Tag Archives: conference countdown

Conference Countdown 2016: Conference App now live

I’ve just downloaded the newly updated Conference App to my phone and spent half an hour making up my schedule for the Conference.

You can get it from your App store of choice now.

It’s brilliant because it has the Agenda and Directory in full so you can look up the text of motions. It will have the Conference Extra and Conference Daily when they are published. It also has maps  of the venue. and exhibition.

I find it particularly useful that it will save the events I select into the main diary on my phone where I’ve been piling up meetings for some time now.

It really is Conference in your pocket so download it now.

You might also like to read my guide to the craziness of Conference which I’ve updated for Brighton.

Posted in News | 7 Comments

Conference Countdown: Agenda 2020: The final stage

Agenda 2020 paperSunday morning at Brighton will see one of the most important debates at conference. It probably won’t be terribly controversial (though one never knows …), but it is party members’ chance to say what they think – not about specific policies the party should adopt, but about what the party stands for: its basic philosophy.

This is the final stage in the Federal Policy Committee’s ‘Agenda 2020’ process, which has featured many times before in the pages of Lib Dem Voice. Over the past year we have published two consultation papers, organised two consultative sessions at federal conferences, commissioned a set of essays and organised an essay competition within the party (all available at http://www.libdems.org.uk/agenda2020).

The outcome of all this is the policy paper The Opportunity to Succeed, the Power to Change. Its first purpose is to explain the basic underlying beliefs of the party and what, in broad terms, is the point of us. So the first main chapter sets out the case for the Liberal Democrats – the essence of what we are trying to do and why it matters. We’ve phrased this round two objectives: giving people the opportunity to succeed, and enabling them to take the power to grasp those opportunities. Too many people in today’s Britain lack the opportunity to live their lives as they want, and too many people feel powerless in the face of change.

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Conference Countdown 2016: Tackling global corruption should be a core Liberal campaign

On April 3 2016, just under 12 million documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca containing financial details on over 200,000 offshore companies. While the bulk of our nation’s media coverage was of David Cameron’s family investment fund – Blairmore Holdings – and the former Prime Minister of Iceland’s resignation, most news outlets underplayed the real significance of the investigation: the details of shell companies used to profit from criminal activity and how the lack of transparency in opaque jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles or Bahamas provides cover for organisations involved in people trafficking, narcotics, selling arms to despotic regimes and terrorism.

On Saturday, Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats are moving a motion demanding that the UK calls time on the lack of progress in our overseas territories and sets a deadline for the implementation of centralised registers which make the beneficial ownership of companies available both to relevant authorities and to the public.

The UK has a strong record in this area: Vince Cable drove forward the development of legislation for Companies House to implement a register of Persons of Significant Control during the coalition and the register is now starting to be filled with statements of beneficial ownership. It is due for completion in June 2017.

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Conference Countdown 2016: Looking forward to Lib Dem Disco?

For those of you heading to Conference in Brighton this weekend, I hope word has reached you by now that Cambridge Lib Dems are once again hosting the hugely enjoyable Lib Dem Disco in association with UK Music.

It was such fun last year that even Buzzfeed was astounded.

This year will see defending champion DJ Jo Swinson taking on the challenge from Kirsty Williams, Simon Hughes and the ALDC’s own Abi Bell. As before, your MC for the evening is one Julian “J Huppz” Huppert.

Things kick off at 10:30pm in the Balmoral & Buckingham Room, Hilton Metropole, Brighton on Saturday 17th September.

Please note that in previous years a special online discount was offered. This year tickets are all £10 each. We would like to apologise if this was incorrectly stated elsewhere. Naturally you can trust this now that you’ve read it on Lib Dem Voice!

