Tag Archives: liberal democrat spring conference 2016

Liberalism vs. authoritarianism in the debate over cannabis

 

In York, conference voted to create a regulatory framework for cannabis. This is a move that I wholeheartedly support and I’d like to draw on the example of Colorado to explain why.

On the 1st of January 2014, Colorado fully legalised cannabis for recreational purposes. Within four months they raised $10 million dollars in tax revenue which they invested in education and infrastructure.

Crime dropped by 10% and violent crime dropped by 5%. The marijuana industry also created thousands of jobs and by October unemployment was at its lowest since 2008.

Colorado also legalised marijuana for medicinal purposes meaning that people suffering from ailments such as chronic pain and cancer could effectively alleviate their pain without fear of prosecution or risking their freedom.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 32 Comments

Reflections of a conference first-timer

key_conference_registerHi! My name is Diane and I am disabled. Now I have made that confession, I would like to share my reflections of being a first time attendee at conference.

A few months before the conference I deliberated whether or not to attend the spring conference in York. Due to my disability I required support to attend the conference and this can be quite costly as most things are for disabled people.  Also I was unsure what actually happens at conference and I was concerned that I did not have enough knowledge to fully engage with the motions being put forward.

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My personal reflections on York

York banner

Spring conference ended on a beautiful afternoon here in York, and whilst colleagues were journeying back to their own constituencies, as a local resident of the city I thought I’d spend the time saved in the commute to jot down some personal highlights.

The rally on Friday served up some great speeches from new Lib Dem members, notably from broadcaster/ army officer/ junior doctor Saleyha Ahsan who spoke passionately in defence of her profession (the medical one) but conflated the junior doctors pay strike and privatisation of the NHS.

Saturday was mostly fringe for me, and I attended the Private Renters event hosted by ‘Generation Rent’ intending to vent my spleen about the older generation treating property as a pension investment.  Lots of other attendees were landlords keen to point out the impracticalities of rent controls or the unfair nature of existing regulations.  Bah, try raising a family in a flat with one month tenancy notice mate!  This issue is clearly going to be back at conference soon.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

After the diversity debate: the hard part

Note: you can view the debate here, about 44 minutes in. The agenda for the conference is here and the Conference Dailies which include the amendments for Sunday are here.

On an issue where it is entirely possible to be on either side of the argument holding a position that is Liberal, it is time for all concerned to be respectful of that fact and to acknowledge that the real hard work on diversity is yet to be done.

Like a number of other people, I found myself supporting the Conference motion that included all-women shortlists despite my not supporting all-women shortlists .  I had drafted Amendment 2 to refocus the debate on the entirety of the party’s colossal diversity problem and ensure it wasn’t portrayed solely as a gender problem.

Amendment 2 commits the party to set out to local parties how to use the Equality Act.  It enables winnable seats to choose between candidates of equal merit in favour of those from an under-represented group.  It also commits the party to present the bizarre effect of the Act in not allowing ‘diversity shortlists’ – a concept many liberals would support.

So what next?  Two points have been made by people who opposed AWS that should be acknowledged and acted on, just as the points made forcefully in the debate by speakers from Liberal Youth about wider culture change in the party.

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All women shortlists

At Liberal Democrat Conference in York this weekend I have been told by a number of women that they would not want to be the candidate for a seat that selected from an all women shortlist.  I have some news for them, most of them won’t be.  The motion passed means that of the around 580 seats that the Liberal Democrats will contend 8 must have all women shortlists.

I will now issue a direct challenge to those women, don’t walk away from the party but instead as there are up to 572 seats not selecting on all women shortlists so choose one of those seats and get selected as a Parliamentary Candidate.  However, my challenge goes much further than that because right now we only have enough approved candidates who are women to fill a quarter of those seats so at the same time convince another woman who is capable of standing for parliament to do the same.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 32 Comments

My response to the debate on motion F7 (Regulation of cannabis)

 

Note: you can view the debate here, about 2 hours 48 minutes in.

