Saturday, 19 September 2015

Fringing in Bournemouth

There is broader coverage of events in Bournemouth on Liberal Democrat Voice and many official LibDem blogs. This is just a catalogue of initial impressions of autumn conference.

It was good to be joined by Cen Phillips, which means that Aberavon & Neath party is better represented than it has been for yonks. Conference Committee chairman Andrew Wiseman confirmed that other parties were sending more representatives than ever before, though there was still a significant minority of constituencies which were unrepresented. Attending conference is an expensive business (especially in a place like Bournemouth). Something should be done to redress this imposition.

It seems that Peter Black AM from Swansea & Gower will be joining us later in the week.

I should praise the courage of the party to dedicate around two hours before the formal opening to a review of our general election performance. However, there was to my mind too much concentration on process - the failures of strategy and the shortcomings in technological tools - to the exclusion of examination of the message we were putting over. The loudest applause was for speakers from the floor who criticised the "brains and heart" slogan and called for an end to defining Liberal Democrats in terms of their relation to other parties.

The response to the surge in refugee numbers was heartening, but I had to slip away for the AGM of LDER (Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform) before the end of that debate.

It was good to see that the AV referendum fiasco has not deterred LDER, but it was felt that renewed effort was needed to convince other people (including many LibDems) of the need for reform. There were signs that more in the Labour Party were coming round to the long-held views of Alan Johnson MP that first-past-the-post was inimical to democracy. The TUC's recent conversion to proportional representation was welcome. More publicity needs to be given to the successful introduction of fair votes to Scottish local government. Similar moves for councils in England and Wales might seem less threatening to the public than going straight to PR for Westminster. Wales in particular looks promising as there is an excellent case for PR in the super-councils which the Welsh Government wants to impose. The views of Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, at a fringe meeting organised by the Electoral Reform Society for tomorrow should be interesting.

My last fringe of the day was a drinks function launching the rebranding of Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association as "Rights, Liberty and Justice" in order to embrace a wider membership than only practitioners. The list of assaults on civil rights by the Conservative government which came out in discussion and by the keynote speakers was depressing. The House of Lords may prove a road-block to the worst of their proposed future members, but even there authoritarian socialists formed an unholy alliance with the worst of the Tories. Given that the government has a manifesto commitment to replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, the fight was on to ensure that the BBR comprised all the protections of the HRA plus the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1 comment:

Frank H Little said...

I forgot to mention the session chaired by Fiona Hall with the participation of Sir Graham Watson at which our remaining MEP Margaret Bearder could be questioned on activities in Brussels. Inevitably discussion was dominated by next year's referendum. The date is still up in the air, apparently, estimates ranging from early spring to late autumn. The whispers are that David Cameron is not going to come back from his negotiations with very much to feed to his eu-fearing fellow Tories.

However, I did learn the EU is responsible for a larger space programme than NASA, funds science and research in British universities more even than the Germans and that, thanks to Liberals in Europe, there is a huge over-arching policy to protect natural resources on the way. An EU body also funded The King's Speech.