Why you should think about submitting an amendment to a Conference motion

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference takes place in Southport in just two and a half weeks’ time. Party members will be discussing policy motions on the NHS at 70, party strategy, housing, Brexit, education and rural communities.

You might want to take note  that the deadline for submitting amendments is 1pm on Tuesday 6th March so you have a whole 13 days to put your amendment together, find 9 people to agree with you and submit it to the Federal Conference Committee.

I bet virtually everyone who has been to Conference has been in the hall and realised that the motion under debate would have been so much better if it had made an additional point or said something slightly differently.  Failure to read your conference papers ahead of time could have you kicking yourself that you didn’t take the opportunity to make a motion better or to spark a lively debate.

Amending a motion can make for a very interesting debate. If a motion submitted by members is deemed a bit too radical by the leadership, they’ll often submit an amendment to make it a bit more on message. They don’t always win the day in these debates either.

Sometimes members feel that a motion submitted by the party’s Powers that Be is not sufficiently radical for their liking so they will submit an amendment that beefs it up a bit.

We Liberal Democrats are pretty good at having high quality, passionate debates on controversial topics. Twice recently we’ve debated nuclear weapons and the tension in the hall has ensured some really high quality speeches. Similarly, one of the high points of the Bournemouth Conference last Autumn was the debate on Brexit strategy. There was all the high drama of suspending standing orders to change the agenda to have a proper debate rather than a consultative session and then a challenging and passionate debate on the substantive issue.

So, my challenge to you is to read the conference agenda and find a motion you want to improve. Then put something together. You are too late now for drafting advice from the Federal Conference Committee, but there are plenty experienced trouble-makers amendment writers on this site and around social media and I’m sure they will be delighted to help you.

There is another good reason why submitting an amendment is a good idea. If you have never spoken at Conference before, it can be a good opportunity to make your debut. You know not only that you will definitely speak but exactly when you are going to speak.  There is no sitting nervously with sweaty palms during the debate waiting to hear if you are going to be called. You know that if you propose an amendment you will be one of the first few speeches and if you summate that amendment you’ll be one of the last few speeches.

If you have never been to Conference before and are wondering how it all works, the party’s You Tube channel has videos of previous events. Here’s the Monday morning session from last year’s Autumn Conference which I’ve chosen completely at random with no thought whatsoever to the fact that I spoke in the first debate. If I can do it, you can too.

So, happy agenda-reading and amendment producing. And you can always whip up support for your amendment by writing about it on this site.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • This is a great piece. I would just caution that, especially given the squeezed times for each motion (because we wanted to fit more motions in) we won’t have time to debate every amendment submitted…

    If your goal is to make policy better then that’s less important, because we will always try to pick the amendment taht will make for the best debate, but if your goal is to make your speaking debut, I would suggest going for one of the less-likely-to-be-oversubscribed debates…

  • “If a motion submitted by members is deemed a bit too radical by the leadership, they’ll often submit an amendment to make it a bit more on message”

    Interesting framing. Not ‘bland’, not ‘moderate’, not ‘conservative’ But ‘on message’.

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