Tag Archives: ldv at virtual conference

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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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: 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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