First of all, kudos to our party. Who else would not only discuss an issue that is usually swept under the carpet, but broadcast that debate live on the Internet and then keep it there for everyone to watch / listen to. As a result, I shall summarise my thoughts on each of the speeches.

Norman Lamb MP (Norfolk North) is of course, absolutely correct. Reports of this nature take a long time to compile and the panel who came up with this report should be applauded for their efforts. He is also right to bring up the fact that several members of the current Cabinet, through public statements, have admitted using cannabis and therefore are guilty of hypocrisy. Therefore, in conclusion what Norman said is entirely correct, we need to have a debate, and a debate is precisely what I applaud.

Lee Dargue (Birmingham, Edgbaston) who summed up his amendment by saying “What Norman said” which is succinct and to the point, and he is right. We started the conversation about the mental health of this nation and I have to admit that conversation seems to have come to a bit of a grinding halt post general election. However, whilst recognizing that “fourteen year olds are having sex” and that “fourteen year olds are doing drugs”, I would like to counter that when I was fourteen I was not doing drugs nor having sex and I put that down wholly to being brought up by my grandparents and therefore believe that closer family discussions on these subjects would be an avenue to explore.

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Discussing electoral reform in York

Five years after the Liberal Democrats comprehensively messed up on electoral reform, the ludicrously disproportional 2015 general election result has put it back on the agenda.

There will be two related fringes at York, organised by Pro-PR (1-2 p.m. Saturday, Hilton) on the idea of an electoral pact for 2020, and by the Electoral Reform Society (6.15-7.15 p.m. Saturday, Novotel) on the idea of a Constitutional Convention.

Electoral reform is about more than fairness (avoiding disproportionality, safe seats and the need for tactical voting). As Ed Straw sets out in his recent Treaty for Government, our present voting system of FPTP distorts the fabric of politics, leading to wasteful `zigzag government’. Getting politicians to allow change in how they are elected is always a difficult matter, as the long struggles for voting rights illustrate. FPTP is defended by the two parties that benefit from it; perhaps the greatest current hope lies in Labour’s recognising how difficult it is going to be for them to win a majority in the foreseeable future.

Opportunities for reform in Scotland came with Labour’s rush to devolution in 1997, and the Liberal Democrats’ successful coalition negotiation with Labour in 2003.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Federal Conference Committee report – Spring Conference amendments edition

Federal Conference Committee (FCC) met late yesterday afternoon to discuss the Amendments and Emergency Motions for York – the full text of accepted amendments will appear in Conference Daily. The usual caveat regarding descriptions of amendments applies. Amendments don’t have titles with them, so these are my own entirely unofficial summaries which may not be entirely accurate or complete. The list of accepted/rejected amendments is also based on my own notes as Spring conference is very intense and moves quickly – so I apologise in advance for any errors.
There are a few more options open to FCC compared to full motions – in particular, we can often “draft in” uncontroversial amendments so that they can be accepted without needing to spend time moving and voting on them. Conversely, we can be quite restricted in that it makes no sense to accept two overlapping amendments
Posted in Conference and News | 3 Comments

Jo Swinson writes…Been there, got the t-shirt

As part of the Committee for the fabulous WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre, I find myself in London this weekend, which means I’ll miss the diversity motion in York.

Passions run high on this issue, and I hope the debate will unfold with respect and kindness on both sides.  Whichever side of the debate we are on, we should acknowledge that our aim is the same – a party where every individual can feel supported and welcome, with many more elected representatives at all levels, reflecting the diversity of our society in all ways, and making a positive impact on our communities.

In 2001, I took to the conference platform in Bournemouth, summating an amendment to a similar motion, in much the same vein as this weekend’s amendment submitted by the East Midlands.  Liberal Youth have also voiced their opposition to all-women shortlists. The group of us campaigning on this issue had t-shirts specially printed for the occasion, declaring “I am not a token woman.  Say No to all-women shortlists.” Our amendment was successful, and the Gender Balance Task Force was formed, now the Campaign for Gender Balance.

