Monday, June 06, 2011

Keep the Liberal in Liberal Democrat Conference - Episode 4: Let's keep it civil. #ldconf

Ok, so there's some robust discussion over the new security arrangements for Liberal Democrat Conference, which is fine. There would be something very wrong indeed if there wasn't, in my opinion.  We have never had to submit passport numbers and Home Office compliant photographs before. And whatever gloss the Federal Conference Committee tries to put on it, there is a serious issue with the police having a effective power of veto over members attending our conference.

As I said when I first wrote about this, Federal Conference Committee, which contains good liberals and has had some very complex issues to grapple with. I acknowledge their struggle, but I feel that  they should have anticipated that there would be legitimate concern and opposition to the plans. They could have managed this process a lot better.  It was wrong of them to issue the new requirements with only 10 days left on the cheaper registration, as well, and I think they need to extend that time.

What has annoyed me is that some elements of the party establishment have seen fit to attack ordinary members while defending themselves. I have been deeply personally upset by some comments made by a fair few people on the other side of the argument, people who are pretty high up in the party establishment, who say that it's not worth bothering about and that we don't care about security. Heavens above - why would I want some of my favourite people on the planet to be hurt? We can surely do this better.

I have worked very hard for this party for almost 30 years trying to win and hold seats at all levels of Government up and down the country. I care deeply about our future electoral success and will be doing all I can to make sure we do as well as possible in the future.

I also care deeply about civil liberties - they are at the core of everything a liberal holds dear. When I see my party accepting a situation that only a year ago we would have been campaigning against, it worries me. I think my concern is legitimate.

This debate is not going to go away. The petition has over 200 signatures now and the letter to the FCC is being put to local parties all over the country to sign. There is a case for the FCC to answer. It would be good if they could do so without belittling, or denigrating those who argue against them. It's not a good look. And to be fair, my side needs always to frame its arguments in respectful terms, too.  I'm sure we can find an acceptable solution but that's more likely if the debate is conducted in a civil way.  The establishment attacking the motives of people who oppose them, particularly when the party needs these people to work hard on its behalf, is never going to end well especially not in this party.

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