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Trident and the “doctrine of unripe time”

In his brilliant book on academic politics “Microcosmographica Academica” , F M Cornford wrote that there was only one argument for doing anything – that it was right. There were, however, many arguments for not doing anything, of which “the doctrine of unripe time” is one of the most common. This applies perfectly to the Liberal Democrat Conference debate on Trident. On the surface, the question seems simple – replace Trident or scrap Trident – but the waters have been muddied by an amendment from Baroness Jolly which says neither. It says we should set up another working group to consider options.

Over the last eight years conference has debated Trident no less than five times, sometimes alone and sometimes as part of a portmanteau motion. There have been two working groups which have taken evidence from senior civil servants, generals, academics and defence think tanks. In addition Ming Campbell conducted a review of options before we went into coalition. Finally in government we forced an official review of options by defence specialists. What can any party group possibly learn that will add to all that? What indeed! There is nothing new to learn. It’s just the “doctrine of unripe time” again. There is no reason whatsoever to kick this can down the road. There is a very good reason to make our minds up now. Some time in 2016 parliament will vote on the “Main Gate” decision committing over £100 billion pounds to Trident’s successor. Our working group would probably report back after that decision and all its regurgitation of old information would be utterly irrelevant.

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Conference Countdown 2015: John Pugh MP writes…Benchmark for Bournemouth

Every political party has its own narrative. In the last decade we have  moved from being a popular party of opposition to an unpopular party of government. Our ambition is to be a popular party of government.

Our success in doing so will be influenced by the direction of travel in other parties. Labour is manifestly on a  strange journey but we should be hesitant about drawing parallels or making comparisons. Blairites in reforming their party took that party to massive electoral success. Orange bookers in endeavouring to re-direct the Liberal Democrats took us to electoral wipeout.

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Conference Countdown 2015: We cannot vote to become group members of CND

We all remember the pain of the General Election. We seemed to lose votes from two major groups of people.

The first were people who would not forgive us for working with the Tories in Government. They were tacical voters who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and then voted Labour/Green in 2015.

The second group were swing Lib Dem/Conservative voters. Many of them were scared by the Tories into voting Conservative to stop a Labour/SNP government that would wreck the economy and make the UK unsafe.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Why you shouldn’t give me a vote at Conference

In the last four years, I’ve been to a lot of Lib Dem conferences – though sadly not next week – but I’ve had a vote at none of them. I was even the mover of an amendment, but I didn’t get to vote on it.

On Monday the One Member One Vote motion would give me a vote at conference. So why do I think you shouldn’t give it to me?

I’m not worried about the vast, vast majority of members. But there are a just a few who do worry me. If we decided votes by referenda, I wouldn’t be concerned. Among 61,000 members, a few rogue votes wouldn’t be significant. But attendance at conference is a lot lower.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Agenda 2020 at conference: your chance to have your say

We’ve written here before about the Federal Policy Committee’s ‘Agenda 2020’ exercise – a major consultation within the party on Liberal Democrats’ basic beliefs, values and approaches. Our political philosophy is the backbone around which we build our policies on specific issues, and a vital part of our fightback.

A short consultation paper, Agenda 2020, and an accompanying set of essays setting out the personal opinions of a range of individuals within the party are both available on the party website.

The paper sets out a brief description of the Liberal Democrat philosophy and outlines the policy challenges the country, and the party, will face over the next five years. Responses to the paper can be submitted via the website, but we are also discussing it at two consultative sessions during the Bournemouth conference. Each of them will give you an opportunity to give us your thoughts on what’s in the paper, what you like, what you don’t like, and what’s missing.

It’s not terribly obvious from the conference agenda how the sessions will be run, so we thought it would be useful to outline them here.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Trident debate: the fourth way

Current Liberal Democrat policy is that we reduce our fleet of nuclear missile submarines from four to three – but reducing the cost of our nuclear programme by less than a quarter. Most of the time we intend to have a nuclear missile submarine at sea but not armed with nuclear missiles. However at times of international tension we would sortie a submarine armed with nuclear weapons.

