Tag Archives: spring conference 2017

Thoughts on York

So, what was the most enduring memory of the York Liberal Democrat Spring Conference? Tim Farron taking on the Tories in a rousing final speech, or Nick Clegg in blistering form on Brexit? The feisty debate on faith schools, or the brief flirtation with unilateral nuclear disarmament, cunningly timed to coincide with England’s Grand Slam decider?

Or was it York itself, magnificent in the spring sunshine, giving us the perfect backdrop to the #libdemfightback?

Well, for me, the abiding memory is being a part of a vast hopeful army of conference newbies, who, like me, had chosen to get up off the canvas of 2016′s despair and do something- anything- to stop the world lurching into hate-filled extremism.

You can’t bottle “essence of York spring 2017″. But if you could, you might be intoxicated by the scent of a new libdemmery. One that had a heady dose of optimism, energy and hopefulness. But also a hint of something bloody, a visceral sense of patriotism that Tim Farron captured by announcing “I want my country back”.

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From selfies with Clegg to the Glee Club stage – my first Liberal Democrat conference

I am currently in my first year at the University of Leeds, studying Politics and Parliamentary Studies. I officially became a party member in November 2016, but I have always been a Liberal Democrat at heart!

Last weekend was my first time at a party conference and I can honestly say it was one of the best weekends of my life. I did not really know what to expect, but I certainly did not expect to get to meet Nick Clegg on the first day! This was a pretty momentous occasion for me as you could call Nick my ‘Lib Dem hero’ given that he was the main reason I first became interested in the party.

My experience of conference undoubtedly proves that I joined the right party. What other party would have the unique event that is Glee Club? Slightly bizarre at first, but after a couple of G&T’s my (not so) secret love for karaoke shone through. Anyone who witnessed my attempted parody of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse can vouch for this (along with the fact that I am a terrible singer). 

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WATCH: The Conference rally with Olney, Clegg, Farron, Malik and Pearcey

We reported on the Conference rally the other night. Now you can watch the whole thing here. See Sarah Olney thank her helpers and talk about why she joined the party and is fighting Brexit. See Nick Clegg take apart the Brexiteers’ case and warn of the populists undermining the checks on their power. See Jackie Pearcey tell us why we should go to Manchester Gorton to help her. See Hina Malik talk about her passion for dives it and how Simon Hughes and Nick Clegg persuaded her to join the party.

Finally, Tim Farron, after the obligatory pops at George Osborne and Dr Paul Nuttall, talk of Liberal Democrat values of internationalism and of giving EU nationals the right to stay and about why the people having the final say on the Brexit deal was so important.

Enjoy!

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WATCH: Tim Farron’s speech to Conference

As I distract myself from the horrors of Brexit by listening to Eurovision songs from the 1980s and writing blue envelopes for the two people I hope will be the next councillors for Almond ward in Edinburgh, Kevin Lang and Louise Young, It thought you might want the chance to watch Tim Farron’s speech from yesterday.

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The other songs the Lib Dems could have chosen at the end of Tim’s speech…

This was the song that played as Tim Farron left the hall today.

An inspired choice.

The performer is referenced in his speech here:

Patriots love their country, nationalists hate their neighbours.

I am a patriot.

The fact that in 1990 I kissed the TV when David Platt scored against Belgium in the last minute of injury time doesn’t mean I hate Guy Verhofstadt…or Tin Tin…or Plastic Bertrand, or any of the other large number of very, very famous Belgians.

Of course, looking at this list of Top Ten Famous Belgians, it would have been equally appropriate to have something from the musical My Fair Lady, as its star, Audrey Hepburn, was born in Brussels.

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Today at Spring Conference

The emergency motion up for discussion first thing this morning will have been decided by ballot of Conference goers. It’s likely that most people will be pretty bleary-eyed by this stage – especially those who have been at the Glee Club until stupid o’clock.

The main potential flashpoint of today is the debate on faith schools. This is another of those issues where liberal principles can lead you to either strongly held viewpoint. Conference will be offered three options on the way forward. You can read the arguments on both sides here and here.

The highlight of course is Tim Farron’s speech. It will be his pitch not to Lib Dem members, but to everyone who believes that the Government is on the wrong course on Brexit, to join us in our fight.

Here’s the full timetable.

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WATCH: Tim Farron’s Q & A

Here is Tim Farron’s question and answer session from Spring Conference in York Enjoy!

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Norman Lamb’s speech in health debate at Liberal Democrat Conference

Here s Norman Lamb’s speech from this afternoon’s health debate:

First, we condemn Theresa May for her refusal to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working in our NHS and care services to stay in this country.

We value the vital contribution you make.

We demand that their right is guaranteed.

The Budget completely failed to address the dire financial situation facing the NHS and care.

