Spring Conference

Monday, March 18th, 2019 09:12 am
miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
I survived. Chaired a Q&A and a debate, co-hosted Glee, ran a training session which seemed to go over well, and voted in a couple of debates. The Supporters' Scheme has gone pretty much as I expected although not quite as I might have hoped: conference basically voted in favour of setting up a glorified email list and not giving supporters many of the huge swathe of rights the leadership wanted to give them. FPC has the option to let them sit on policy working groups if it wants to (they already had the option to put anybody they wanted on policy working groups anyway...) and supporters can access the members' only area of the federal party website. But they can't vote for leader. Thank Cthulhu.

I was aide for the Leader's Q&A, so I got to see how Geoff plans that with Vince (and even have a tiny bit of input), which was fascinating. And (according to one of the stewards later) I did a very good job of looking interested while the actual Q&A was happening. Go me!

Not The Leader's Speech is getting so popular now that I think we may have overwhelmed the chosen pub: happily they had lots of staff on anyway because it was a Sunday and they do Sunday lunches, but I think we're getting to the point where we might have to specifically book a place, rather than just warning them in advance "you're going to get a lot of Lib Dems in at x time". Especially given Autumn is in Bournemouth, where there are only really two options for a pub to go to (unlike York where there's millions).

Self care was sub-optimal, though. Got a barely adequate five hours' sleep Friday night, plus about an hour nap during the day, then an even worse four hours' Saturday night with a half hour nap when Not The Leaders' Speech was over, and then a good nine hours last night. I now feel a bit more human and less argh-jittery-adrenalin after the nine hours, but I really ought to do better than that. I suspect sleep would have been even worse without a good napping partner, though, so thanks to Beloved for that. Diet, meanwhile, was horrific: 90% booze and sausages. I am craving salad.

Spring conference is always a bit more full-on than autumn because we have to cram everything into such a short space, but I think I need to remember that a bit better when planning.

And now to pack up, check out of hotel, and go home to my doggies. I have missed them SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much.
miss_s_b: (Blogging: Internet forever!!)
... are landing in inboxes right now.

If you went to LDconf please fill it in and be as honest as you can be. I promise you that I, personally, read all your responses and try to get them acted upon.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Liberal)
1, The Abortion debate

I'm genuinely pleased that for the first time ever we have a party policy on abortion. I wish I'd been more prepared to say so, but I hadn't planned to speak in the debate; one of the joys of being on FCC is that if a debate is running low on speakers you quite often get asked to put a card in, and this was one of those times. That speech was therefore scrawled hurriedly on the back of an official FCC debate planner. This might explain why it's a bit short and I'm shaking like a grain of rice on top of a washing machine.

2, The Mental Health debate

Here I am moving a separate vote to remove the words "to themselves or" from the phrase "prevent harm to themselves or to others". I'd like to thank John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor for providing over a third of my speech ;) Do please show this one to anyone who claims Lib Dems don't talk about fundamental principles any more.

3, An Intervention on the Immigration Motion.

Microphone cut me off with three words to go, but if you can lipread you can tell what they were. When I say at the beginning "I bet you're sick of the sight of me" that's because it was only the third item of the day, and I'd chaired the first and spoken in the second... I especially love the flattering preview image on this one.

ETA:Thanks to the lovely Zoe O'Connell for technical assistance in retrieving the videos, and to Jon Ball without whose laptop the videos wouldn't have happened in the first place.
miss_s_b: (Self: Innocent)
So, I'm on the train home and I figgered I'd give you a little rundown of the highest of lights. You can all watch the bits from the hall on iPlayer, if you want, so I don't propose to spend too much time on that. And there's a fair amount of newspixels been expended on actually happenings, so this is going to be from a very personal viewpoint. One or two things though:
  1. I am very very glad that so many keynote and debate speakers went out of their way to talk about trans rights. Special props to Layla Moran, Jane Dodds, and beloved Alisdair for his barnstormer in the Demand Better debate... oh, and Our Glorious Leader, of course.

  2. Dick Newby is an absolute pro, and he (plus A Carmichael and C Bearder) made my first time chairing the parliamentary reports a genuine pleasure.

  3. I chaired a debate with interventions! And a speaker against! Happily no separate vote requests or anything, but who knows for next time?

  4. I spoke LOADS even when not chairing, and therefore everyone watching the telly will have been sick of the sight of me and my purple hair (if even that wasn't enough I was also on the Today Programme and Mark Reckons is going to put me on his podcast).

The main events, as always, though, were outside the hall. At Glee, Paddy told his Joke. He did try to tell us that he'd learned a new one, eliciting shocked gasps followed by booing. He relented and gave us the Joke we all love so well. He also came up on stage for the Viv Bingham Memorial Chorus of We Shall Overcome. It's a bit surreal having Lord Ashdown behind you going "When's the Ban the Bomb verse? I want Ban the Bomb!" when you're singing... And several of the new songs wot we writ went down very well and have caused the usual degree of comment in the press - examples: The Indy, Pink News, Sky News and the inevitable Mikey Smith piece in The Mirror. Jonn Elledge is still a refusenik, but we'll get him there one day... If he's not careful he might lose the "Jennie's Fave Journo" title to Jessica Elgot.

The Lib Dem Women cocktails and awards were fantastic, and it was great to see recognition given to so many amazing women, but especially (with my chair of Plus hat on) Zoe O'Connell and Sarah Brown, who do so much amazing work for the party in general and Plus in particular. Speaking of Plus, the Plus AGM, followed by Stonewall reception, also went really well. I have been re-elected chair of Plus. I'd like to also say how amazing Baroness Burt of Solihull ("Lorely to you lot") is, having stepped in to be our keynote speaker at the last minute when the one we booked became unavoidably unavailable.