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

The Party President, the Federal Conference Committee Chair and a new member discuss Conference

This is the audio feed of a pre-Conference webinar held on Monday night where Party President Sal Brinton, new member Emily Barrass and Federal Conference Committee Chair Andrew Wiseman discuss Conference. Hear them talk about their funniest Conference memories (Mr Wiseman’s is particularly tame. He’s going to have to do better over the weekend, so he’d better have a good story lined up), the Glee Club, and speaking at Conference (Sal has some really good tips on that). Emily came to Conference in Bournemouth and has seriously caught the bug.

They strongly recommended chatting to anyone you meet. All our VIPs are incredibly approachable. If you have a question, just go up and ask them.

Mary, Joe and I will be there from LDV. Please come and say hello.

Enjoy the video.

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The myth of “the best candidate”

I think it is time to debunk the myth of ‘the best candidate’.

Many people in these various threads on the diversity motion say we would end up not selecting this mythical person if we were to allow AWS.

Leaving aside for the moment the aspersion this casts on women candidates, let’s have a look at the best candidate argument and see if it holds water.

The first thing we need to consider is what wins elections at a parliamentary level? Is it the candidate or is it the campaign? I would argue strongly that it’s the campaign that is built around the candidate and the work that is put in by the team around the candidate that is most important. Of course a personable and hard working candidate is also an asset, but a new PPC will have almost zero personal vote and incumbency doesn’t kick in at all until someone has been elected more than once. Even if a local candidate has been an active councillor this will at best be in 10-15% of the seat and there is scant evidence that this transfers to the parliamentary contest. On this I speak with personal knowledge having been in just that position in 2001, where having been elected as a councillor is 1998 AND 1999, my vote in the 2001 GE was not much different in my ward than anywhere else in the constituency.

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Person X supports the legalisation of cannabis

 

“Person X supports the legalisation of cannabis” is quite a headline. For that person to be a sports star or celebrity generates some interest. For it to be a user of cannabis, it often generates derision.

If X is the leader of a political party, or a former government health minister, it surely is big news. This is why I joined, and have stayed a member, of the Liberal Democrats: to have radical, evidence-based policies which strike out as making us distinctive and pleased Norman Lamb has put a motion forward to conference for this policy, and please Tim Farron has supported it.

When it comes to policy-making, we are the party that prides itself most on having an evidence base. Some parties go for populism over evidence, whereas we often prefer radical policies. And some parties go on mainly grabbing headlines. These three elements are often at odds and one usually wins over the other.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 38 Comments

York’s best pubs for Conference attendees

Nick Love, the former Parliamentary candidate for York Central, has put together an indispensable guide to the best watering holes in York.

You can download his recommendations and a useful map:

York Pubs for Lib Dem Conference 2016

York A-Z Pubs Map

 

 

 

 

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My personal thoughts on Motion F7

I have lived with my grandparents all my life and as a result, especially since 2005 as I have been their registered carer, I have moved wherever and whenever they have moved and this means that since I became a Liberal Democrat in 1992, I have been all over the place.

However, there is one small downside to this and that is being able to get to big Lib Dem events. In those 24 years I have only managed to attend one regional conference, three Welsh conferences and no federal conferences or special conferences, which brings me to the reason for this (as the Americans would say) op-ed: Motion F7 at the conference in York discussing the paper launched a few days ago entitled “A Framework for a Regulated Market for Cannabis in the United Kingdom“.

Now, let me make this clear from the get go, having read the report I agree with a large number of things. For instance, “Each year, criminal gangs generate billions of pounds from the illegal drug trade – money which in turn funds organised crime. And each year thousands of people receive convictions for drug possession which will harm their education and employment prospects for the rest of their lives” is absolutely true.  Similarly “Liberal Democrats argue that we need an evidence based approach to drugs law, one which is based on independent and scientific advice, rather than fear and prejudice” is a statement I think we can all agree on.

However, I have to draw the line at the conclusion of the report that cannabis should be legalised and distributed via dedicated retail outlets, social clubs and via home growing.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments

The Liberal Democrats have a diversity problem

liberalyouth2015I will say it again: the Liberal Democrats have a diversity problem. We are “too male and too pale” – and too straight, and too able-bodied. But All-Women Shortlists are not the only solution to this, and this is why Liberal Youth Youth (backed by our own policy, as passed at our Youth Conference) are proposing an amendment against them. We are under no illusions about the state of our party. Like those that proposed the motion in the first place, we want to be better.

