Tag Archives: autumn conference 2020

Have you tried the #ldconf Networking function?

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On the official party website: Conference home

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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Virtual Conference shows how Lib Dem members can change our policy

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Adam Bernard, who was our candidate in Harrow East at the last General Election, and James Baillie, a leading voice in the Radical Association have spent much of the past five years trying to persuade the party of the merits of Universal Basic Income.  They campaigned and networked and worked with others, including the Social Liberal Forum to build the case for UBI. They have put huge amounts of energy into persuading people that this was the way to go.

When Coronavirus exposed the inadequacies of the social security safety net, they tried again to get this issue debated at Conference.

This time, it was not only chosen, but it had the full backing of the Parliamentary Party.

Last night, Adam proposed the motion which called on the party to campaign for a regular payment to all UK residents, funded in a socially just way and to ensure that people who need it still have access to support for housing and disability support.

He had the support of Jane Dodds, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and long term advocate of UBI and Wendy Chamberlain, our DWP spokesperson. Christine Jardine had been making the case for UBI all over the media. She wrote in the Mirror yesterday that UBI could be our generation’s NHS:

A basic income will be the best, fairest and simplest way to safeguard the most vulnerable in society and care for those who need it.

At the time of the creation of the NHS, doubters opposed the idea at every turn, yet now we treasure it.

Through this crisis, our pride in the institution and in the principles which created it have been palpable.

That post-war generation’s achievement has been the salvation of so many in this one.

Providing a fixed universal income to everyone with no stigma attached has the potential to be our generation’s National Health Service.

We need the states role to be helping people out of poverty and creating the equality of opportunity that leads to a prosperous life.

We must free people from the insecurity and anxiety that this virus has created and will be with us long after we have beaten it, and instead empower them to live their lives with security, dignity and freedom.

There were some fantastic speeches in the debate on both sides. Concerns were raised about affordability and whether the payment would be sufficient to meet people’s needs. Sheffield’s Laura Gordon had technical problems and was cut off mid speech and had to come back in for her 90 seconds but made her concerns about practicality really well.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

What are the party’s principles and values?

What values make you a Liberal Democrat? What makes you proud to be a Liberal Democrat? What is distinctive about the Liberal Democrat philosophy today?

If you have a view on any or all of those questions, please feel free to participate in the Federal Policy Committee’s consultation session on Liberal Democrat principles and values at autumn conference. It’s taking place in the afternoon fringe session on Saturday, from 1600 to 1650. There are no speakers – it’s an opportunity to hear your answers to any or all of the three questions in the first paragraph.

As background, you might like to look at the short consultation paper available on the party website. To quote the summary, it argues that: 

‘Liberal Democrats stand for liberty, the freedom of every individual to make their own decisions about how best to live their lives. We trust people to pursue their dreams, to make the most of their talents and to live their lives as they wish, free from a controlling, intrusive state and a stifling conformity. A free and open society that glories in diversity is a stronger society.

We stand for equality, for the right of everyone to be treated equally and with equal respect, whatever their personal characteristics; and in the duty of the state to create the conditions in which individuals and their communities can flourish.

We stand for community, for dispersing political and economic power as widely as possible, since government works best when it is closest to its citizens.

Since we believe in the worth of every individual, we are internationalists from principle, seeking cooperation, not confrontation, with Britain’s neighbours.

Posted in Op-eds | 14 Comments

Constitutional reform: amending Motion F11 “The Creation of a Federal United Kingdom”

In my earlier two-part article ‘Constitutional reform: a coherent national policy or not?’, I described how I view it as essential that a constitutional reform policy be framed to encompass the constitutional arrangements of all parts of the United Kingdom, lest it otherwise make a mockery of the term ‘federal’. This requires us to answer the English Question.

In discussing English regionalism and federalism on various forums including the Liberal Democrat Federalists group on Facebook, I have observed criticism of Motion F11, our proposed amendment and the party’s overall policy slate, some focusing various aspects such as the lack of detail on the fiscal arrangements within a union of bodies having considerable autonomy, legislative and tax-varying powers. Unfortunately, we seem to be rather good at not putting flesh on the bones of complicated policies: Land Value Tax has been on the back-burner for 100 years, the Universal Basic Income motion up at Autumn Conference faces criticism of its lack of depth, and Local Income Tax came and then vanished in a puff of smoke over twenty years ago. The latter was something I hoped would lead to the diverse political landscape I espoused in part one of my earlier article. With regards to federalism, what did we do with Policy Paper 117 after it was endorsed in 2014? I’m tempted to paraphrase Indiana Jones and say “we might as well have mailed it to the Marx Brothers”.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged and | 51 Comments

Conference early bird discount runs out soon

Don’t miss out on your chance to register for our new shiny virtual conference at the early bird discounted rate of £30. The deadline is this Thursday and after that you will have to pay more.

Federal Conference Committee were given a demo of the finalised version of the software this week and even the most normal cynical were, I understand, impressed.

Scotland held a one day trial of the Hopin platform last month and, despite a few inevitable teething troubles, it worked well.

The best advice I can give you is to make sure that you play around with it …

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Virtual Conference

Embed from Getty Images

The date was 17 September 2008. I was on holiday with friends in Verwood and over the moon following what I had felt had been a successful telephone interview (conducted on a fire escape at the Fleet Air Arm Museum) for my dream summer internship.

Serendipitously, my grandparents were on a coach holiday that week in Bournemouth, so while my friends saw relatives elsewhere in the county, I arranged to see my grandparents by the seaside. We met outside their hotel, took a wander down to the park to grab a bite to eat and then walked back along the sea-front.

