Tag Archives: spring conference 2019

Another excellent Lib Dem conference in York

As we move on into April and March 2019 passes, I am grateful to the many Lib Dems from across the country who visited York last month to participate in what was another fantastic Spring Conference in York.

Visit York have estimated that that this year’s Spring Conference has provided a substantial £600,000 boost to the local economy and as the Executive Member at the Council responsible for Economic Development, I would like to say thank you to everyone who ventured beyond the conference centre to enjoy our wonderful city! 

Not only did York experience an economic boost over the weekend, but a number of visits and events took place to promote some of the work Liberal Democrat Councillors are achieving in York.

On the Friday afternoon, I was delighted to show Sir Vince Cable MP York’s new temporary accommodation site for the homeless; James House.  James House has been funded by both the Council and Homes England, with the Council providing over £9 million of funding to deliver new one, two and three bedroom flats, as well as training facilities, to support homeless families.

On the same day, my colleague Cllr Andrew Waller also took Vince on his own bus ride, in order to see the work we are doing at the Council to tackle air pollution and encourage sustainable transport.  The bus was one of York’s most recent electric buses and on their journey; they had the opportunity to see one of York’s newest electric charging hubs at Monks Cross Park & Ride.

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Looking forward to our party’s next chapter

I’m just in the door, home from a wonderful weekend in York at Conference.

It is a miracle that I am  able to write this, given that I left the Novotel Bar at 4:15 this morning after a night of great fun with friends. You may or not be impressed to know that when I got back to my horrible little room, I laid out my clothes for the morning and plugged in everything to charge that needed to be charged.

I was back at Conference by 9:15 this morning feeling a lot better than I deserved.

These are anxiety inducing times but there is an excitement too. We know that we are about to enter a new phase of our party’s story.

I am very grateful to Vince for stepping up and showing authoritative leadership for two years.

He has made us the party of Remain and in his speech today he was clear that we will not be watering down our core values to satisfy any authoritarian centrist group that might appear although we will work with them to change our politics for the better.

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What’s on at Spring Conference today?

Today is going to be quite sad because it will be Vince’s last speech to Conference as Leader. He’s been the grown-up of British politics and he’s served us well these past two years. He deserves to be cheered to the rafters for stepping up as he did in 2017.

The Federal Board report at 9:45 is likely to prove controversial. There are some very awkward questions in part thanks to Gareth Epps not being politically restricted any more. He’s making up for lost time.

09.00-09.45 F12 Policy motion: Access to Justice for All

09.45-10.00 F13 Report: Federal Board

10.00-10.45 F14 Emergency motion or topical issue

10.45-11.30 F15 Policy motion: Town Centres for the Future

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In full: Christine Jardine’s keynote speech

The first keynote speech of Comference came from Christine Jardine.

She covered the pink tax, called for an end to the benefits freeze and condemned the government for marginalised asylum seekers and not letting them work.

Here is her speech in full.

Its fantastic to be back here in York. And a bit eerie for me.

You see making a speech on this stage to all of you was the very last thing I did before my selection process in Edinburgh West.

A lot of things have changed since then… and there is a lot more we want to change.

Some of them are about the party. Some are about the country.

And then there’s Brexit. But lets not bring the mood down.

Certainly that is one of the things we are working to change.

But on a personal level Ive been focussing on three things.

Asylum seekers. DWP. And the thing Ive had most fun with:

The Pink Tax.

Taking multi-national corporations to task for thinking its ok to charge women and girls more for everything from deodorant and disposable razors to clothes and services.

Over the next few weeks Ill be lining up meetings with some of the big manufacturers and retailers to persuade them that they really

Want to act now. Fix the Pink Tax themselves.

They’ve seen what we did to the Gender Pay Gap and well if they don’t fic the Pink Tax.

Ill set Jo Swinson on them.

That’ll teach them.

I didn’t think Id be fighting the big corporations the last time I was in York.

So its all very different from the last time I was in York.

But it is wonderful to be back here in York.

I was going to make a joke about Vikings. Or maybe Rowntrees Fruit pastilles. I do love them

But isn’t it strange for us

Liberal Democrats.

To be holding our conference so close to Theresa May’s spiritual home and the area from which her Government must be drawing its guiding principles.

