Tag Archives: party conference

Extremist moderates, now is the time for us to lead!

This was a title that just grew at the Brighton Conference. Paddy Ashdown started it by remarking at one of the huge Consultation sessions on Vince’s new ideas,“You’re all extremists! Or you wouldn’t be here!” By the end of Conference, extremism had attached itself to the formerly scorned idea that we activists are moderates, adherents of the Centre ground where the majority of the British public live. So, we are happy to admit a connection to the moderate majority, so long as it is known that we are extremists too!

Of course, we are not THAT sort of extremist – a rabid Brexiteer of the Right, or fanatical Corbynite of the Left. But we are pretty extreme in our demands from the leadership, not least to be consulted before ideas leak out to the voters we want to attract. Vince admitted in the Saturday Consultative session to being himself “a bit of a Stalinist”, but added wryly that this party would quickly have seen off Stalin.

There will surely always be a conflict between an open-minded, Liberal and democratic party and its leader, when the leader chooses to put forward radical new ideas in ways that attract the media’s attention but annoy the party faithful. For Vince to start talking about stepping down seemed a crazy distraction at first, given his security compared with that of either May or Corbyn, but it got some publicity, especially as the date remained vague. Then his proposing the extraordinary idea that his successor might not be a Lib Dem MP, or even possibly an MP at all, naturally aroused the media while infuriating the non-consulted party. That Gina Miller had been booked to address the Conference also titillated the media to speculate on a possible connection.

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

Opinion: Party conferences don’t matter to voters

Glasgow conference 2014I’m lucky enough to live near Eastleigh in Hampshire, and I often need to go into Southampton for work. If I get a chance at lunchtime I go for a stroll on Southampton Common, a large open space close to the city centre. One of my favourite parts of the Common is Southampton Old Cemetery, an area of overgrown graves and tombstones that has largely been given over to wildlife, but where you can still wander around and read the inscriptions, still see the little details of other people’s lives and deaths.

Among the overgrown memorials that I wandered past last week was one to a former mayor of Southampton, who, his headstone recorded, “died early on Sunday morning”. Why was this important, so important that it was carved in stone along with his name and dates and political achievements? Because for most people, it’s the little things that really matter, not the big ideas. Yes, people care about the environment, but generally they’re more interested in the smell from their drains than in the melting polar ice cap. People care about the deficit, but they want to know if bread is cheaper in the local Co-op or the out of town Morrisons. People, by and large, have an opinion on immigration, but unless their opinions have crossed the border of bigotry, they’re more interested in whether Vaclav next door plays music at 3am than in whether he should be in the country at all.

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

Should political parties pay for policing at conferences?

policeFollowing a Freedom of Information request the BBC has obtained figures for the amounts spent on policing political party conferences.

It seems that over the last five years the Home Office has provided £106 million in special grants to fund the police presence at one-off events such as major protests or the Royal wedding. £50 million of that has gone on party conferences.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments
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