Ten comments on Saturday at party conference

Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

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1. Being introduced at a meeting or in a debate as a “Minister” is still a plus point, often triggering a round of applause. People at conference like the fact that the party is in government.

2. The Social Liberal Forum (SLF) is growing quickly in influence in the party, partly thanks to a smartly organised set of fringe meetings, amendments and motions. However, the SLF is very keen to repeatedly stress that it is not anti-coalition.

3. The NHS debate was a decision delayed. All sides are happy with the idea that a conference debate is used to set out or strengthen the party’s negotiating position in coalition talks, but those talks need to deliver results for all sides to remain happy (as Evan Harris pointed out in response to a tweet of mine).

4. The question of what, if any, action the party should take to improve the diversity of its Parliamentary Party has long been the cause of fierce debate and postponed decision making. Today conference voted overwhelmingly for the proposals put before it, more positive action than positive discrimination. Even if the result was not a surprise, the margin of the vote was.

5. Both Vince Cable, even after tuition fees, and criticising bankers remain popular with conference representatives.

6. Shirley Williams is still a fantastic speech maker.

7. It’s extremely hard to find London conference reps who want Lembit Opik to be the party’s candidate for London Mayor. They may not be representative of members overall of course, and no-one else has yet thrown their hat into the ring.

8. There was a welcome flicker of extra interest in using the party’s internal systems of democracy with a big increase in the number of questions asked on federal committee reports. Credit to Tim Farron for his answer to my question, promising to include more detail in future Federal Executive reports. As Caron Lindsay pointed out, though, the questioners were all male.

9. Why does my right armpit keep on setting off the metal detectors?

10. And finally, for those watching my mini-campaign to get people in the party to talk about “community politics” more frequently: kudos to Paul Burstow (two mentions in his conference speech) and to Nick Clegg (one mention in his foreword to the latest LGA pamphlet).

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Rupert Moss-Eccardt 12th Mar '11 - 7:13pm

    Mark Pack _is_ Snake Pliskin!

  • Cheltenham Robin 12th Mar '11 - 7:41pm


    The link to your question doesn’t appear to work.

  • Lib Dem Titanic 12th Mar '11 - 8:17pm

    No mention of the ‘somewhat important’ May Elections and AV vote yet.

    The big C word springs to mind again.

    (Complaceny. Get your mind out of the gutter. 🙂 )

  • I wonder whether the growing influence of the SLF will trigger other groups to organise? I wonder whether the newer members who have joined recently are really reflected in the conference voting reps? It will be interesting to watch…

  • Martin Land 12th Mar '11 - 8:42pm

    Re 9: Hidden Chocolate Bars?

  • Thought you meant big C Conservative, Lib Dem Titanic (is it the party sinking, or complacency?)

  • Lib Dem Titanic 12th Mar '11 - 9:13pm

    Wait till May Tim and all will become clear. 😉

  • Keith Browning 12th Mar '11 - 10:09pm

    No mention anywhere of Libya, Japan, tsunami and what seems like impendingarmageddon, with the world economy on a knife-edge and could be pushed over the precipice by these events.

    As a sympathetic outsider looking in, it all seems a little parochial.

  • Simon McGrath 13th Mar '11 - 1:03pm

    Interesting point about all the questions being from men. Presumably after yesterday’s diversity motion in future there will be a quota for questions from men, women, ethnic minorities, lbgt …….

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