Trident and its successors are designed to penetrate sophisticated air defence systems such as those developed by Russia. I can think of no occasion when it would be rational for the United Kingdom to launch missiles at such a foe without the support of other major powers. No scenario in which an independent launch against such a major foe would be a sensible option has been put forward in the current debate.

Delegates to conference who think the three submarine strategy is a sensible use of £100bn can keep this policy by voting down the motion before conference.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 31 Comments

Conference Countdown 2015: Would you abolish One Member One Vote if it was already in place?

A good test of a proposed new rule is to imagine: if it was already in place, would you be convinced by arguments to abolish it? So imagine with me that the Liberal Democrats had one-member, one-vote (OMOV) in place, instead of our conference representatives system, for electing our federal committees and for voting at party conference. A world with all party members able to vote in both.

It would not be nirvana. You can imagine some being concerned about the time and cost involved in coming to conference and the members who therefore miss out. You can also imagine complaints when ballot papers come round that members do not know enough about what the candidates are like or their track records.

So take one more step down imaginary lane with me and picture me at a podium in front of you, laying out all these problems and revealing – hooray! – I have an answer.

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Tim Farron MP writes…Liberal Democrats will not support like for like Trident replacement but Conference motion doesn’t answer key questions

Another Lib Dem conference and we find ourselves talking about our nuclear deterrent once more. This is a huge and timely issue as the Tory Government will be taking the decision to proceed with the Trident replacement programme next year. In fact, with the recent announcement of an additional £500m for Faslane they have already nailed their colours very firmly to the mast. So it’s absolutely right that conference should debate the issue, and I think members deserve to hear where I stand on it.

There are obviously strong views on both sides, but I do not support the existing motion. Judith Jolly has submitted a very sensible amendment which asks for the motion to be referred back to the Federal policy Committee. I want to see a full and open consultation on this issue so that we can consider the threats we face and be completely clear on the options, implications and costs of any decisions. We need a party working group to look at the questions of how best to allocate scare resources, guarantee security, and fulfil our international obligations while facing up to the type of threats and challenges Britain will face in the 21st Century. And we need Lib Dem answers.  

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Conference Countdown 2015: How to learn lessons and not blow the EU referendum

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Willie Rennie has finally written a frank and fascinating assessment of the flaws in the Better Together campaign. He draws a number of important conclusions which need to be learned if the EU referendum is not going to fall foul of the pitfalls that beset not only Better Together but in starker and disastrous form the incompetent Yes To AV campaign in 2011. All the articles are well worth a read.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Let’s scrap the “scrapping Trident” motion

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Yesterday,  the Labour Party made the historic mistake of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new party leader. Through this decision, it has thrown away years of work (and time in government) convincing the general public that it is electable. To a lesser degree, let us not do the same.

Naturally I respect the views of the “Scrapping Trident” lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause. But it should be remembered that the party already threw out the idea of scrapping Trident at party conference just two years ago by coming to a compromise that we would make substantial savings by reducing the number of Successor submarines from four to three.

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Eluned Parrott AM writes…Tourism tax reduction will boost economy and create jobs

Tourism is a major part of our economy, and one of the few industries which truly covers the whole of the UK. There isn’t a single Parliamentary seat which doesn’t benefit from tourism and it’s a sector with great potential for growth.

As Liberal Democrats I believe we should use the levers at our disposal to stimulate the economy and create opportunities for people to get on in life, no matter where they live. That is why, as a group of local parties from across the UK, we have brought this motion to conference. By reducing VAT to 5% for tourism businesses – bringing the UK into line with most of our European neighbours – we could do exactly that.

British tourism is at a competitive disadvantage, being perceived as an expensive holiday destination when compared to other EU countries. The impact of this on our tourism businesses is that it encourages UK customers to holiday abroad and deters visitors to the UK.

