Trust in People: Make Britain Free, Fair and Green

I’m sat in the debate on the Meeting the Challenge paper. So is the ls the leader. But the hall is disappointingly empty.

This is a debate on the core principles of our party – the narrative. Perhaps the party at large feels that our narrative is sufficiently well established that it doesn’t need to be debated. Still, fingers crossed that more people turn up for the actual vote.

UPDATE: After a failed attempt attempt at a ‘reference back’ (an attempt to send the motion back to the Federal Policy Committee for further consideration), the motion was carried near-unanimously.

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  • I was one of those most closely involved in preparing this paper, so I’ll try and give an objective and factual response to Alex’s comment before saying what I really think about it.

    Factually: Alex spoke early in this debate and was critical of the paper. Quite a number of those who followed him started their speeches by saying that they didn’t agree with Alex and they did like the paper and found it useful. Nobody else echoed Alex’s view of it (and several speakers made speeches which it would be fair to say were not closely related to this actual paper or motion).

    My personal view: Unfortunately, Alex’s speech did not have the serious and balanced tone of his comments about this paper on this website here before the Conference, or of the couple of conversations I had with him about it at Conference. Some of his points there were good ones – he is right that it could be more thrillingly written. But in his speech in the debate he went well beyond that, ridiculing the paper and being very critical of what he regards as its lack of clarity, and its unreadability. He got very carried away and made a very critical speech, and in my view very confused at points: for example he complains both that it has too many priorities or key themes in the title, but also that its priorities are buried deep in the paper. Well he might prefer those two issues he found there to the ones identified clearly in the title and overall structure of the paper (free, fair, green), but they were the priorities of the paper, and since they’re in the title and the narrative and paper are very clearly structured around them, he can hardly claim they’re hidden.

    Several speakers who spoke after Alex went out of their way to say how much they disagreed with him. Alex had said he thought it was impenetrable and not focussed and not something you could give to someone joining the party and wanting to know more. At least two or three others (none of whom had had anything to do with writing the paper) said they completely disagreed – two or three used the word ‘inspiring’ or ‘inspirational’ – and that they would indeed be giving to new members of the party.

    Alex is obviously fully entitled to his view of this paper. But the debate showed very clearly that virtually no-one else shares it. No other speaker agreed with Alex, and a negligibly small number of people voted with him against the paper, compared to hundreds in favour.

    Sure, this paper has failings, and I would agree that its style is not exactly racy. But most people have found it a good and useful framework document in setting out the Liberal Democrat approach to the various areas, where we are now and how we plan to develop them in the future. If someone is interested to know where the Lib Dems are at the moment and our approach for the future, they couldn’t get a better document than this.

  • I hesitate to comment, knowing how involved in MTC many of the people here were.

    I have to say that the most prevalent comment I heard in Brighton regarding MTC was “What is the Challenge? Are we going to meet it? And do we care?”, or assorted permutations thereof.

    I am afraid that for many members e-forums, podcasts et al just arent engaging, the public meetings are several months ago in the memory, and there were many people who couldn’t get to them anyway. Since this all kicked off we have got a new leader, local election, Dunfermline, B &C…..

    Most people had lost what passion they had for it. The MTC team did not manage to re-engage members with the debate.

    And then we had a fairly dry report to conference that was not perhaps as accessible as it might have been.

    I think that although Jeremy may be right that many of the great and good disagreed with Alex in the conference hall a far greater number agreed with him by voting with their feet outside the hall…..

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