The future of Lib Dem Spring conference – how to have your say by 29th November

As part of the budget setting process, earlier this year, the Federal Executive were asked to look at how the Party runs its Spring Conference and the costs it incurs. With pressures on Party finances as they are, the challenge was therefore to look at how to make spring conference, at worst, a ‘break-even’ event.

From the start, FE recognised that answering this challenge involved potentially significant changes to Spring Conference, and produced a paper which looks at three broad options – continuing as we do with a two day spring conference (and seeking to make cost savings accordingly), reducing the length of spring conference (and experiencing cost savings proportionately), or abolishing spring conference entirely. Of the three broad options, and being mindful of the need to maintain opportunities for accountability as well as policy development, the FE expressed a preference for solutions based on the second option.

At Conference in Glasgow we ran a consultation session on the paper, but we are keen to hear from people who aren’t necessarily able to attend conference at the moment, or from members who may have thoughts on how we could produce a more financially neutral Spring Conference.

We are asking for feedback from all Party Members. You can find our paper here, which gives you some background on our discussions – and you can e-mail your thoughts or questions to us at [email protected].

The deadline for submissions is Friday 29th November.

* James Gurling is a member of the Federal Board and was brother-in-law to Charles Kenendy.

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This entry was posted in Conference and Party policy and internal matters.


  • Toby Keynes 22nd Nov '13 - 4:14pm

    I hope James and Fed Exec will also take note of the many suggestions, none of them offered by the Consultation Document, that have been made under the thread that I started on Wednesday (20th): Spring Conference: Ditch It Or Shift It.

  • A one-day conference will be even more poorly attended as it will be hard to justify travelling costs.

  • AC Trussell 23rd Nov '13 - 9:49am

    A one day event would look a bit pathetic to the public.
    Let’s be original!!
    How about an on-line event; where we can all have a vote. To show that we are the most democratic.

  • andrew purches 23rd Nov '13 - 5:21pm

    Why this obsession with security ? At the recent S.E.conference in Lancing, we were addressed by and spoke with a quartet of Cabinet members along with our MEP, and,on the face of it, no obvious security manifesting itself, nor any police for that matter. Maybe they were there, but much more discreet than apparent at the main conference venues.

    Is it really necessary to be treated like nightclubbers by a horde of apolitical bouncers at considerable cost to the party?

  • Peter Chivall 23rd Nov '13 - 6:28pm

    If security is the issue why not hold the traditional weekend event, but with Ministers etc. only present by video link, and dispense with the Heckler & Koch boys in blue. Backbench MPs would be free to come and go as would SPADs and outside speakers – normal entry security would be provided by the guys n gals with the radar machines.
    Regarding the wholesale lack of consultation with only 5 days to consider the FedEx proposals, I will certainly vote against next Saturday.
    As 2 of your early contributors have said, this raises once again our own Party’s ‘Midlothian Queston’, in that local Parties in England are denied the direct access to English Party machinery that their Scottish and Welsh counterparts have to their State Parties. Perhaps one possible solution is to make the Spring Conference an English National Conference of the Party and leave Federal Policy issues to September. This might give more time to debate issues like the Health marketisation in England and the Emasculation Balkanisation of Local Government in Schools and Planning policies.
    On the wider Policy issue, if as expected the SNP lose the Indepence Referendum in Scotland, we have pledged a ‘devolution plus’ reform amaounting to Home Rule. Is it not time to revive the idea of Home Rule for England and, while we are about it, establish an English Parliament and Capital City on the HS2 route in the North Midlands. One of the 2 chambers of the UK Parliament in Westminster could be closed and sold to the Americans…… or the Japanese….or to Boris for a new Mayor’s office……

  • Gemma Roulston 24th Nov '13 - 3:57pm

    I am surprised that this has been even thought of, without having thought about how HQ operates.
    Why does the whole of HQ have to close down – and then be moved to wherever the Spring conference is? I.E. is it necessary for the whole of Policy Unit to be at conference, likewise Membership?
    Why not just send a couple of people from each section of HQ – that would reduce staff accommodation etc.
    Not everyone can get to conference, so has this been sent to those who attended at Brighton, but could not get to Glasgow? What about the consideration for those who are not on the internet?
    Not every region has a Spring Conference – so those regions that don’t have it – would not be able to have the Federal conference in their region.
    Having a one day conference is certainly a way of making even more sure that those who can afford to attend conference, and manage the cost of 2 nights in a London hotel (either side of the conference) , will get to conference.
    I will try and participate in the consultation – but it doesn’t half look like it was rushed through and ill thought.

  • AC Trussell 25th Nov '13 - 8:52am

    What’s wrong with my comment on the 23rd?

  • It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is put forward by elites who wish to dilute the extent to which members can hold the leadership to account.

    Peter Chivall’s proposal above for a conference where some attend only by video link, reducing security costs for the elite, and travelling costs for the ordinary, seems good to me, though I can understand why the elites would not welcome the loss of the opportunity to debate with conference representatives.

    As a compromise, how about a small security-fest in Westminster, with video-and-voting-links to simultaneous regional conferences? Though I accept that the systems would need to be robust (and therefore expensive?), so that that important debate was not disrupted overnight ‘because Region X’s voting link was down…’

    I do think we should consider other cost-cutting measures BEFORE diluting the policy process. Reducing Spring to a one-day conference would only be acceptable to me if the amount of time for policy debate was preserved, at the expense of speeches by ministers. But somehow, I don’t think that would be acceptable to them…

  • Jonathan Hunt 29th Nov '13 - 11:05am

    There does not appear top be anywhere to send views, other than to James himself.

    My view is that we do not have to make any decison yet. We do not know the outcome of the general election, and whether we will be in a coalition or not.

    If we are not, and our vote and number of MPs drops, as many of us fear without a radical change in policy, especially economic and social policies, then the cost of security issue outlined by Simon Titley will not be a factor.

    We can plan a one-day rally for 2016, in London or Birmingham, and expand it if necessary. If not in government we shall need ther extra debating time to show where we went wrong in swallowing Tory policies.

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