Monday, 15 September 2008

Do we need two annual federal conferences?

I have just been watching BBC Parliament from the LibDem conference in Bournemouth. If you have broadband (the BT version of which I have been using) or digital TV, this is thoroughly recommended, in order to by-pass the Conservative-orientated filter of analogue BBC coverage.

The party was happy to have public coverage of a debate on proposals for reorganisation of the party's internal structures (the Bones report).

I am a little wary of some of the proposals, particularly on candidate development and selection. Although this is a devolved matter, there will be strong pressure on Wales and Scotland to adopt whatever is decided for England.

However, I am very happy to go along with the proposal to make the spring conferences state-only. That is, England-only matters would be discussed at the English spring conference, and likewise for Scotland and Wales. Education, health and housing are high on the political agenda, so that hours of debate at federal conference are of academic interest to me. Policing and transport motions are additionally irrelevant to Scottish reps.

The fact that no Welsh or Scottish voice was raised in the debate should have told president Simon Hughes something. It is an expensive business to travel to the more salubrious resorts in England and to stay for three or four days. To travel to two each year can be a financial imposition.

Unfortunately, the argument that an England-only conference would not attract media coverage seems to have swayed Simon. He indicated that this particular proposal would be reconsidered.

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