miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Jon's answers are here:

1, What ratio do you think is the ideal balance for keynote speeches, policy debates and Q&A sessions on the main stage at conference?
Compared to recent conferences, we should be devoting a little more time to policy debates. Part of the way to achieve this is by reducing the length of setpiece speeches. The Leader's Q&A is valuable. Subject-specific Q&A's have sometimes been less useful. Council Group presentations and topical motion debates are a lower priority for me than debates.

2, How do you plan to make conference more inclusive?
One key way to make Conference look less like the preserve of middle-aged white men is to positively discriminate in favour of women, BME and disabled speakers and I always endeavour to do this when I am chairing debates. Often almost all cards are submitted by white men so part of this process has to involve encouraging a more diverse range of people to attend Conference and then to submit speakers' cards.

3, What is your favourite conference venue and why?
I come from Southport so always have a soft spot for there. It really is not usually as windy as it was the last time Conference visited!

4, What is your opinion on the proposal to make conference one member, one vote?
I moved the successful constitutional amendment a few years ago that increased the number of voting reps from every local party. I would support extending the number of voting reps further.

However I think that some safeguard is required to avoid the risk of wealthy interest groups signing up scores of people as members, paying their subs and effectively buying conference votes. A large allocation of voting reps from each local party that would almost always exceed demand could be wiser than straight one member, one vote. In case this risk seems far-fetched, remember that we have sadly seen the same methods used in a number of PPC selection contests, which subsequently had to be sorted out at the appeal stage.

5, What would you do to make conference more affordable for the less well-off within our party?
Accommodation is the biggest cost for most reps, so availability of reasonably-priced accommodation needs to be taken into account in venue selection. Also the Party should partner with Liberal Youth to promote very cheap crash or student accommodation to less well-off members of all ages.

It is not appropriate to raise members' registration rates (including day visitor's rates) by anything more than inflation in a time when so many are in financial difficulty and ideally they should be frozen.

6, What is your opinion on the proposal to allow non-attending members to participate in conference - remote voting, speeches by skype, etc.?
I was involved in updating the first conference website at Edinburgh conference way back in 1999 and also getting video streaming of conference working before the online availability of BBC Parliament's coverage made that redundant, and finally streaming two-way video into a fringe meeting for the first time. So increasing online involvement is close to my heart.

Greater online involvement in terms of asking questions to Q&A sessions would make sense, as would arranging the documents on the conference website so that it is more straightforward to follow Conference proceedings from home with the motions and amendments in front of you.

I am unconvinced about remote voting and speaking. On the key controversial debates of Conference, it is wonderful to see Conference listen to the intelligent and passionate debate and make up its mind. Remote voting would risk undermining that by encouraging proponents of a stance to whip members into voting a particular way by clicking from FaceBook or Twitter without having heard the debate.

7, How much consideration do you think FCC should give to avoiding embarassing our frontbench when it selects motions and amendments for debate?
Very little! One of the key differences between the Liberal Democrats and the other parties is that we still have a democratic policy-making process where members vote on motions to determine policy. For this to have value, any issue must be up for grabs for discussion on the floor of Conference regardless of whether the leadership would prefer we stayed silent on it. Healthy debate on contentious issues also makes Conference more enjoyable for Reps and rarely leads to headlines as bad as some of our media people fear.

The perennial divide on FCC is between those who take my view that Conference is primarily for Party democracy and those who take the view that it is primarily a shop window for the Party.

In addition, in the context of coalition government, it's hugely important for the Party to differentiate itself from the Conservatives, so issues over which we and the Conservatives differ absolutely must be debated.

8, What are your views on whether outside experts should be allowed or encouraged to speak on the main stage?
I support the current position where experts from outside the Party are sometimes allowed to speak in uncontroversial debates but are never allowed to speak on one side or the other on a controversial debate. Winning the hearts and minds of Conference and thus influencing the results of votes is something that it is only proper for Liberal Democrats to do.

On a related subject, I see no circumstance in which it would be appropriate for a Conservative politician to address Conference.

9, Where do you stand on conference security in general and accreditation in particular?
Reasonable security is necessary to safeguard Conference reps, and we have this at our Spring Conferences. Our Autumn Conferences have an unnecessarily much higher security level including police accreditation simply because the Home Office pays for it, the Police forces do not want to take the risk of saying it is not needed and have no incentive to do so because the Home Office is paying their costs. Finally there is an argument that if we were to go against police advice and an incident happened, that our insurers might use that as an excuse to not pay out, but predicted the potential future behaviour of insurers is not an exact science.

Following concerns expressed by many members and the motion passed on the subject, I voted not to proceed with members' accreditation for Brighton at the FCC meeting in March. Sadly, this decision was subsequently taken out of FCC's hands as the FFAC regarded accreditation as a financial issue due to the insurance argument. I then requested a Federal Appeal's Panel ruling on this issue but the Chair of the Panel confirmed that accreditation is an FE issue.

It is deeply unfortunate that some very good Liberal Democrats do not feel able to come to Autumn Conference while accreditation continues, and for this reason I will continue to vote against accreditation if the decision is ever again in the hands of FCC, where I think it rightfully should be.

10, If elected, how do you plan to engage with the wider party?
I'm always available to discuss comments and concerns about Conference with any member. At Conference I'm a familiar figure as the very tall guy in the bar. Online you can reach me on twitter @jonball where I tweet some of the key points of FCC meetings, at facebook.com/jonball4fcc or at jonball@cix.co.uk.

11, Are you standing for any other committees, if so which ones, and if elected to more than one, how do you plan to divide your time?
I am only standing for FCC.

You can find links to all the other candidates' answers here

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