Thursday, June 02, 2011

Keep the Liberal in Liberal Democrat Conference - Episode 2: The Petition and The Letter #ldconf

Thanks again to the fabulous Sarah Brown, @auntysarah on Twitter for producing this image and allowing me to post it here. Just imagine a whole auditorium of Liberal Democrats wearing t-shirts bearing this logo. It amply represents much of the feeling expressed today on the Liberal Democrat blogosphere about the party's decision to bow to police demands that they have the final say on who attends our Conference. Our constitution states that local parties should elect Conference Representatives to attend. The Police should not be allowed to put that process asunder, so to speak.

I wrote about this earlier and so have many other people. I believe that what the police are asking is way over the top, nor will it make anybody safer. I believe that the Federal Conference Committee should stand up to the Police and say that it will not allow them to veto our members. Ordinary members have to be accepted by their local parties, so there's some contact there, but conference representatives are elected at an AGM, so there will have been an even greater opportunity to get to know them.

Anyway, a few of us are circulating an open letter to the Federal Conference Committee asking them to think again. If you would like your name to be added to it, then please put let me know in the comments. Others will be blogging it as well, so please only add your name on one of us, otherwise it'll mess with our heads. Thanks to Spidey for coming up with pretty much all the wording.

Here it is:

Dear Federal Conference Committee We wish to make clear our disappointment at the way in which the registration process for the Liberal Democrat Conference in Birmingham is being carried out as agreed by the Federal Conference Committee in conjunction with West Midlands Police. The new registration process requires that those who wish to attend conference provide Greater Manchester Police (on behalf of West Midlands Police) with their personal information such as passport and NI numbers. As a liberal party with a strong history and record of protecting civil liberties, we are gravely concerned that such an illiberal registration process has been allowed to take place by the party’s Federal Conference Committee without direct consultation with those directly affected, i.e. members. We also wish to make clear our disappointment and disagreement with the declaration that “These details will be passed onto the police to carry out their own accreditation procedures.” For a party which has consistently fought to protect and re-instate civil liberties and freedoms, we cannot support a decision which removes our right to keep our private information private. We strongly disagree with the decision that West Midlands Police have the power to disallow any member of the Liberal Democrats from attending conference should they wish to do so. It is every party member’s right to attend conference and only the federal party has the right to refuse access with justifiable reason. Furthermore the federal party’s constitution states that local parties shall elect local representatives for conference. We feel it is unacceptable to allow the Police to over-ride the wishes of local parties by having a power of veto over attendance. This new requirement may also restrict other members from attending due to their personal circumstances such as;anyone under 16 will not have an NI number or Driving Licence
members whose membership is in a different name from their official ID. (Pseudonym, transgendered or just plain got married) 
We ask that the registration process for conference be urgently re-evaluated by the Federal Conference Committee and that they consider with immediate effect the removal of such an illiberal requirement on its members. 
Spidey has also started a petition here so if you agree please go and sign that too. It will ask you for money after you've signed it, but just come away from the page. You don't have to give them anything. Especially when their default is $25.

And watch this space for Episode 3. What will it be? The Raffle? The Reference Back?


Alisdair Calder McGregor said...

A C McGregor
Voting Rep, Nottingham City Local Party

Atibbs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Tibbs said...

I'm also concerned at the requirements for the photographs for passes. Instead of any old passport photo, we're being required to submit something which has the same requirements as a passport or a driving licence. This makes me wonder if our data/images are going to be scanned and kept on a database somewhere. That, to me, makes it barely different from ID cards!

More than happy to be a signatory to the letter.

Andrew Tibbs
Vice Convenor,
Edinburgh North East & Leith Lib Dems

Zadok Day said...

Please add my signature to the letter. Zadok Day, Voting Rep & Secretary, Bury Local Party.

cynicalHighlander said...

Liberal went out of the LibDems years ago that is why your vote collapsed at Holyrood and with Rennie at the helm it will get worse as he is no way a liberal.

krissie_r said...

I think this conference needs a motion on the rollback of police powers (and their misuse), freedom to protest and the reaffirmation of the commitment to civil liberty.

... That's if enough Liberal Democrats who believe in civil liberty actually attend this conference to pass such a motion. Surely there are more than a few that still believe in this core value? If not, I dare say the conference will be a roaring success. If there are, it looks like it'll be half empty - which is a shame. Such a motion would show just who the Liberal Democrats actually are. Instead, it seems the party (or at least a large part of it) is going the authoritarian way of Labour and the Tories... and what makes it different from the other two then!?

Chris Mills said...

I am astounded that our party would cave in to Authoritarian police requirements like this.

Chris Mills


East Hampshire Liberal Democrats

empbe said...

I honestly question whether you *could* get a whole auditorium of those t-shirts inside the building. Not for want of effort and support, but because t-shirts bearing such a slogan would hardly be the most innocuous thing that security has confiscated during our conferences in government on the grounds of preventing disruption to Nick's keynote.

Anonymous said...

As captain Picard said, "When the first link in the chain is forged; the first speech censored; the first thought forbidden; the first freedom denied, it chains us all irrevocably."

The line must be drawn. This far and no further!

Please add my name.

Al McIntosh
Voting Rep, Amber Valley LP

Tulipmonger said...

Please add my name to the letter.

Jason Lower, Voting Rep, Tonbridge & Malling

Keith Legg said...

Happy to add my name.

I think I'm a voting rep - but if I wasn't and did want to go to conference, would this have a bearing on my local party's ability to appoint me as a substitute?

Anonymous said...

Michael Carchrie Campbell
Chair & Voting Rep, Northern Ireland LIberal Democrats,

Nick said...

You can add my name:

Cllr Nick Barlow
Colchester Liberal Democrats

Anonymous said...

Thanks for organising this - please add my name to the letter.

Chris Sawer

Conference Rep, Calderdale Lib Dems

Gareth Epps said...

I absolutely sign up to this. In my 11 years on Conference Committee, anyone coming to us with this nonsense would have been told to take a running jump.

I have had to lie to fill in the form, and I am not in possession of a photo that is compliant.

I've also set up a Facebook group at!/home.php?sk=group_160396677361612 - please join.

Alex Marsh said...

I was planning to attend Birmingham until I saw these additional requirements.
Happy to add my name to the letter.
Alex Marsh
Bristol North Lib Dems.


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