Tag Archives: autumn conference 2021

Conference best bits: Fraser Graham on our party’s values

Edinburgh South Chair Fraser Graham delivered this cracker of a speech in the debate on What Liberal Democrats believe on Sunday morning. Where are the limits of free speech and how should our party deal with the boundaries?

Conference, I joined this party in 2016 because of one issue – Brexit. The reason I am still here is because of the values and principles our party upholds.

This speech is somewhat of a paradox. It should be completely unnecessary, because I’d take it entirely for granted that any true liberal would have no objection to the values put before you, either in the paper, the motion or the amendment.

But in this current climate, where members of the LGBT+ community, MY community, are facing almost constant daily attack through the media, on twitter and even here, at conference, we NEED to be bold, and firmly plant our flag as a party that is standing up for the rights of those we need to support and protect.

On Liberty, the paper states “We embrace freedom of thought and speech, and argue for stronger protection against those who abuse free speech, use it to promote division and hatred, or spread falsehoods and ‘fake news’.”

This is crucial. Free speech is not freedom to discriminate without consequence. It’s not freedom to be given a platform to espouse views which are actively harmful, or freedom to hound people on social media to the point of taking their own life. We need to be clear on this and push back against those who demand to be able to say whatever racist, transphobic, homophobic or ableist claptrap they desire without fear of consequence.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 40 Comments

The Lib Dem Conference Roll of Honour

I was at a loss to understand why I was so absolutely knackered at the end of Conference last night. It’s not as if I had had to drag my sorry, Glee-Club hungover backside the length of the country as I would have been if I’d been at an in-person conference. It’s not as if I had had about 15 hours’ sleep over the past 5 nights of “networking.”

Certainly, sitting in front of a screen for 12 hours a day is pretty exhausting. So, I guess, is the emotional energy used up wishing I was actually with my friends in the Goat and Tricycle in Bournemouth or Smokeys in Brighton.

But that was pretty much all I was doing. For those organising Conference, it was much harder. Spinning the plates over the four days of the virtual Conference is pretty intense for Federal Conference Committee. They have to deal with all the speakers’ cards, manage the debates, deal with unexpected tech problems, make decisions about what separate vote requests, requests for references back etc to take.

So, Federal Conference Committee, take a bow. You did a superb job. Those based in the Docklands HQ  that I remember seeing over the weekend included Jennie Rigg, Jon Ball, Bex Scott, Chris Adams, Cara Jenkinson, Chris Maines and Joe Otten. This does not mean I agreed with every single one of their decisions, because that would be weird, but I do want to pay tribute to their hard work.

One person I want to single out was also there. It was new Committee Chair Nick Da Costa’s first Conference in charge and by all accounts he did a great job. My spies tell me that he was the most supportive and appreciative manager and he was also quick to respond to queries from Conference attendees on social media.

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

Jane Dodds’ speech to Federal Conference

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds gave her first speech to Federal Conferece since she was elected as a Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales in May.

Here is the text in full:

I want to take you back to May 1999, and the first-ever elections to the then Welsh Assembly.

Almost 600 years after the first Welsh Parliament was established in June 1404, the people of Wales once again had its own national democratic institution.

Wales was entering a new dawn – an opportunity to meaningfully hand power to people, to communities, away from the corridors of power.

It was an opportunity to cast off the dust and to set about creating our own destiny here in Wales.

Our job here in Wales is made all the more difficult by Conservatives in Westminster and their assault on devolution and our national parliament.

But that quiet earthquake in 1999 has passed many people in Wales by. 22 years on and that radical, reforming streak that ushered in a new era has, in too many ways, been replaced by a steady incrementalism, slow to move when the world is hurtling on.

Now, granted, even after 1999 Wales operated with two hands tied behind its back and we don’t yet have all the tools we need to shape a fairer, greener, more liberal Wales. And our job here in Wales is made all the more difficult by Conservatives in Westminster and their assault on devolution and our national parliament.

