The Conference agenda – media roundup

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The agenda for Autumn Conference has been online for five days, and has already attracted attention from the media. It is instructive to see which stories are  picked up by whom.

The Guardian focuses on the Housing Policy paper under the headline: Liberal Democrats propose major housebuilding programme.

The Independent homes in on the motion proposed by Danny Alexander on ‘Generating Growth and Jobs in a Time of Austerity’: Liberal Democrats slam Osborne over green policies.

Our opposition to airport expansion, and the motion from Watford, are also of interest to the Independent: Lib Dems to oppose South East airport expansion plans. This is also picked up by the BBC, by ITN.

The motion from Dover and Deal calling for a standard 20mph speed limit in residential areas has generated a flurry of articles. The Telegraph, under the headline Liberal Democrats call for 20mph speed limit in residential areas, highlights opposition from the AA.  The Mirror, in its article Slash speed limit: Lib Dems to call for all 30mph zones to be cut to 20mph claims that motoring organisations have ‘slammed’ the plans, though it only quotes the AA.

The Telegraph draws attention to the motion titled ‘Good Food Shouldn’t Cost the Earth’ which proposes, amongst many other suggestions, that there should be a consultation on taxing sugary drinks: Tax fizzy drinks to combat childhood obesity, suggest Lib Dems

The Daily Mail, as we all know, tends to interpret any independent thinking on the part of Liberal Democrats as a threat to the Coalition, hence its headline Lib Dems will use conference to attack Tories over secret justice and green policies in move that could widen Coalition rift

It picks three ‘contentious’ issues: a motion calling for the complete ban on secret courts, the elements of Danny Alexander’s motion that focus on green policies and a motion on assisted dying. However it claims that the proposal for a levy on plastic bags (also in the ‘Good Food Shouldn’t Cost the Earth’ motion) follows the paper’s own Banish the Bag campaign.

Inevitably, the motion from Croydon on Lords Reform (or lack of it) features.  BBC: Lords U-turn on agenda at Lib Dem party conference

Almost all the media outlets assume, or at least imply, that any motion placed on the agenda will be passed.  Liberal Democrats must continue to explain that we are a democratic party and that policy is decided by the members on a free vote. Whilst some of the motions at Brighton restate core Liberal Democrat principles, and are likely to be carried overwhelmingly, most will be subject to amendment and some will be rejected by members.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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This entry was posted in Conference and News.


  • Simon Titley 16th Aug '12 - 7:34pm

    @Simon Shaw – Are you suggesting that the party conference is undemocratic? If not, what is your point?

  • It seems conceivable that the food motion could be voted down for specific and general awfulness, and the 20mph motion on the grounds of localism.

  • Simon Titley 16th Aug '12 - 9:30pm

    @Simon Shaw – You seem to be challenging the whole idea of representative democracy! But not very well.

    So far as party conference is concerned, a strict quota of places for voting representatives is allocated to each local party according to how many members it has. Local parties then elect their conference representatives by STV. Representatives are ‘self-selected’ only if there aren’t enough candidates to trigger an election, but that is not the fault of the candidates. It does not invalidate the conference, any more than a councillor returned unopposed invalidates a local council.

    You then admit : “I am not sure I could suggest a practical, significantly more democratic alternative.” If so, why cast aspersions on the conference in the first place? Your whole intervention in this debate has been utterly pointless.

  • Richard Dean 16th Aug '12 - 9:46pm

    I am a member, but I probably won’t have a vote. For various reasons I cannot often visit my local party, and so don’t get to voice opinions or vote there much . In this modern day and age, is it not possible to arrange a secure online voting system that would allow all members, rather than all representative members, to vote?

  • Alun Griffiths 16th Aug '12 - 10:02pm

    Richard, you only have to visit your LP once, at the AGM to get a vote on who your conference reps should be.

  • Simon Titley 16th Aug '12 - 10:14pm

    @Richard Dean – Your proposal is technically feasible. However, it ignores the fact that conference debates are not simply about voting. There is the debate itself, a deliberative process in which representatives argue and listen without necessarily having a preconceived notion of which way they will vote. There are also often complex votes on separate lines and amendments, which are impossible to vote on sensibly unless you have been following the debate closely.

    Confining the vote to voting representatives not only ensures fair representation for each local party, it also ensures that most of those voting have listened to the arguments. An online system would skew voting towards those members willing and able to sit in front of their computers for several hours at a stretch, which, altough in theory open to anyone, is unlikely to produce an outcome more representative than electing strict quotas of voting representatives.

    Where we can and should draw in far more members (both online and in person) is via a consultative process before each conference.

  • Simon Titley 16th Aug '12 - 10:18pm

    @Simon Shaw – So you think the conference is “actually really a self-selecting oligarchy, verging on plutocracy”. What are you smoking?

  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '12 - 12:50am

    Online systems exist by which speeches can be streamed live to an udience of thousands, and by which people onlne can participate in debates – LibDems have used such systems for small videopresentations. LDV itself shows that online discussions can be useful and productive,

    In quite a few of the debates, I’ll bet many delegate’s minds are more or less made up beforehand – I certainly got that impression from previous voting behaviours on the NHS for instance – so if the membership as a whole is like that then it;s no worse and no better. Actually I think the membership may be a bit better than that.

    So I disagree that an online conference system would necessarily be less democratic or less interactive than at present. And online seems so much cheaper.

  • Malcolm Todd 17th Aug '12 - 9:48am

    “LDV itself shows that online discussions can be useful and productive, ”

    Oh, let’s not exaggerate.

  • Euan Davidson 21st Aug '12 - 2:05pm

    Conference can be opened so that all member’s have a vote not just reps, in Scotland we did away with them a few years ago and our conference’s work fine.

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