, or receive a state pension.

Yes, this will be expensive, just like the NHS is expensive, like state education is expensive, like the state pension is expensive. But we know that we can’t afford *not* to have those services in a modern, fair society – and we can’t afford not to have an absolute solution to poverty either.

——–

And what about Beveridge’s giant of Idleness? Aren’t we encouraging people to be lazy?

Our society has a myth that, say, cold-calling people to ask if they’ve been in a motor vehicle accident is paid work and *therefore* is a valid and *dignified* way to spend your life, but bringing up your child, caring for your elderly parents, or volunteering to help your community is not.

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Have you tried the #ldconf Networking function?

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You know how when you are at a physical conference and going from event to event you randomly bump into people and end up chatting? There is an alternative to that at the virtual Conference.

There’s a Networking tab on the left hand side of the screen. If you click it, you will end up talking to a random conference attendee.

I had a few minutes to spare between fringe and this afternoon’s debate so I tried it out – and ended up chatting to an old friend, Lucy Care from Derby, who gave me her permission to take our pictures to share.

Why not try it out?

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Lib Dems pass motion calling for constitutional reform and a Federal UK

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The UK is in danger, said Wendy Chamberlain in her proposing speech for today’s motion calling for a federal UK. We’ve already seen one union disintegrate on the basis of divisive nationalism, she said, and we need a liberal offer to fix the union and give power back not just to state governments but to communities. The motion was about building a collaborative, constructive and consultative relationships between the nations of the UK and we will end the current structural inequalities of the Union.

Federalism has been a key part of our constitutional reform plans for as long as I have been involved in the party, but we haven’t been very good at showing how this would work in practice.

One of the biggest issues has been about how England would fit into a federal structure. The motion before Conference didn’t address this and it led to calls for it to be referred back for that to be resolved. They certainly do need to be resolved and the people who raised concerns were justified in doing so. The issue is that time is not on our side. WIth elections in Scotland and Wales less than 8 months away, we have to have something to counter the pro-independence argument.

In the end, Conference chose to pass the motion today by an overwhelming majority of 681-96 on the understanding that the Federal Policy Committee does the work on sorting out how this would work for England.

It was a very good debate, but only two women were called. Session Chair Geoff Payne said that reflected the balance of the cards submitted. So what is it about constitutional issues that causes that sort of imbalance and how do we talk about them in a more inclusive way?

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WATCH: Jane Dodds on why the Welsh Lib Dems have the answers to help Welsh people

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Last night was the first time I’ve been able to see Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds’ Conference slot live. Before I’ve always had to be elsewhere, much to my annoyance.

The interview format suited her really well. She is such an asset. Her warmth and compassion shines through and she shows that she understands the struggles that people are facing and has the answers to help. Her commitment to tackling poverty and isolation has been a hallmark of her leadership.

Watch her interview in full here:

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Conference gets off to a good start

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Party President, Mark Pack, opened the Conference this afternoon, paying tribute to members who had lost their lives, or the lives of people dear to them, through the pandemic.

Before that Geoff Payne, the Chair of Federal Conference Committee, introduced us to the studio set at HQ, and I must say that it had all the feel of a real-life Conference, if in miniature, and is far removed from our all-too-familiar Zoom experience. This was followed by a scene setting video showing places all over the UK.

We have our wonderful signers in the corner of the screen – I love watching them. I clearly remember the time, some years ago, when one of them demonstrated the BSL for bullshit, not to mention “I’m not a happy bunny”.

The first business item was to agree the revisions to Standing Orders that were needed in order to carry out the Conference remotely. Voting was really simple – just a click under the Polls tab.

During gaps between items we were shown short videos. I caught one from the Council group at St Albans talking about what they had done for their residents during lockdown.

The chat function is being put to good use – people are diving in to answer questions from first timers , while others are simply meeting and greeting. As far as I can see, chat is specific to where you are, so when you are in the Auditorium you can discuss the motion under debate – something we couldn’t do very easily in real life!

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Logging in to Conference

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Well, I’ve done it, and it works!

If you have registered for our very first Virtual Conference then you will have been sent an email with the subject line “Your ticket to Lib Dem Conference”. Click on the link and our Virtual Conference is revealed in all its glory.

It’s very easy to navigate. Over on the right you can edit your profile and upload a photo.

As I write 296 people have logged in already. You can see who is there under People, and if you click on a name you can invite them to a video call.  Alternatively you can just add a general comment under Chat.

The left hand menu takes you to the main elements of the Conference – Auditorium, Fringe and Training, Networking and the Exhibition. And below the main banner on the home pages you will find a “What’s Happening Now” section.

We are advised that the best way to view Conference is by using Chrome on a laptop or tablet. In the comments perhaps you could let us know if you have managed it successfully using any other hardware/software platforms. You can download Chrome here.

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Are you all ready for our first virtual Conference?