But price sensitivity in the tourism industry also acts in subtler ways. With UK hotels seen as more expensive than continental ones, visitors to Europe from the US and Far East spend less time here, ticking off the major sights in London and never stepping beyond the capitol. The higher upfront cost of staying here means that businesses in other parts of the UK don’t benefit, and those visitors that do come spend less in restaurants, shops and visitor attractions because they simply aren’t here very long.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Transgender and intersex health charter

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

First thing on Monday morning, Conference will debate a long 122 line motion on what is billed as a health charter for transgender and intersex people, but actually is much more wide-ranging.

Trans and intersex  rights is the next major front for equality campaigners. Lynne Featherstone in government set out an ambitious transgender action plan but this was kicked into the long grass when she was moved out of the Home Office in 2012.

Certainly, there is much to be done. Figures show that waiting times for a first appointment at a gender identity clinic are more than excessive.

Gender Identity clinic waiting times

 

In Scotland, young people are now being told that they have a 7 month wait before they will get an appointment at the only Gender Identity Clinic for children and  teenagers in the country. This is a mighty chunk out of a school year for very vulnerable young people who may be at particular risk of self harm and suicide.

One issue that I don’t think the motion tackles is the lack of gender specialists being trained. Until more people can be attracted into the field, the problem is surely only going to get worse at a time when many more people are seeking help. In Scotland, referrals are steeply increasing, with 2 young people a week being added to the waiting list. The clinic has recently been extended from one half day a week to one full day a week but that is far from sufficient to cope with demand. An article in today’s Sunday Herald shows the extent of the problem:

The long wait can have a serious impact on trans people who are desperate for help, both mentally and physically.

Gerber admitted: “It can be distressing and there are reports of people committing suicide as a result of that.”

Steph Bell, from Edinburgh, said she was so desperate for treatment that she told her health board she was thinking of buying hormones online, as she couldn’t face waiting months for help.

The 29-year-old claims after she told the Lothian health board her plans they agreed to move her up the waiting list, but nine months later she has still not been seen.

Bell, who has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome, said she avoids going out alone and struggles with anxiety, made worse by her wait for hormone therapy.

Here is the motion in full. The deadline for amendments is tomorrow at 1pm. 

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Conference Countdown 2015: Call for better youth services

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

The final debate before the Leader’s Speech is on the subject of youth services. The motion’s promoters have been very busy this week, ensuring coverage on the Children and Young People now website. Mathew Hulbert told the site:

Hulbert said the Lib Dem Friends of Youth Services has been formed to campaign internally in the party to influence the party line on youth services in the current parliament and through into the next general election in 2020. “The other part of it is being able to speak out by whatever means possible, joining other other people from the sector who are saying that young people are being dumped on time and again – whether it be youth services, or cuts to benefits. “What have young people done to deserve being treated in this way by government?”

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Conference Countdown 2015: Cutting VAT for tourism would be a costly mistake

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

One of the motions at conference is for reducing VAT on tourism as far as possible. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

The idea is to reduce VAT on hotels and selected attractions from the standard rate of 20% to 5% – the minimum allowed by the EU. This is something the British Hospitality Association has been lobbying the Treasury on for years. The motion refers to the importance of tourism more generally, with figures that include all restaurants, pubs and outbound flights, amongst other things, but I assume its VAT proposal is (mercifully) more limited.

The government’s response to this lobbying (under both Labour and the Coalition of which we were a part) has been to point to the substantial price tag. The cost of cutting VAT for accommodation alone would be £2 billion a year, with amusement parks and similar adding another £200 million. This is serious money. A comparable total would be the cost of the Pupil Premium that Lib Dems fought so hard to introduce.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Human Rights motion – we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water

As many will know, there is an excellent motion on Human Rights to be debated at the Bournemouth conference. I have set out the motion below this post.

I have one query which readers may be to help me with.

It pertains to this section of the motion:

Conference resolves to:
…C. Retain the Human Rights Act unless it is replaced with a Bill of Rights which incorporates and builds on those rights set out in the ECHR and oppose any attempts by Conservatives to introduce a British Bill of Rights which does not achieve this.