However, we believe that All-Women Shortlists do not tackle the root of our diversity problem. They throw all our energy at papering over the cracks, without pausing to wonder why women aren’t putting themselves forward. We, as a party, are full of absolutely incredible women.  Are we seriously suggesting that the only reason we don’t have 650 female Parliamentary Candidates is because they won’t compete with men for a selection, or that our party is so unbearably sexist that they’ll only vote for a woman if they’re given no other choice?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 28 Comments

The Diversity Motion – a spring board to bring greater fairness, diversity and openness to our party

The Diversity Motion being put forward this weekend at the Spring Conference in York, is an important, necessary and long overdue motion, one that Liberal Democrats need to unanimously support. As a party we have always been committed to eliminating all types of prejudice, discrimination, inequality and privilege, and must continue to do so when it comes to the country’s elected bodies and party structures. For the myriad voices present in our society to be heard and valued, our political system must reflect the diversity that exists, not just a narrow section. This unfortunately is not case, and also is sadly not true of the Liberal Democrats.

There is wholly inadequate diversity among Lib Dem members of parliament and candidates. Despite efforts to increase diversity, in the form of the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Leadership Programme, there has only been a limited impact on the proportion of individuals elected from under-represented groups and low socio-economic backgrounds.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments

Conference app now available

The Conference App is now available, and it can be downloaded free from the App Store or at Google Play. If you want a version for Blackberry or Windows you can find it here.

PS. Is this the shortest post ever on Lib Dem Voice?

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LibLink: Norman Lamb: Why we should regulate Cannabis

Tim Farron has openly said that he smoked Cannabis as a youngster.

From today’s Mirror:

Lib Dem chief Tim Farron has becomes the first leader of a UK-wide political party to admit smoking cannabis.

The MP’s candid confession comes as he calls for the complete legalisation of the drug in a bid to generate up to £900million for public coffers.

Father-of-four Mr Farron, 46, told the Mirror: “I tried cannabis when I was younger, as did many other politicians.

“But sadly, too many other politicians want to continue forcing our police to waste resources chasing cannabis users when they should be able to take violent crime instead.

“It’s time that we had the courage to look at the evidence and make a decision that will help us to tackle the real criminals instead of the current failed approach.”

On the party website, Norman Lamb has urged members to support the motion calling for the legalisation of Cannabis. He wrote:

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Alison McInnes’ speech in the Scottish diversity debate: Positive action is a realignment to break the mould that society has been using for too long

This is the speech that Alison McInnes gave to the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference. It’s quite direct and points out our own failings, saying that we have to take action to resolve our lack of diversity.

I’ve been a member of our party for a quarter of a century.  One disappointing constant has been the gender imbalance in our parliamentary groups.

I have had plenty of opportunity to observe the dynamics of our party, locally and nationally, and to identify through the party’s own myriad actions what it actually values and honours.

Despite being the party that claims it cherishes equality and women’s rights, its actions often reveal a clear preference for adherence to a single, male patent pattern.  And that creates a feedback loop that means members when asked to choose are most  likely to opt for what they know the party values above all, and so it goes on.

There is a societal, ingrained implicit bias that leads us all, women and men, to value a particular set of attributes above others. There is no need to be outraged or defensive – no one is saying it is deliberate or malicious, but it is real.  

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Tim Farron MP: We must show the world we mean business on diversity

It’s International Women’s Day, when we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.  But, the IWD website reminds us, the latest estimate of the World Economic Forum is that, at the present rate of progress, full parity between genders will not be achieved till 2133.  Our record in Britain, while improving, is doing so painfully slowly.  The pay gap between genders has not closed in spite of legislation, and has remained relatively consistent for the past 20 years.  Britain elected more female MPs than ever in May 2015, but still sits at 48th in the world league table, behind many of our European neighbours, and behind some of the world’s poorest nations. Lindsay Northover is right to point out that had it been based on the Lib Dems, the UK would be bottom, grouped with Yemen and Qatar.