Whatever your politics, it makes no sense to spend a reducing share of our national income on the NHS as demand rises at 4% every year

Whatever your politics, it makes no sense that in 2018/19 spending per head in real terms will actually fall as pressures grow

Whatever your politics, surely we can’t tolerate over a million older people with care needs left unmet.

Yet this is the reality today.

And it’s not just numbers or statistics – it’s the impact on people which is so disturbing. There are real consequences for families up and down our country.

This is what the brilliant charity, Young Minds, reports from its Parents’ Helpline:

‘The helpline receives calls every day from parents who are desperately trying to get support from Children’s Mental Health Services. We regularly hear from parents who can’t even get a referral or who have been waiting months for an initial assessment and whose children’s conditions have got worse during that time. Children who have started to self harm or become suicidal during the wait – or who’ve dropped out of school, which not only has a big impact on their own education but also means that one of the parents has to give up their job to look after them.

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Lib Dems to continue quest for multilateral disarmament after amendment to get rid of nuclear weapons falls

Another conference, another debate on nuclear weapons. The anti nuclear weapons side has won once, in 1986, so the odds weren’t good. What would happen today, though, given that it was the first ever vote under OMOV.

Well, the party was clearly bringing out its big hitter so both sides. Conference darling Alistair Carmichael for the party working group position and Conference darling Julian Huppert for the anemdnemnt.

The working group was set up in Bournemouth in 2015 to look at the issues around nuclear weapons and drew up a paper which recommended keeping a nuclear deterrent and working for multilateral disarmament. An amendment recommended getting rid of nuclear weapons and spending the money strengthening our conventional weapons which, its movers argued, were actually what was needed to counter the global threats we face.

After a generally good-natured debate, Conference voted by 244 to 429 to reject the amendment.

Here’s a flavour of the debate:

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Emergency motions deadline approaching #ldconf

There is space for two emergency motions in the Conference agenda. Five have been submitted.

As ever, conference reps have the chance to vote for their favourites.

A ballot paper is on the back of the Conference Daily. Complete and return it to the ballot box in the main auditorium before 12:40. Your badge will be punched so you can’t vote more than once.

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Conference passes sex work motion unamended

The first policy debate of the Conference has taken place with Conference overwhelmingly backing a policy paper which decriminalises sex work and provides workers with support which will improve their health and make them safer. An amendment which would have undermined the motion by calling for kerb-crawling convictions to be maintained was defeated. Joe Otten was right in his summation to talk about sexual harassment but as Charlotte Cane reminded conference in her summation, the evidence was that criminalising clients made sex workers less safe.

Here’s a flavour of the debate:

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Tim Farron’s speech to the Conference rally: I am the only UK party leader opposing Brexit

Here, in full, is Tim Farron’s speech to last night’s Conference rally. It went down very well in the hall with several bouts of spontaneous applause.

So, never let it be said that I don’t play fair.

My daughter Gracie went on Spanish exchange to Madrid last month to stay with her friend Alba, and her Parents took them to Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium.

This week it’s our turn to host Alba, and where have we taken her in return?

That’s right, we’ve brought her here to Liberal Democrat party conference.

We’re telling her its Wembley.

We told her the truth really. She is incognito, but she is here tonight…

So welcome to the only party in Britain that is unashamed to say that we actually like foreigners.

It is great to be here in York again. A city that exemplifies our liberal values. That the folks of York can – not just once, but two years running now – welcome a party led by a Lancastrian, just shows what a tolerant place this truly is.

And we gather here at the end of a week that will go down in history.

The week that our government won the right to trigger article 50 and throw our country out of the plane without a parachute

The week that Nicola Sturgeon chose to exploit Brexit to seek to divide our country

The week that 3 million EU citizens who have made our country their home were told that they did not count

Let that sink in. This is a time when you need to trust your gut instincts.

If those three events this week make you instinctively angry,

then the time for posting distressed statuses on facebook is over,

the time for crying into your coffee is over,

the time for throwing stuff at the TV is over.

The time has come for you to do something about it

You need to stand with the only party that stands for Britain in Europe;

that stands for Britain together,

that stands for a Britain that honours all who live and work here.

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Defiant Conference rally sets out Liberal Democrat anti-brexit stall

The Conference rally is always an opportunity to enthuse the Liberal Democrat conference goers and to set the tone for the whole weekend.

Last night’s was a gritty show of defiance of a Government that refuses to listen to any sort of reason over Brexit, contempt for an opposition that helps them on their way and a strong statement that only the Liberal Democrats will stand up for the rights of the British people.

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Today at Spring Conference

The Saturday of Spring Conference is very busy, with a packed training programme and fringe as well as debates in the hall. Don’t forget to grab your daily bulletin and make sure that you vote for the emergency motion you want to see debated by lunchtime.