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Conference Countdown 2015: The first policy debate on creating safe and legal routes for refugees.

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

The first policy debate of tho year’s Conference is on Creating safe and legal routes for refugees. It will be proposed by Suzanne Fletcher who is one of the founder members of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary.

The motion is unlikely to be controversial and is particularly relevant at the moment. It is very consistent with the sorts of things that Tim Farron has been saying, especially since he visited the refugees in Calais himself.

However, if there are any developments, amendments can be submitted until 7th September. 

Posted in Conference, Events and News | 2 Comments

Conference Countdown 2015: The Directory has been on a diet

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

The reality of our new circumstances hit when the Conference Directory landed on my doorstep the other day. The Directory lists all the fringe and exhibition activity going on over the five days in Bournemouth. While there is still a huge amount to do and people will still be struggling to choose which  meeting they would like to go to in every slot, it’s noticeable that the fringe is a good deal smaller than it was last year. Mine is a good deal smaller still after my puppy, Hazel, got hold of it and decided to rip it to shreds.

By way of comparison, there were 10 pages of exhibitors last year and only 6 this year, and the balance has shifted so that there is a higher proportion of party stands than we have become used to.

Posted in Conference and News | 2 Comments

Conference Countdown 2015: How do Conference debates work?

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

For those of you who haven’t been to Conference before, I thought it might be useful to run through how Conference debates work.

Local parties, groups of Conference representatives and organisations (SAOs) like Liberal Youth and Lib Dem Women can submit motions to Conference. They are then circulated and are open to amendment. This year’s deadline for amendments is 1pm on Monday 7th September, so if you want to amend any of the motions, persuade 10 Conference representatives, or persuade your local party or an SAO to submit it for you. You can submit amendments online here and until next Tuesday at 1pm, you can even get drafting advice from expert motion writers here.

Posted in Conference, Events and News | 4 Comments

Conference Countdown 2015: #libdemdisco is back

In just four weeks’ time, Liberal Democrats will be flocking to Bourmemouth for our annual Autumn Conference. I’m so looking forward to it because I have never been there.

Every day between now and then, we’ll be previewing the debates, the fringe, the training and telling you everything you could possibly want to know about the event.

As it’s Friday afternoon, we’ll keep today’s preview lighthearted. Many of you will be delighted to see that the #libdemdisco is back. Last year, the event, run by Cambridge Liberal Democrats, was a huge hit. I was lucky enough to be one of the DJs, competing against Tim Farron, Alistair Carmichael and Don Foster. I was pretty surprised to come second in that illustrious field to Alistair Carmichael. Now it’s time to dust off the glitter balls for this year’s event.

“Your proposal for carnage is appealing”

So said the email from one of last year’s organisers. I was determined that as we were in Glasgow, we should do something Scottish. And it went remarkably well, as Paul Walter’s video shows:

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  • User Avatarsuzanne Fletcher 20th Aug - 6:47pm
    @George Potter. Yes it is long, but no way were we going to be the people to say that some bits did not matter !...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 20th Aug - 6:39pm
    @Peter Martin Hi Peter, Thank you for your comments. For the sake of clarity, are you the same Peter Martin who commented last year on...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 20th Aug - 6:14pm
    @Mark Seaman The point about car manufacture is that it requires a large investment in a plant. So there tends to be one (or two)...
  • User AvatarGeorge Potter 20th Aug - 6:06pm
    With apologies to Suzanne and LD4SOS, my understanding is that their amendment is 3 pages long. In all my time in the party I have...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 20th Aug - 5:53pm
    @ Grahame Evans, Yours is a rather convoluted argument. Low interest rates and a lowish exchange rate are a sign of weakness in an economy...
  • User AvatarPeter Hayes 20th Aug - 5:24pm
    I agree with Martin, the summary is useful. If you read ConsevativeHome and LabourList BTL you see that our comments are relatively moderate! Labour has...