Why we need to make conference accessible

 

This year conference was the most attended, compared to previous years. I myself attended conference for a day or two. As a student I did find it somewhat grudging to pay nearly £500 for three days to attend. I did however not find it massively damaging to my wallet, this is not the case for many members of the party.

Due to the fact I could afford to go (and as a voting rep) it meant that I as an individual had more of a voice than those who couldn’t travel to Bournemouth. One member one vote passed which is great! But it still means that only those who can afford to take time off work, and the cost, will be able to make use of this. As a democratic party surely conference should be accessible. Why should members not be allowed to use their vote because they can’t afford sky high travel prices or a hotel in a tourist town or even to take time off work?

Is it not about time that we as a party move towards an electronic ballot for motions? Before you start to say “Oh no, what about corruption!” let me first say that corruption is unlikely, as such a system would require members to fill in their membership number. Just like they did when getting a conference pass. Such a system would cost a lot to start off with, but surely alienating members on a financial basis is worse than spending money to ensure every member gets a vote! We keep saying policy is made by members. So why should those who can afford to go (to conference) decide party policy? Surely every member should!

It’s not really one member one vote when only those who can afford to go can use their vote.

 

* Gareth-Stuart Ogg is Vice President (Comms) of Liberal Youth Scotland and a member in Dundee.

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12 Comments

  • We need a coordinated Campaign for Liberal Democracy!

  • We can find a form of words and a transition plan to enable all members to be enfranchised to Vote on policy whether in person or rometly. Making us virtual and literal liberal democrats.

    In 2010 while many Liberal Democrats were deciding on the Coalition. Thirsk and Malton Liberal Democrats were too busy to go to the Special Conference. As the one constituency with a delayed General Election campaign, while it would have been nice to have been able to participate in the Vote, campaign locally to try to get a Liberal Democrat remains an over riding objective.

    Getting more people involved and enabled to feel ownership of our party’s policy and decision making, I envisage will empowering the party. To my mind it is imperative that Liberal Democrats continue to lead on political innovation.

  • Verifiable, online, anonymous: pick two. You are not the first person to have thought of this, Gareth. And it’d be amazing if we could get it to work, but there are hurdles, and pretending there aren’t does none of us any favours. Dave Page, chair of Plus, goes into more detail here: https://jazzhandsseriousbusiness.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/some-thoughts-on-online-voting-and-voter-engagement/

    That said, there was an interesting idea in one of the FPC “where do we go from here” discussions – that perhaps we could have certified venues – say a local cinema, or perhaps even something smaller – across the country, and people who are in the room at those places could vote remotely. This would mean that you’d still have to have a pass, which would be checked (and believe it or not, this means more than just putting in your membership number from the end doing the checking), and you’d be able to vote but not speak, but would make it more accessible for those with less money.

  • I was registered and had accommodation booked for Bournemouth but was unable to attend because of ongoing medical treatment. I would have loved to have been able to vote remotely.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Sep '15 - 6:08pm

    There was a consultation session at conference. It was suggested that asylum work be transferred to F&CO, which would cause disruption and not achieve much. Providing information about countries of origin has been done for a couple of decades by the Country Information and Policy Unit.

  • Gareth

    I agree with your article in many ways. Conference is not accessible to every member and to have a few hundred voting for thousands of members is not acceptable. OMOV is an important step forward and while I accept that it is more difficult to vote if you have not heard the debate I do believe that all members should have the opportunity to express a preference that advises any debate at conference, this should be easy to do using something like Survey Monkey.

    I would be happy with some form of system that could take any advisory vote into account, not easy I accpet that but something that we have to look at.

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