The party will be talking about Brexit but because the situation was so fluid, the motion will only be published when we get to Conference as to do so before could have rendered it out of date.

The most controversial debate of the day will be on nuclear weapons. The policy paper produced by the Working Group recommends maintaining a nuclear deterrent while aiming for a global reduction in nuclear weapons. The arguments in favour of the motion and in favour of having no nuclear deterrent have been set out on this site  here by Tim Farron and here by David Grace respectively.

There’s a huge variety of fringe meetings. Some highlights are below.

Here is the full timetable for the day:

09.00–09.10: Opening of conference by Baroness Brinton
09.10–09.30: Report of Federal Conference Committee
Report of Federal Policy Committee
09.30–10.30: Policy Motion: A rational approach to harm reduction (Sex work policy paper)
10.30–11.15: Policy Motion: Tackling overcrowding in the prison system
11.15–11.35: Speech by Lynne Featherstone
11.35–12.40: Emergency motion or topical issue: Britain and the EU

12:40-14:20: Lunchtime fringe

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Today at Spring Conference

As you read this, Liberal Democrats will be arriving in York. I’ll be just about to head to lunch with some friends in a place called Sutlers. Never been there before, but anywhere that boasts of having 100 gins is good by me.

Conference kicks off at 3 with various consultation sessions. These are an important part of our policy making process. The Federal Policy Committee sets up working groups to look at various subjects. They take evidence from experts and consult members. Once they have done that, they draw their conclusions into a final paper which is debated by the full conference. This Spring’s consultations are:

15.00–17.30 21st Century Economy
Education
Rural Communities

16.30–18.15 Britain in the World

Then there’s a civic drinks reception at 5:15 and the Conference rally at 6:30.

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Social justice in a time of deficits

Liberal Democrats, and social democrats in the Labour party, share two key priorities. We want to improve social justice, and, to fund that work, we need to strengthen the economy.

We’ve often argued about the best way to do this, both within our parties and between them. But the decisions of the 2010-2015 parliament are behind us, and we need to look forward.

Unfortunately, deficits aren’t in the past. Since 2010, the deficit, when adjusted for the economic cycle, has fallen by about 40%. But it’s still around £65 billion a year. And the existing deficit is only one of our challenges.

Each year, the age profile of the UK gets older. As it does, the pressure on the NHS and other services increases, and the pressure on the government budget grows.

This will probably be made worse by Brexit.

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Farron: Now is the time to stand and fight

The first big showcase event of Spring conference takes place this evening. At the rally, Tim Farron will call on pro Europeans to stand and fight.

First of all, though, he may gloat a bit about being named Remoaner in Chief by Arron Banks’s outfit:

If remoaning means standing up for EU citizens who have made their lives here in the UK.

If remoaning means demanding that the British people have the final say in this process

If remoaning means standing up for a family of nations that has healed the wounds of two world wars and a terrifying cold war

Then I am proud to be your remoaner in chief!

He will go on to talk about how we need to continue the fight against the destructive Brexit course chosen by the Conservatives and Labour:

I am not an enemy of the people, but I am the enemy of those people who seek to divide our country, to pervert the referendum result for their narrow ideology and trash our values by turning our backs on our neighbours.

And the more they come after us, the louder I will shout.

Despite what this government and their fanatical Brexit supporters in the press would like us all to believe, democracy did not end on the 24th of June.

It might be a political risk for us to speak out against the direction our country is going.

But it is the right thing to do.

Because what Britain does in the next two years will define us for the next one hundred.

So now is not the time to sit down and shut up.

Now is the time to stand up and fight.

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Baroness Joan Walmsley writes…Can’t we agree to agree on funding health and social care?

A sight that all of us will have seen since the Autumn is ambulances queuing at A & E and patients waiting on trolleys in hospital corridors. Some of us will have seen the situation at first hand, waiting with a relative or waiting for treatment. Bed occupancy has been dangerously high in many hospitals, with senior managers and doctors having to take decisions that, in some instances, are literally life or death.

Upsetting as these images are, they show only the tip of a very large iceberg that is threatening to sink an NHS and the social care system unable to cope with demand.

Three reports have been published this week which expose the crisis in other key services.

The Kings Fund’s report “Understanding NHS financial pressures: How are they affecting patient care?” looked at the impact on four services that rarely make the headlines: genito-urinary medicine (GUM) services; district nursing services; elective hip replacement services: and neonatal services. The report states:

The growing gap between demand for services and available resources means that staff are acting as shock absorbers, working longer hours and more intensely to protect patient care. ….
Our findings create a fundamental challenge to the direction of travel set out in the NHS five year forward view ……the NHS appears to be moving further away from its goal of strengthening community-based services and focusing on prevention, rather than making progress towards it.

