Welcome to my day: 20 March 2023 – how was it for you?

Train journeys back from Conference tend to offer a chance to reflect on the events of the past few days, especially for someone who likes to travel in a bubble of isolation (nothing personal, fellow Liberal Democrats, but sometimes I just like to be alone). And this Conference has been no different.

Was their journey really necessary?

Sadly, the culture wars that have poisoned our national body politic have come to the Liberal Democrats and, unlike our more authoritarian opposite numbers, we’re curiously more vulnerable in some ways. Many of us find confrontation enervating rather than enjoyable, and we have a tendency to wish away conflict rather than address it head-on. And I do get that – we’re (mostly) nice people who want to be welcoming. And that means that not so lovely people can get quite far into the Party’s core before anyone necessarily notices.

However, at some point, unless you draw lines in the sand in terms of behaviour and values, you find that what you had is gone forever, and that the liberal party you thought you were part of is no more. And it does happen, for example in Hungary, where it is now hard to believe we were once a sister party to FIDESZ, the conservative nationalist party which forms the most unpleasant administration in the European Union.

It is at times like this, therefore, that those who believe in the liberal values of tolerance and mutual respect have to step up as Conference did on Saturday.

The Leader speaks…

I’m not always an enthusiast for Leaders’ speeches – I’m never sure whether or not I’m the target audience and in truth, whether or not I should be. But I found Ed Davey’s speech to be heartfelt and sincere, and whilst it wasn’t a barnstormer, the content was that of a human in politics rather than a politician “talking human”.

The reference to our future relationship with our European neighbours got a lot of us out of our chairs, especially as Labour have increasingly soft-pedalled what they might actually do to move things forward. Whilst I acknowledge concerns that we haven’t been much better recently, we’ll have to see if his words are manifested in a more overtly pro-European Party message going forward. If the British public are beginning to lean heavily towards, if not rejoin then a much more collaborative arrangement, we should be taking a campaigning stance that accords with our internationalist values.

A pair of random reflections

I attended the International Security Working Group’s consultative session and n Friday afternoon, and found it to be a reassuring event. The direction of travel may not be entirely to the liking of some of our activists, and the fact that food security is being addressed by a different working group means that it may feel a bit incomplete, but it does feel joined up and coherent. We’ll see what it looks like when the final document comes before Conference in September.

But, my final thought is to reflect upon the importance of relationships in politics, something that the Internet can’t entirely replicate. It was nice to catch up with people that I hadn’t seen for too long, to have those casual yet valuable conversations that lead to opportunities to learn, to help or support, that don’t necessarily happen on Teams or Zoom. It is, I guess, the human connection that buttresses our innate liberalism…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice. He finds it curious that so many of you are so much taller in real life…

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4 Comments

  • Was very good to see you <3

  • Ruth Bright 20th Mar '23 - 9:34am

    Great piece Mark. It is possible, as you have shown here, to have absolute Liberal clarity on the Conference issue of the hour without the horrible “collectivization of the kulaks” tone that is appearing elsewhere.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Mar '23 - 12:27pm

    I communicate in various forms with my Lib Dem friends often every day. But nothing compares to actually being with you all in person. I managed only a tiny bit of Conference but loved it! There really is nothing like it.

  • Martin Eggleston 21st Mar '23 - 8:02am

    “not so lovely people can get quite far into the Party’s core before anyone necessarily notices.”

    Absolutely! Hear hear

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