It is our job, as liberals, and my job as the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, to make the case for a new relationship between people and parliament and between the nations of the United Kingdom.

We need to rediscover our radical, progressive voice and offer new and inspiring ideas – and we have work to do.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

WATCH: Alex Cole-Hamilton’s speech to #ldconf offering #newhope

: Yesterday, Alex-Cole-Hamilton gave his first speech as Scottish Leader to Conference. It was delayed, despite being pre-recorded. Some technical hitch meant that we had to vote to allow the agenda to change so they could sort it out.

Watch here:

Filmed outside Holyrood in the sunshine, he paid tribute to his predecessor Willie Rennie and other Scottish Liberal legends Jim Wallace, Jo Swinson and Charles Kennedy.

He talked about how the party under him will offer new hope to a Scotland whose public services were struggling due to SNP neglect even before the pandemic.

“We are a people trapped between flags” he said of the SNP’s Scottish Nationalism and Boris Johnson’s Brexit nationalism.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

Party strategy motion passes – with amendment securing local members rights on standing candidates

This morning Conference passed the party strategy motion. One of the Federal Board’s key tasks is to bring a motion on party strategy to Conference for approval.

This one had lots of good stuff in it on developing a strong narrative, improving diversity and menber experience, developing our campaigning capacity and having a “one party” approach where we co-ordinate our effort.

There were four amendments, all of which passed and, I think, substantially improved it. Lib Dems for Racial Equality called for this party to finally pull its finger out and implement the Thornhill and Alderdice reviews and get out and engage with ethnic minority communities. The Parliamentary Candidates Association called for greater support for candidates and 10 members called for our progress towards net zero as a party to be expedited.

These three passed with little opposition. The drama was all around an amendment proposed by Federal Board member Simon McGrath. It called for us to stand a candidate in every seat at the next General Election unless local members agreed not to. Anyone who bears the scars of the Unite to Remain effort in 2019 will probably have some sympathy with this. However, others, including me, felt that it would bind any attempts to stand down in some places where it would be sensible to do so. I generally think we should stand everywhere, and I think that voices calling on us to stand down are generally from parties who wouldn’t do the same in return, but I felt we should give ourselves the flexibility.

ALDC Chair Prue Bray made such a good speech in support that I asked her if we could publish it. It’s just rammed with good sense about how we should work together and I love it.

I want to get rid of this government. Not because it’s Conservative but because it’s dreadful. It’s dreadful because it isn’t liberal, in its policies, values or behaviour. I want a liberal government, or at least one that we can exert the maximum liberal influence on. And the only way to get that is to get more Lib Dems elected. Labour aren’t liberal, nor are the Greens, the SNP or Plaid.

It’s us or nothing.

We won’t get more Lib Dems elected if we don’t stand, however tempting a pre-election pact might look. Unite to Remain looked tempting. It didn’t deliver anything.

When the battle is over, when the votes are counted, that’s the time to make pacts to further the progressive cause. And that’s why I strongly support amendment 3.

There are people who don’t agree. That’s fine, I don’t mind challenge. What I mind is people who tell me I am wrong without producing any supporting facts, and then go off and do whatever they want even if it’s completely against the interests of the party.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 15 Comments

Conference votes for improvements to disciplinary process and votes down Steering Group

The Federal Board report usually goes through fairly uncontroversially. However, there has been a bit of drama at the past two conferences. In Spring important board business relating to the disciplinary process was withdrawn at the last minute after a serious error was discovered.

This delayed desperately needed improvements to the disciplinary process until now. You can find out more about the detail here in the Board report.

Thankfully, those changes, which make the process quicker, less stressful on those using it and on those administering it and clearer, passed easily this afternoon.