The Shambles…

Well actually Im being too kind to them.

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What’s on at Spring Conference today?

Well, the most important thing, of course, is the Lib Dem Voice fringe meeting on the impact of homelessness and Universal Credit which is taking place in the Walmgate Room and the Hilton. Join us for a spot of lunch and discussion. I’ll be speaking alongside Dan Dumoulin of Saint Vincent de Paul, our Housing Spokesperson Lord Shipley and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions. Kirsten Johnson is chairing. This week SAMH published a report highlighting the detrimental impact of Universal Credit on mental health

In the main hall, Vince’s party reforms will be the most controversial item of the day. The constitutional amendments need a two thirds majority to pass. That debate happens at the end of the day. You’re going to have to concentrate to keep up with a complex series of votes. I’ll be voting No to most of them. I think the Federal People Development Committee has done a great job in putting the nuts and bolts together but I think there are ways of spending the money in a more efficient and effective way – like on training or winning elections or developing better messaging.

Conference also debates Europe, race equality, clean air and hears from Christine Jardine and gets the chance to question Vince Cable.

Here’s the timetable.

09.00-09.10 F1 Opening of Conference 35

09.10-09.30 F2 Report: Federal Conference Committee 35

F3 Report: Federal Policy Committee

09.30-10.45 F4 Policy motion: Eradicating Race Inequality (Race
Equality Policy Paper)

10.45-11.05 F5 Speech: Christine Jardine MP

11.05-12.50 F6 Policy motion: Europe

12.50-14.10 Lunch

14.10-14.55 F7 Q & A session: Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable MP

14.55-15.55 F8 Policy motion: Cleaning Up the Air We Breathe How to Tackle Road Pollution

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Minimum income: From Finnish trial to Lib Dem policy?

The Finnish Basic Income experiment ended at the start of the year, and preliminary results have now been reported publicly. Certain sections of the press blared out that the trial, which paid 2000 unemployed people an unconditional €560/month income for two years, was a “failure” – but was it? It is true that the experiment did not lead to significant increases in the experiment group finding work, but should we be judging the success or failure of a benefits system solely by whether it pushes people into any job that can be found? Our values and policy as Liberal Democrats should lead us toward different analyses.

Looking at the results closely tells a different, important, and encouraging story from a liberal perspective. Despite those opposed to guaranteed incomes claiming that a basic income would lead to nobody wanting to work, the data shows no drop in work-seeking among Finland’s experiment group. The fact that there was no rise either suggests that marginal income effects may be less important in influencing work-seeking than some had imagined; a lack of suitable jobs and retraining opportunities is not something for which any social security system will provide magic bullets. Other potential positive economic effects of a guaranteed income are, however, likely to have been invisible in this sparse study – increasing the spending power of the worst off and building a labour market that can be more flexible in retraining are significant potential positives that would only be effectively visible at scale.

The most important results from Finland’s trial, in any case, are the effects on wellbeing. The experiment group reported lower stress levels and better health outcomes than their counterparts in the control group. This is where we should be getting excited about the possibilities of a minimum income – freeing people from the psychological strain caused by income insecurity, freeing people to make the most of opportunities and build stronger communities, freeing people to live happier lives. Not only that, but consider the strain on other public services, the NHS in particular, caused by health issues that are largely down to poverty. Taking steps towards eradicating those ills is both smart and compassionate politics.

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FCC Report: The Amendments selected for Conference

With Spring Conference just days away, Federal Conference Committee met on Saturday for the almost-final selection of amendments and Emergency and Europe motions. You can see the full text of what we selected in Conference Extra.

Unfortunately, time is always the biggest factor when selecting amendments, and we simply can’t select all those that come to us. The list of unsuccessful amendments is below, along with those we will be debating. For those less familiar, there are two things that can happen with a successful amendment: They can be accepted for debate and vote, or if they are uncontroversial they can be drafted in (e.g. to bring a motion up to date based on revent events) and do not require a vote. The summaries are not those of the submittors, so only give a brief taste of the kind of thing the amendment addresses.

Several of the Supporter’s Scheme amendments related to areas that will be voted on separately in blocks. A full explanation of how the vote will be condicted is in Conference Extra as there are a number of alternative outcomes.

