Tag Archives: policy motions

Are policy motions at Conference too long?

All active Liberal Democrats know that the messages you write on a leaflet have to be clear and short.  So why when we come to party conferences do we insist on debating motions which are astonishingly long and complex?  I challenge most attendees at party conferences on whether they have read through the full texts of all the motions.

I have just ploughed through 1,000 words of a motion for Spring Conference on an issue I care strongly about – having already read the much longer and more detailed policy paper to which it relates.  What we want from conference motions is the equivalent of an executive summary – the headlines of our detailed policies, brief and clear enough to be put on the back of our leaflets, ideally: 3-400 words at most.   But the established style of LibDem policy motions is far longer and more intricate.

The crush of business in the Lords has made me acutely aware of the need for brevity and focus in making speeches.  A generation ago peers (and MPs) were permitted to luxuriate through lengthy speeches of 20-30 minutes; in Victorian times Parliament would listen to speeches of an hour or more.  Now we have ‘advisory timings’ of 3-6 minutes in many debates, with 10-12 minutes for front-bench speeches.  I’ve therefore had to learn to count the number of words in a draft carefully, to prioritise points and to cut out things I would like to add but are only of secondary importance. At around 130 words spoken a minute, 1,000 words takes between seven and eight minutes to deliver in a speech – twice as long as the conference chairs are likely to offer someone from the floor.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 10 Comments

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.

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