Last Summer, the Federal Board started operating in a different way. One of the Thornhill Review’s 78 recommendations was to improve the governance of the party and make the Federal Board smaller. The Board decided to delegate most of its powers to a small, mostly not directly elected people. As a directly elected Federal Board member, I opposed it from the outset. If such a centralising power grab was being done in a council, we would be up in arms about it. I always think it is very important to live our values and I don’t feel that the Steering Group project does that. We are a member led organisation but we concentrated power into too few hands.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

WATCH: Ed Davey’s speech in full

WATEd Davey has just spoken to Federal Conference. He had a specially invited live audience of around 100 people at a venue in Canary Wharf.

Here is the text in full:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 33 Comments

The speeches that got away – Suzanne Fletcher on accessible housing and freeing Brownfield sites

Unfortunately I missed the housing debate last night as for once I put party over Party. My sister insisted on having two of her children during Federal Conference and I can almost never celebrate with them because I am at Conference. So I took advantage of the chance to do so.

By all accounts the debate was excellent, thoughtful and passionately argued. The issue was whether we should have a national target for house building, which the motion proposed, but ALDC’s amendment did away with. Conference voted to keep it so we are committed to building at 150,000 homes suitable for social rent out of a total of 380,000 per year. I am so pleased that got through. Too many young people find it impossible to find somewhere decent to live that they can afford and we have to be ambitious about resolving that.

But there are two points that weren’t really part of the debate. Stockton’s Suzanne Fletcher wanted to raise the need for accessible housing and freeing up brownfield sites. This is what she would have said if she had been called:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

Conference Day 1: Tears before bedtime

Conference was barely four hours old and I had already been in tears four times.

The debate on ending conversion therapy had some brilliant speeches where people shared their accounts of the damage that this appalling practice can do to LGBT people. I am hoping to have some of those speeches to publish on here.

I also cried at a wonderful fringe event where former leader Jo Swinson talked to Lib Dem Councillor Rabina Khan about her excellent book My Hair is Pink under this Veil It is such a good book that had me raging and crying as she described the disgusting racism she and, particularly her mother, experienced when they came to this country. One of these days I will write a proper review of it. We all should read more about the lived experience of the crap that every single person of colour has to put up with. Jo and Rabina spoke about her childhood, about motherhood and the discrimination that Muslim women have to deal with in maternity services, about how Islamophobia has got much worse since 9/11 and about feminism and about how all women need to stick together to fight for equality. Also, the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality is offering a free copy of Rabina’s book for the first 25 people who join them during Conference.

Elsewhere, Conference passed a motion asking for more support for business to cope with the effects of the pandemic and save jobs, including keeping VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism and extending furlough to the end of this year. We also called for a Global Corporation Tax so that large companies pay their dues. I have put the video of Alistair Carmichael’s excellent speech on our post as it showed some breathtakingly gorgeous Orkney scenery. And it was a bloody good speech.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Conference amendments now out

In the olden days, all the amendments to Conference motions and questions to party committees would be published in a separate booklet and you would have to juggle between the two of them and, quite often, the Conference Daily sheet as well.

We’ve now adapted for the online age and the Conference Extra stuff has now been incorporated into the agenda document itself which will make things much easier to navigate. You can see at first glance on pages 11-14 which motions have amendments and you can just click through to them.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Alex Cole-Hamilton presses Scottish Government on measures to tackle violence against women and girls

After Sarah Everard’s murder in March, women across the country were in shock and expressed their anger. So many took to social media to talk about how they had felt frightened when they were out and about.

I recorded a video at the time recounting my experience of being threatened by a man, which is pretty minor in the scheme of things, but it’s typical of the sort of thing women have to put up with:

We had a discussion amongst Scottish Lib Dem Women about what we could do to turn our anger into positive change that would make women safer outside, at home, at school and work. Because this is so wide-ranging, we came up with the idea of a Commission to look at ways of preventing violence against women and girls in all its forms which would report in the first year of the new Scottish Parliament.