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A liberal case for faith schools

At the age of 11 I had a choice. I could either attend a Catholic secondary school or a secondary school without a religious character. I chose the Catholic secondary school. This school, Notre Dame, had a catchment area covering half the city of Sheffield. This meant that there were pupils from affluent and less-affluent areas, from the inner city and the suburbs and from the families of many nationalities. I had classmates who were Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Muslim and of no-faith at all. Had I chosen the non-Catholic school, all of my fellow pupils would have lived in the same neighbourhood and would been almost uniformly white-British.

My experience was not an exceptional one because Catholic schools are diverse. They have more pupils from deprived neighbourhoods, one third of the pupils attending Catholic schools are not Catholic and the percentage of black and minority ethnic pupils in Catholic schools is significantly higher than in non-faith schools. They are also more likely to have an Ofsted grade of good or outstanding. Not only that, Church schools provide a rounded education with a strong emphasis on the social and moral development of everyone, helping each person to recognise the importance of being active in their communities.

Critics of faith school frequently argue that allowing faith to be used as an admissions criterion is discriminatory and that everyone should be able to study at faith schools. An obvious response is that many pupils in Church schools do not share the faith of the school they attend. For example, there are over 26,000 Muslim pupils attending Catholic schools in England and Wales. It is important to remember that the Church provided the land, buildings and ongoing financial support for Church schools. Is it liberal to argue that central government should insist on one set of admissions rules for every school, of whatever type, in every circumstance without faith communities having a say?

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An end to religious discrimination in our schools

This Sunday, Conference will decide our party’s policy on state-funded faith schools – and in particular on whether schools should be able to select children on the basis of their religion or belief.

I would like to think this would be an uncontentious issue.

Surely we are defined as a party by our rejection of discrimination, and by our determination to oppose entrenched privilege and inequality.

And yet there are some within this party who believe that our children should be segregated by their religion – so that Catholic children only play and learn with other Catholic children, Jewish children only play and learn with other Jewish children, and so on.   And that the Jewish child whose local state school is in the same road but happens to be a Catholic school should be barred from that school because they are Jewish.  

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Is Trident’s successor a white elephant?

On Saturday afternoon Spring Conference debates motion F11 “Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” which actually endorses the government’s plans to replace Trident with Successor at a cost of £200 billion, twice the original estimate.  The motion also talks about developing multilateral negotiations and ending Continuous-at-sea Deterrence (CASD) but in essence it supports a like-for-like deterrent, which we opposed through the coalition years.

I was on the working group which drafted the report which this motion approves, but I don’t agree. I’m tabling an amendment which agrees with most of the motion’s analysis and call for beefing up negotiations but also calls for Trident to be phased out and NOT replaced.

Many party members have long supported ending the UK’s nuclear weapons but others have placed their faith in nuclear deterrence on balance.  People may feel the global security situation inclines them more than ever to support replacing Trident with the Successor programme.  The argument can be summarised as “Oh my God, Putin !, Oh my God, Trump !  We better have our own nukes”.  I originally felt that the party’s latest working group on the subject was a waste of time.  Nothing had changed.  But I was wrong.  

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Welcome back to York and join us campaigning!

As the countdown to party conference continues, I would like to say how pleased I am to be welcoming Spring Conference back to York.

Visit York estimate that the weekend will boost the city’s economy by more than £600,000. And I know that pubs, hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, and restaurants will be reporting soaring demand. Added to the short-term economic boost is the long-term impact that the continued national exposure will bring. It is a showcase for York as a destination for conferences and events. York is a beautiful, well-connected city with the potential to hold many more big political and business conferences.

It is also a chance for our members in York to meet our MPs and peers as well as councillors and campaigners from across the country. And as we all know, a chance for local party members to actually debate and decide national party policy.

In York, our councillors and members have been working hard since we formed a joint administration in May 2015 to run City of York Council.

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Towards a world free of nuclear weapons

At Spring Conference in York, Liberal Democrats will debate a new policy paper, Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. 

This is an important debate for Liberal Democrats, because we understand all too well the catastrophic consequences of detonating nuclear weapons. The ethical questions they raise go to the heart of our party’s values: we believe that any nuclear war is morally unacceptable and must never be fought. We appreciate that as a founding signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation on Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the UK has a legal responsibility to reinvigorate international nuclear disarmament initiatives. And we have always recognised the Government’s duty to protect the British people from attack and to play a full part in protecting the UK’s NATO allies.

We are reviewing our nuclear weapons policies because the international security situation has changed, and not for the better, since 2013 when they were last updated. With Russia’s growing military adventurism, increased instability in the Middle East and a changing balance of power in Asia, the world is a more dangerous place than it has been for many years. In this challenging environment, strengthening NATO solidarity, military capability, and coherence should be the highest priority for the UK’s defence policy, especially if we leave the EU. The policy paper concludes that this is not the right time to renounce our nuclear weapons. The UK should maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. 

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