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit sad this weekend.

For the last few days, and for the next few, Facebook will be bombarding me with memories of past years when I’ve headed off to the seaside for a whirlwind of social and political activity. There are pictures of me with my friends in pubs, on beaches and

It’s not just about the debates and the fringe and the late night gossip, it’s about getting to see the Lib Dem “family.” I know that I’ve “seen” more of people on Zoom and the like, but there is nothing like actually being in a room with people.

And it’s now a year since I last caught up with many of my friends and it’s likely to be some time yet before I can see them again. I miss you all.

Having said that, I am excited that our first ever online Conference is taking place next weekend. Getting this up and running in just a few months has been a massive job for staff at LDHQ, Federal Conference Committee and all the various training suppliers. A massive thank you to everyone who has been involved in this. It has taken a huge amount of time and everyone has done a marvellous job.

The party is using the Hopin platform for its events. The Scottish Party tried it out in July. At the time I gave my top tips for making the most of the experience. In summary, they are:

1 Read all the information

In July, the Scottish Lib Dems  had prepared a detailed and very helpful document outlining the process and how the tech worked. This time, there is a lot of information in the agenda and we’ll be emailed further details. Make sure you read it. Even if you are not a first-timer,  you will find this comprehensive guide that the party has produced really useful.

I only discovered that I’d have to download a new browser when I did that. Apparently Hopin and Safari aren’t that in love with each other so they recommend Chrome or Firefox. I hate doing tech stuff like this but it worked quite smoothly – though I had to change my passwords for my email because I couldn’t remember them. So my advice is do that this weekend and get it out of the way.

Take time to play around with the system ahead of time. There’s a demo here. We didn’t have any fringes or an exhibition at Scottish Conference but there is the usual glittering array of fringes and training which you can find out about in the Directory. One thing that hasn’t changed is that there are multiple things I want to go to in each time slot, but the advantage of this all being virtual is that the events will be available in Hopin for a few days afterwards.

2 Familiarise yourself with the process for speaking

You fill in a speakers’ card online. As Duncan Brack points out in the comments, you need to submit it by 4pm the day before the debate you want to speak in:

one thing people need to remember: the deadline for submitting speaker’s cards to speak in a debate is 4.00pm the day before the debate. So for debates taking place on the Friday, that means submitting on Thursday – the day after tomorrow, as I write. This is much earlier than in a normal conference, so don’t get caught out!

You then have to watch your email when the debate starts to see if you get called. There will be a special link in that area which gets you to the backstage area. You can still watch the Conference from there, but you need to close down the tab you are already watching on or you’ll get a dreadful echo as there is a time delay between the two. You will be asked to share your video and audio in the backstage area, which you need to allow it to do. Once you have done that, you still can’t say anything until you are called. When you can see yourself on-sceen with the session chair, you can just launch into your speech.

It is really weird to make a speech from your house. You don’t get the sort of feedback that you would if you were in the hall. You can’t tell if people like your jokes, or whether they are responding well to your arguments and it’s probably not a good idea to look in the chat while you are delivering your speech. However, you will be able to get some idea of the mood of the debate from the chat in the time leading up to your speech.

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Hong Kong – a dead end or a fork in the road?

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Chinese Liberal Democrats are pleased that there will be a motion, F31, to be debated at Autumn Conference on “Hong Kong’s Future.”  According to the Conference Agenda, it is scheduled for debate on Monday September 28 but at the unfortunate time of 18.50.  This means that anyone in Hong Kong who would like to participate would have to stay up till 2am, Hong Kong time!

This motion has undergone a number of redrafts, as the situation in Hong Kong is fast changing.  More recent developments such as the postponement of the Legislative Council elections on 8 September for a year till 2021 following the disqualification of 12 pro-democracy candidates from eligibility as candidates were not mentioned in the original motion.  Lib Dems Overseas has therefore proposed an amendment and update which we trust will be accepted for debate by the Federal Conference Committee.

In the meanwhile, I should like to draw everyone’s attention to a survey on Hong Kong which the Chinese Liberal Democrats have prepared to help in our research and policy making.  Do you agree, for example, that the new securities law breaches the Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and threatens “one country two systems,” or do you think it was China’s right to introduce this legislation as an annexure to the Basic Law?

And what of the Lib Dem offer to accept all Hong Kong permanent residents to emigrate to the UK, not just those with British Nationals Overseas status?  Is this realistic or practicable from the UK’s point of view, and do the Hong Kong people even want to up-root themselves across continents?

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Looking forward to our first virtual conference

At a glance

  • Conference will be taking place from 25th – 28th September,
  • We are using a platform called Hopin; login details will be sent out the week of conference,
  • Speaker’s cards for debates must be submitted by 4pm the day before the debate,
  • The motions on COVID-19 and Europe, along with other late items, will be announced in Conference Extra the week of conference and on Facebook,
  • The Emergency Motions ballot will be taken on the Friday using Mi-Voice. Instructions will be sent out in advance.
  • Please watch our introductory video,
  • You can follow us on Twitter @LibDemConf.