These issues cut across the whole of Government, from education (over 90% of girls experience sexism and being sent unwanted explicit images), to housing (helping those in the sector identify and support victims of domestic abuse and help them stay in their own homes if it is safe for them to do so, from justice given the pitiful number of successful rape prosecutions to social security to tackle poverty (they could start by retaining the extra £20 per week for Universal Credit and getting rid of the wicked two child limit and rape clause) and employment to tackle sexual harassment at work. And you can add in planning to think about how you create safer communities. You need joined up thinking to bring all those strands together into a proper strategy.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

How to get the most out of Conference – key deadline coming up

Every year I swear I’m going to read all the Conference papers in good time, carefully craft speeches before Conference begins and be well prepared. I’d sort my diary well ahead of time so I knew what I’d be doing and when.

Every year the reality is somewhat different. For in-person conferences, I’d be reading the papers and motions and writing speeches on the train on the way down, having panic-thrown every item of clothing I possess into a suitcase to take with me. I suspect that I may be far from unique in this.

This year’s Conference begins in just 17 days’ time. You can find all the papers, including reports from the party’s committees, and policy papers on subjects such as the nature of public debate, federalism, universal basic income, tackling the climate emergency and what Liberal Democrats believe here.

There are several ways you can participate in Conference. The first is to make a speech in any of the debates that you are interested in. If that sounds daunting, just pick a paragraph in any of the motions and try and think of three points to make about it. You don’t have to take up all the time. In fact, the Chair of the debate will probably thank you if you don’t, because they will fit more people in.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | Leave a comment

Help us strengthen the role of affiliated organisations

Our party is a bit like a family, including the fights, factions, and fallouts.  But like a family, there are lots of different interests that bind us together alongside our belief in liberal democracy.

In the past, interest groups who wanted to formalise and become recognised by the party had to go through a process to become an “Associated Organisation” or a “Specified Associated Organisation”.   Back in 2020, however, the Federal Board asked for a review of the way this worked, and how these groups interact and work together with the wider party.

Since then we (Flo Clucas, Tim Pickstone, Bess Mayhew and Steffan Aquarone, ably assisted by Jack Coulson) have spoken to dozens of party organisations and surveyed hundreds of their members – from the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, to Liberal Democrat Women, and everything in between.  We found a number of consistent themes.

There were lots of ways we identified that could make the process simpler, and more broadly appealing to the richly diverse range of interests that are aligned to our cause as Liberal Democrats – resulting in the simple status of “Affiliated Organisation”.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

Federalism motion has the answers the UK needs

Through Brexit and the pandemic, our country has undergone social and political upheavals which will certainly leave a longstanding mark. But these systemic shocks are potential turning points in history where we have the opportunity to remake our politics for the better. Constitutional and electoral reform are dry subjects which fail to enthuse many in politics, let alone the general public. Overcoming that is a challenge in itself, but the current circumstances mean it has never been a better time to make the case for reform for a politics that is more open, fair and representative.

On Sunday 19 September, Lib Dem Conference  will consider a motion on ‘A Framework for England in a Federal UK’ which you can read on page 63 of the agenda. I believe it is a very important motion, addressing some key questions for the formation of a federal UK: the lack of genuine or consistent devolution for England; and the relationship between England and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Federalism can unleash great potential to empower communities, expand transparency and accountability, help to heal the wounds and divisions exposed by Brexit and to ‘level up’ the economy. Levelling up alone could deliver considerable economic growth in the ‘rest’ of the UK and lift millions out of poverty. But only federalism could do this. The kind of devolution the Conservatives and Labour have pursued has failed to truly empower communities and leaves Westminster all too often intervening and meddling in local and regional economies.

For me, the most important (and exciting) thing about federalism is its potential to genuinely empower people by radically shifting the balance of power. Under devolution, powers exercised at Holyrood, the Senedd or Stormont have in effect been delegated by Westminster. MPs can weaken those powers or withdraw them altogether, without consultation or the consent of those institutions or the people they represent.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 65 Comments

Get your nominations in for the Party Awards

Every year at  Conference we acknowledge those people who have made an outstanding contribution to the Liberal Democrats whether they have achieved elected office or not.