Why is that? Well, because we have no women MPs any more, just 26% of our approved parliamentary candidates are women, and women are under-represented on many of our internal party committees.  We are in a similar situation where BAME, LGBT+ and disabled members are concerned.  I don’t know about you, but I find that shaming for a party that holds equality as one of its fundamental commitments.  In our constitution, we say that we “oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.” It’s time to show that we practice what we preach. 

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Women and minority candidates are good enough to be MPs already – it’s the party that needs the diversity motion

I understand why people dislike targeted shortlists. I don’t like them, in principle. To me, liberalism is all about giving people the greatest personal choice, and in an ideal world I wouldn’t support them, which is what I said on the stage at autumn conference in 2014.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, and that’s why I’m supporting the diversity motion at this Spring Conference.

The classic arguments just don’t hang together any more. People say we need a level playing field. We do need it, but right now we don’t have it – and our diverse approved candidate list proves that’s not because underrepresented groups refuse to put themselves up for selection.

People think it will lead to tokenism, and god knows I don’t want to be treated as the token woman. I know I’m not a token, I know if I ran to be an MP it would be because I felt I was good enough to do it whoever I was up against, and I trust that any local party that had gone to the effort of selecting me would too, which is what really matters.

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Key conference deadlines coming up

Spring Conference Agenda 2016In just 9 days’ time, Liberal Democrats will be gathering in York for Spring Conference.

The agenda is available here.

What do you think of the motions on offer? Could any of them be improved?

If you want to submit an amendment, you need to persuade 10 members or your local party or SAO to back it and get it in by 1pm on Tuesday 8th March.

From the agenda:

Amendments and emergency motions must be signed by 10 party members; OR l submitted by one or more of: a local party, state party, regional party in England, Federal Specified Associated Organisation or Federal Party Committee.

Amendments and emergency motions must be submitted by 13.00, Tuesday 8th March.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

What is at stake: A photo of a young boy and the US President

Obama hand

Clark Reynolds, 3 years old, greeted by President Obama, Feb 18 2016 at the White House. (Pete Souza/Washington Post)

We have been struggling with the representation issue for years. Our party leaders strongly believe in broadening the look and feel of our MPs. Our members instinctively seek parity between men, women and other backgrounds: a desire to open up opportunity should be in our blood. But we aren’t quite sure how to achieve that and so far, as Josh Dixon sets out, our success has not been much to write home about. The Elect Diverse MPs motion to be debated at Spring Conference gives us a critical chance to retake the initiative.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

Fracking U-Turns: Why fracking doesn’t make sense anymore

 

In May last year I stood before a busy church hall in Lytham St Annes and stated my support for fracking. I was the Lib Dem candidate for Fylde, a constituency on the fracking front line. It was a lonely position to take, but I felt I’d struck the right balance between the need for secure domestic energy, and the need to protect the natural environment. Only the incumbent Tory MP agreed with me.

However, my support for fracking was conditional. On that day, I promised voters, that if elected, I would fight for regulation with real teeth, and work hard for a massive investment in renewables. I told voters that, If elected, and robust regulation is not forthcoming, I will not hesitate to vote in favour of ban”.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Do you have questions about the Electing Diverse MPs motion?

100% of LD MPs are white menThere’s been a lot of discussion online about the Electing Diverse MPs motion that’s coming to Federal Conference in just four weeks’ time.

A lot of the discussion has centred on All Women Shortlists – but the motion is about so much more than that.

Its supporters have set up a Facebook page to answer any questions people have about the proposal in the motion and to make the case for its acceptance. Already over 200 people are taking part.

Here’s a flavour of the issues being discussed:

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS THIS MOTION IS TRYING TO SOLVE?

– SUPPLY: we don’t have enough approved candidates full-stop, let alone from underrepresented groups. So we want to set up a Task Force to co-ordinate efforts to pro-actively recruit more.

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