At the tender age of 18, I had not quite started university. I certainly did not, as now, possess a mobile phone with a camera, so you will have to take my word for it when I say we stopped outside an imposing hotel proudly flying yellow flags, watched a strange collection of photographers grouped outside the entrance as though hoping for an A-list celebrity to emerge half-cut, and then stood as passive observers to Nick and Miriam emerging from that hotel and being carried away along the sea-front by a wave of paparazzi.

Now at the tender age of 30, that is still the closest I have ever been to a party conference. Sure, I have only been a member of the Liberal Democrats for a little over three years, but despite having first joined a political party at the age of 15, a combination of work commitments and financial pressures have always meant that the next-closest I have ever been to a conference has been watching them on BBC Parliament.

Until now. Because this year I will at last be attending a party conference for the first time.

While COVID-19 has been absolutely devastating on our economy, killed tens of thousands and impacted hundreds of thousands more, the technological race to keep the wheels of business, politics and the voluntary sector moving in these unprecedented times has set welcome precedents which must remain in the “new normal”.

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

Register now for our first online conference!

Members are just receiving an invitation to register for the first Liberal Democrat online Autumn Conference, being held from 25th-28th September 2020.

The email from Geoff Payne, chair of the Conference Committee is as follows, minus my membership number (if you’ll forgive me!):

It’s official: Registration is now open for our first-ever online conference!

You’ll need your membership number.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 2 Comments

Get your Conference motions in for 1st July

There’s going to be a massive Conference shaped hole for many of us this September. I love heading to the seaside – Bournemouth being my favourite by far – to catch up with the Lib Dem family. Whether it’s causing trouble for the leadership in the hall or indulging in late night irreverent singalongs, taking part in training, wandering round the exhibition or just catching up for a coffee or a cocktail, those few days are a whirlwind of activity.  I’ve taken to staying an extra night at the end to have a  a quieter meal out with friends and a walk on the beach.

So the cancellation of both Spring and Autumn conferences this year was really disappointing. By the time York was cancelled in Spring, I had already decided not to go because I felt it was too risky. And given that a fair proportion of the friends I would have spent time with all came down with  an illness that had a startling resemblance to Covid-19 very shortly afterwards, that was the right decision for me.

While I will miss going to Brighton in September – and in particular dinner at Smokey’s  with its rather excellent cocktails – I am glad that we will at least have the opportunity to attend an online event from 25-28 September. The Federal Conference Committee has put a huge amount of work into identifying and customising a digital platform. They’ve had so many meetings and have been determined to be as faithful as possible to what we think Conference should be.

I did wonder about how the exhibition would work, but watching this demo from Hopin, the platform we are using, explains it all. You are not going to get all the random bumping into people and the buzz of a physical event, but you will be able to take part in debates, vote on policy motions, attend fringe meetings, go to training and catch up with people in the networking room. I liked the feature in there that it only swapped contact details if both people wanted to.

There will  be BSL interpreters on the main stage as happens at a physical conference.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Accountability in the age of Covid


So now we know: no new leader for at least another fourteen months. This comes on the back of the cancellation of the Spring Conference, and talk of the cancellation of this Autumn’s conference as well.

Cancelled along with the Spring Conference, of course – and up for re-cancellation if Autumn is indeed cancelled as well – were the party’s sorely-needed consultative sessions on our values, on the 2019 general election, and on our 2019 manifesto, as well as the regular opportunities to hold party bodies and office-holders to account. The decision to cancel the Spring Conference, and any similar decision to cancel Autumn (as currently feels likely) means that we will not have a meaningful forum to discuss, debate and scrutinise the party’s general election performance until long after that election has receded over the horizon behind us.

The decision to postpone the leadership election again, this time for an unprecedented fourteen months, is a remarkable departure from the letter of the constitution, Article 18.2 of which only allows for a maximum extension of one year, and no article of which allows the Federal Board to vary this provision. Perversely, this means that our acting leader will not only remain in position for over a year, but will be acting leader for three times as long as the woman who beat him in the last leadership election. More concerningly, it means that we will not have a permanent leader in place for the huge round of local, regional and devolved elections scheduled for 2021.

Any one of these things – the catastrophic performance in the 2019 general election; the shocking loss of a popular newly-elected party leader in a general election; the decision to cancel Federal Conference at next-to-no notice; the decision to postpone a leadership election beyond the period set out in the Federal Constitution, leaving us vulnerable in the largest round of non-Westminster elections in a political generation; potentially, the decision to cancel a second Federal Conference on the trot – should rightly merit a great deal of introspection, and robust and extended scrutiny from party members.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 35 Comments

Recent Comments

  • tom arms
    @Mary Fulton, I think a more appropriate quote in these uncertain times is one from Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good ...
  • Anne-Marie Simpson
    Picking up on John McHugo’s and Andy Daer’s comments above, our Party’s policies on Gaza are much more in tune with the public than the other two nationa...
  • Paul Reynolds
    I absolutely agree with the earlier point about Russian state propaganda. There's a lot of it about, especially focused on Germany. For example; 'Ukraine was ne...
  • Paul Reynolds
    Thanks for all the well-informed comments and widely differing points of view. I wish to touch upon 2 points raised; nuclear war and Russian propaganda. The ...
  • Mary Fulton
    I found this article very interesting and thought-provoking. However, I remember a particular saying from my student days which has relevance here: “if voting...