Nominations are open for this Autumn’s awards and close on 16th August.

So what are the awards and who is eligible?

The President’s Award

Eligibility: open to any Party Member elected to public office and who has demonstrated excellence and commitment.

Criteria: the winner will be recognised for outstanding commitment and service to the Party. Local, regional and state parties should be seeking to nominate people who deserve recognition for their hard work, long service, and demonstrable dedication to the party, at whatever level. It is expected to be special awards to be awarded from the Party for whom public recognition is overdue.

The Harriet Smith Liberal Democrat Distinguished Service Award

Background: this award is named for Harriet Smith, who campaigned and worked tireless for the Party, notably alongside Paddy Ashdown, with the Federal Conference Committee, and in the Bath party. A beloved figure, she is also missed from the Conference revue and by the team at the Liberator Magazine.
Eligibility: open to any Party Member never elected to public office.

Criteria: the Harriet Smith Award shares its conditions with the President’s award.

The Belinda Eyre-Brook Award

Posted in News | Also tagged | Leave a comment

Federal Conference Committee Report – setting the preliminary agenda for Autumn Conference

Federal Conference Committee met via Zoom call on Saturday, 10 July for the agenda selection for our Autumn Conference 2021. The meeting was a lengthy one, which was in part due to the large selection of motions received. 

A few announcements before the report; as you may be aware Geoff Payne, departed the FCC in early May, and I am delighted to have been elected the new Chair of FCC. All of us wish Geoff the very best for the future. A recount was held for the vacant place on the Committee, and I am delighted that Keith Melton has joined as our new member of the Federal Conference Committee. Chris Adams has also been elected in the vacant Vice-Chair position and will take responsibility for the General Purposes Sub Committee. 

This Autumn conference will be held online, via our third-party provider, Hopin. You will be able to find more information about the virtual conference. If you are planning to attend conference, we highly recommend taking part in the interactive exhibitions and the fringes.

If you haven’t yet registered for Conference, I would recommend to do so here.

The FCC wants to pay its thanks to the continued amazing efforts of the Conference Office team and members who have worked so incredibly hard. You will see from the timings of Conference that it is slightly different to the usual format, and we hope that this will give more people an opportunity to attend virtually, but also it has meant that we have been able to increase the number of motions selected, we have allowed short breaks between sessions but have also worked hard to include as many of the motions submitted as possible. The agenda for Conference will be published very shortly.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 23 Comments

Pilates, comedy and an orchestra – Lib Dem virtual conference registration open

When you think of Lib Dem conference, you think of debates, packed fringe meetings with varying quality of buffets and events like the Glee Club.

These things are difficult to replicate on a virtual platform, but the Federal Conference Committee  has flagged up Pilates classes, a comedy night and a classical music concert with an orchestra as just a few of the attractions at this year’s digital Autumn Conference, to be held from 17-21 September.

Registration is now open, as FCC Chair Nick De Costa announced in an email to members:

Posted in News | 2 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • Russell Simpson
    According to recent yougov polls, if you remove "don't knows", there's almost a 60/40 split in favour of PR. Amongst Labour voters it's even more and amongst La...
  • Jeff
    Labour already have PR with 31.1% of MPs on 32.1% of the vote. It’s hard to see why they’d want to change to a system which would result in their votes and ...
  • Rob Harrison
    Fiona‘s point is pertinent - to compare political parties between countries can be challenging because of different social conditions. But let me make some ob...
  • nvelope2003
    Antony Watts: Unfortunately the Government, its MPs and its civil servants do not understand or know what would be required. Anyone who did understand would be ...
  • Ian MacFadyen
    Why is anyone surprised?...