The party strategy debate: rolling highlights

Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home
Watch Live on BBC Parliament

Note: If you’re catching up with this post after it was published, read it from the bottom up.

Final result – both amendment and motion passed overwhelmingly. The overall tenor of the debate was more good natured than might have been expected – people did not take the opportunity to express any unhappiness in strident tones, and the party being in coalition with the Tories until 2015 was accepted and expected, explicitly or implicitly, by all speakers. Tuition fees and NHS got mentions, but brief ones. Norman Lamb’s comments about the health debate (see below), however, were unexpected and welcome.

James Gurling, giving the final speech in the debate, ends with the line, “No pacts, no deals – just Liberal Democracy”.

As is often the case in such debates, the importance of liberalism has been mentioned frequently but both Evan Harris near the start of the debate and David Abrahams towards the end mentioned the importance too of the party’s social democratic heritage, pointing out how much poorer the party would be without the contributions of people such as Shirley Williams.

Tim Farron’s speech was good, but… it was rather like a Christmas repeat special, with the best lines from his previous speeches at Sheffield conference. Emphasises importance of effective campaigning; “we will not define ourselves by passing conference motions”.

Norman Lamb’s contribution to the debate emphasised that last year’s special conference was not a one-off agreement on coalition, but rather there needs to be ongoing involvement of the party in the working of coalition. “The party needs to be fully engaged” in drawing up the policy programme for the second half of the Parliament, and he promises that future major new policies that fall outside the coalition agreement must go through the party’s democratic processes.

Norman Lamb also makes very emollient comment about NHS debate yesterday – saying such a debate should never have to happen again as in future party should not have to debate a major departure from coalition agreement after, rather than before, the event.

In his speech, Simon Hughes talked about the benefits of being in power – the way that party members can influence government decision making and the way that it provides an opportunity to reach out to new audiences. (As an aside, that helps explain why the party’s fundraising is doing well and the next budget forecasts very strong results from larger donors.) Calls for a “closing [of] the gap between the rich and the poor”. Party should still aim to replace Labour as the radical alternative to the Tories.

Suzanne Fletcher from Stockton called for better information to be available about what the party is doing in government and why – and got a very warm response (and not just from the Lib Dem Voice team for her namecheck for the site).

Series of speeches calling for the party to be distinctive, but none criticise the party being in coalition and many praise the coalition agreement’s content. That’s been a consistent them through conference – plenty of calls for things in government to be done differently, but coming out of coalition isn’t one of them.

Former MP David Rendel: “Our party’s policy is still to abolish tuition fees … and we should not be afraid to say so”.

David Matthewman is providing a detailed commentary on the debate on Twitter.

The amendment, accepted by the movers of the motion, calls for a review of the party’s triple lock arrangements with any proposals for change to be put to the party’s autumn conference. In moving the amendment, Evan Harris both made the point that the Federal Policy Committee is not formally involved in the triple lock, even though policy is at the heart of post-election negotiations. That proposal is a good one (for the reasons I outlined in Wanted: one party locksmith).

As Gordon Lishman moves the party strategy motion the conference hall is reasonably full, but even allowing for it being a Sunday morning, it is not as full as it would be if people were expecting a contentious debate. Issues about party independence and no pre-election deals are important, but there’s unlikely to be much of a showing for any views disagreeing with those in the motion.

Read more by or more about , , , , , , , , , , , , , or .
This entry was posted in Conference and Party policy and internal matters.

One Comment

  • Simon McGrath 13th Mar '11 - 9:44pm

    “Evan Harris both made the point that the Federal Policy Committee is not formally involved in the triple lock, even though policy is at the heart of post-election negotiations. That proposal is a good one (for the reasons I outlined in Wanted: one party locksmith).”

    In which case perhaps Policy Cttee should be elected by the party membership as a whole not just conference delegates?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Nicholson 12th Jul - 11:12pm
    I would rather see us taking the line that we can make the Scottish Government and Parliament with its present powers work better than under...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 12th Jul - 10:07pm
    JoeB, Saying that MMT doesn't eliminate the exchange rate risk is no different from saying it doesn't eliminate the inflation risk. No one says it...
  • User AvatarNonconformistradical 12th Jul - 10:07pm
    @Jenny Barnes "I think it’s entirely liberal to want to defend my right to live on a habitable planet." Seconded. " Or should we just...
  • User AvatarTomas HJ 12th Jul - 10:02pm
    @marcstevens. No, it's not a quango, and no, FOI wouldn't apply, because both of those apply to public bodies. A quango has always implied a...
  • User AvatarTonyH 12th Jul - 9:42pm
    Alan Jelfs: "An independent Scotland gets the choice of rejoining the EU or not. As part of the UK it doesn't." I don't think it's...
  • User AvatarJenny Barnes 12th Jul - 9:28pm
    Whenb one person's behaviour includes riding round in a Canyonero burning immense quantities of fossil fuel I think it's entirely liberal to want to defend...