Due to the rapidly developing situation over Brexit, we have delayed the amendments deadline for this item to midday on Friday. This does not allow much time for people to draft and submit amendments in response to events on Thursday, so if you suspect you will be submitting we suggest you try to get the necessary ten or more members ready to sign ahead of time.

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Conference Extra published – see all the amendments and awkward questions

The Conference Extra, containing details of all the amendments selected by Federal Conference Committee, the motion on Europe which will no doubt be hopelessly out of date by the time it’s debated on Saturday and all the questions put to Federal Committees, has been published.

The Europe motion is amendable – you need to get your changes in before Friday at 1 pm. Even though the website at the time of writing says Thursday.  I know conference motions are supposed to be a bit circumspect and detached but I am left cold by it. Not that it necessarily says anything wrong, but, really, at this point, I want it to saying that “Conference is bloody livid that the country has been lied to, cheated, sold a pig in a poke and has a Government that has turned can-kicking into its only competence. Conference resolves to put a stop to this farce as soon as possible.”

The process for the votes on the Supporters’ scheme constitutional amendment and business motion reminds me of the song “The Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede” from The Singing Kettle. If you try to consciously re-enact it, you’ll do yourself an injury, but if you do it instinctively and just listen to the session chair, you’ll be fine.

There are some well and truly awkward questions to Federal Committees, too.

So now you have everything you need to plan your speeches.

What are you waiting for? And here’s the thing. You can submit your speaker’s card online. 

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Last chance to submit Spring Conference Amendments and Awkward Questions – deadline 1pm 4th March

It’s just 12 days until we gather in York for Spring Conference.

And tomorrow, at 1pm, is the final chance for you to submit amendments to motions as well as awkward questions to all the party committees and for Vince’s question and answer session.

It’s also the last chance to submit a motion on Europe for discussion at the Conference – although, to be honest, anything submitted is likely to be out of date by the time it happens. Maybe it should just go the whole hog and call for the immediate revocation of Article 50 because the whole Brexit project is such a disaster.

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Sal Brinton writes: A chance to change the face of our politics by engaging with supporters

At Spring Conference at York we will be debating the role of supporters of the party. This follows the extensive consultation we had in the Autumn. You will remember that we had two consultation sessions at Brighton (you can find the consultation document here , after which the Federal Board arranged for a series of further consultation sessions around the country, as well as member webinars and an online survey. Many thanks to the thousands of you who asked questions and also responded to the survey.  At these sessions we promised that members would have the final say on the details of a registered supporter scheme, and we will vote on them on Saturday afternoon at Conference. You can find the Business Motion setting out the arrangements starting on Page 42, with constitutional amendments starting on Page 46, of the Conference Agenda.

Most of you told us that you liked the idea of registered supporters, and understood that the idea of attracting people who might not want to join the party straight away, but who were valuable campaigners, both online and in person, was something we should focus on. The Federal Board has been applying these principles to our Exit from Brexit campaign, and in a few short months 250,000 people have supported the campaign, many donating to the party. 

The proposals say that we should look at giving registered supporters some rights – not as many as members: members should always have an increased level of rights. These include allowing registered supporters the right to vote for a potential leader of the party (but not to nominate a candidate for Leader: that remains with members only). It also proposes allowing non-MPs to stand for Leader, broadening our base. These latter proposals require changes to the Constitution, so will be voted on separately requiring a 2/3 majority. 

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Check out the York Spring Conference agenda – and two important deadlines

My Conference agenda arrived this morning. I know I can see it all online, but I like that I can write all over the paper copy and highlight things. It’s old-fashioned but it’s kind of like sitting down with a cup of tea and the Radio Times at Christmas and ticking off what you want to watch.

The agenda has details of all the debates, speeches and almost all the fringe events and exhibitors so you can at least try and plan out your weekend.

You might also want to know that Alistair Carmichael is having a whisky tasting on the Saturday night from 9:30-11:00 pm which is not advertised in the Directory. These are amazing events. Not only do you get seriously good and tastefully chosen whisky, but you get Alistair’s inimitable and very funny commentary on each whisky’s origins and manufacture. If you fancy it, email me on [email protected] and I’ll tell you how to try to get a place – but you will have to be quick. Tickets are like gold dust.

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