Introduction

Normally in September, we would be looking forward to gathering by the seaside for our Autumn Federal Conference. It is our chance to meet together, debate and discuss policy, set the direction of the party, learn new campaigning skills, catch up with friends and make new ones. Above all, we are a democratic party where the voices of our members really matter.

This year, things are a little different and we cannot meet physically. But our commitment to our internal democracy is undimmed. Conference is therefore moving online for the first time.  We will be meeting from Friday 25th to Monday 28th September.

We have done our best to re-create the conference experience virtually.  In this article, I want to go through how we have planned conference. Do not worry! It is not as complex as it all sounds and we will offer all the technical help and support we can.

We have partnered up with Hopin, a professional conference platform which has the capability to accommodate events with hundreds of thousands of people. Hopin is best accessed through a computer or laptop with Google Chrome and ad blockers and firewalls turned off. Firefox works well too. For iPads, Safari (the built-in browser) offers the best experience. For Android devices, Chrome works best.

Hannah Bacchus and I have made a video about how to get the most from Hopin. You can watch it here.

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Constitutional reform: a coherent national policy or not?  – Part 2

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In 2014 the Liberal Democrats endorsed Policy Paper 117 calling for a federal United Kingdom. It said that having an English Parliament would create a terribly imbalanced federation. It must follow that English Regions would be the constituent parts alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There can be no part-federalised England: if one understands the West Lothian Question, one must appreciate the absurdity of replicating it any number of times and ways within England itself. The remaining alternative is not to propose federalism, in which case the party would have wasted six years, abandoning its aims and objectives.

Unfortunately, Paper 117 was circumspect in proposing the regionalism it implied was necessary. The proposed devolution-on-demand is neither a route to structural coherence nor fair to anyone other than those who are first to grab the powers they want. It is a purely locally-led, “bottom-up” free-for-all which sits at the opposite end of the spectrum to a “top-down” imposed solution. However, it is not a Liberal answer, it is a chaotic libertarian one. Furthermore, devolution is becoming a dirty word, characterised by successive governments creating or abolishing local government structures on a whim. It is therefore time to stop talking about devolution altogether. We need federalism and we therefore need a process to regionalise England – fully and rationally.

Federalism motions (based on English regionalism) were twice submitted to Federal Conference in 2016, to no avail. These followed co-ordinated motions passed by NW England and East of England regional conferences in 2015, decrying chaotic, arbitrary devolution and calling on the party to make progress on a model for a federal UK. Subsequent calls to get Policy Paper 130 to cover regionalism more extensively fell on deaf ears. The meagre 400 words on devolution-on-demand seemed more laissez-faire than the proposals of Paper 117, arguably a backwards step.

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Constitutional reform: a coherent national policy or not?  – Part 1

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I have voted Liberal or Liberal Democrat since my first opportunity in 1987, having seen as a teenager the emergence of the SDP and the Alliance and having understood the need to reform British politics. I then became more and more aware of the many flaws of our anachronistic, dysfunctional and increasingly corruptible political system and I clamoured for a sea-change in our political landscape. It was never “just PR” for me.

In many walks of life it is the structure of our governance that holds the country back – the stultifying straitjacket placed on England by the unitary state and the increasing polarisation of Scottish politics producing division, not progress. I grew to believe that a more diverse political landscape, with power taken wholesale from Westminster and exercised at the lowest practicable level, would foster an evolution and reinvigoration of political attitudes as well as a better distribution of wealth, culture and well-being. This evolution should benefit every corner of the kingdom equally, not be one of increasing constitutional asymmetry, unfair distribution of empowerment and more disengagement by the electorate.

I was shocked when becoming a more engaged party member 25 years later, to find our policies were incomplete and failed to portray us as the torch-bearers for far-reaching constitutional reforms. Six years after a divisive independence referendum in Scotland, we still have no fully-formed vision for a new United Kingdom fit for the 21st Century or to inspire wavering Scottish voters away from separatism. Such ideas – a federal union and all the structural reforms and constitutional guarantees that would accompany it – should have existed before 2014. The national party leaders Cameron, Clegg and Miliband should not have been scrabbling around for votes at the last minute with the great Vow, necessitating further constitutional bodges such as English Votes for English Laws.

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Mark Pack reports back

Party President, Mark Pack, has issued another report back to members. This time he focuses on the reports that are being presented to the online Autumn Conference at the end of September. You can read the Conference reports pack here.

This year, as a result of a review by the Federal Board on the working of our party’s central committees, there are more reports than usual to Conference. They give an interesting insight into the inner workings of the Liberal Democrats, with contributions, as usual, from the Federal Committees …

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