And then there was Not The Leader's Speech. Like Caron, I had sort of accepted that we were never going to top last autumn, when the Leader actually turned up at Not The Leader's Speech, but then this happened. I never in all my born days thought that I would be snuggling Quentin Letts, let alone thinking to myself that actually, he's quite a sweet guy. Next conference I might even buy him a pint...
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
(in which I nail my colours to the mast on the Immigration Motion and Paper before conference next month)

I want to say right at the start of this: there are definitely good bits in the motion, and the paper which it endorses. There are also bits which, while not exactly good, are still an improvement on 1, the Lib Dems's current godawful pre-compromised coalition-era shitfest of an immigration policy and 2, the immigration policy of the current government.

This does not mean the motion as a whole is good, or liberal, or worth passing
  • The paper which the motion endorses was still being amended after FCC accepted the motion for debate. In my view this is not acceptable.

  • The paper which the motion endorses contains a line which is questionable with regard to the party constitution. In my view this is not acceptable.

  • LGBT+LDs were never consulted at all, despite many of the most horrific deportation problems being those of LGBT+ people. Lib Dem Immigrants and Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary weren;t consulted either, but had to make protests after seeing a draft of the paper. In my view this is not acceptable.

  • The proposers of the motion are going round telling people that they accepted the majority of proposed amendments from interest groups within the party which they should have been consulting from the beginning but weren't: which assertion Lib Dem Immigrants, for one, would politely disagree with.
All of those are what might be termed procedural irregularities. All of them would be enough for me to reject the motion without even going into the actual problems with the motion and paper, which include establishing a UK equivalent to ICE (yes, THAT ICE), telling us we mustn't call out racism in case racists get upset, and much more besides.

You might well ask, if the motion is so bad, why did FCC put it forward for debate? Because it's an FPC motion, and the majority of FCC take the view that we are not there to be a check or balance on such things, because that would be interfering with the running of another committee. I can see the argument, even if I disagree with it. If FPC want to put a shit sandwich before conference and tell them to vote for it, it's FPC that look like idiots, not us. However, the problem is going to be if conference believes the soft, soothing words of the proposers of the motion. If they vote in favour of this motion because it's not perfect, but it's a tiny, incremental improvement. If they swallow the shit sandwich...

There are amendments being put forward to this. I've seen four, so far. One of them runs to 3 pages. While the amendments might (not to stretch a metaphor too far) polish the turd a bit, it'll still be shiny shit in a shit sandwich. There are just too many problems with this motion for them to be effectively solved by amendments, of which FCC can only take one or two for debate, and they are unlikely to take any that address more than one or two points in a succinct manner.

My preferred course of action would be to refer it back. There ARE good bits in there. It's not uniformly awful. The bread is quite nice. Referring it back would mean that the good bits could be retained, but we could get rid of the many many bad and try again.

We do have an actually Liberal immigration motion before conference, in the shape of the Windrush motion. I would like to see that motion voted in, the FPC Immigration motion referred back, and the working group who will be convened to deal with the reference back to take the principles of the Windrush motion as their starting point for Immigration policy in general.

I'd like to see that. I wonder if I will...
miss_s_b: (Mood: Vyvyan Twos Up)
... and it looks like, for reasons know only to the actual drafters of the motion, they've decided to lace the apple pie with arsenic.

You'll recall that party members were asked to submit ideas, on the basis that the best of them would be turned into a conference motion. Party members submitted over a thousand, which were whittled down by Unknown Actors to a top ten, which were further whittled down to a top 3 by Illustrious Judges, and then those three were punted out to the membership to be voted on. And all this was run by the entirely independent of HQ and completely above board group Your Liberal Britain.

The three proposals people were asked to vote between (on an FPTP vote, natch, because who has time for STV, amirite?) were:
  1. Nationwide online schooling
  2. Statutory Care Leave For All
  3. Compel supermarkets to donate all low risk food waste
Number 3 won, albeit with less than 50% of the vote, and so it got sent away to the wonks to be turned into a workable policy motion.

Said policy motion dropped into inboxes this morning. You can read the whole thing here, if that's your bag. I would like to draw your attention to "Conference calls for" 1, because that, right there, is the arsenic in the apple pie.
Conference calls for:
1. Companies in the food production, food wholesale, food retail and hospitality sectors to be
granted a corporation tax rebate equal to 20% of the retail value of all food within its use
by date redistributed in a given tax year, if they meet all of the following requirements [followed by a list of requirements]
Whatever my personal problems with the entire Ashdown Prize process, and they are myriad, people voted for a winner and that vote should be respected both in the spirit and in the letter, and they should get a motion that looks like what they voted for.

They voted for "compel supermarkets to donate food waste".
They did not vote for "tax breaks for Tesco".

What possible justification can there be for that first clause in "conference calls for"? Why are we proposing to give supermarkets, who many people complain do not pay their fair share of taxes anyway, a 20% tax break for something that many of them do already? It's an absolute naked farce.

One could argue that this illustrates the problem with voting on something before you know what it will actually look like quite neatly (and I note that the email inviting members to sign in support of the motion has a big shiny yellow "click to sign here" button before the link to actually read what you are signing in small plain text)... See also brexit. Although at least the Ashdown Prize for (Arsenic-Laced) Apple Pie won't actually wreck the country, so there's that in it's favour.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Liberal)
The drafting advice deadline is Wednesday at 13.00. Yes, this Wednesday. Yes, it has come around quickly, hasn't it?

The technical issue that plagued submissions for drafting advice for Southport conference has now been resolved, and I have already had a couple of things land in my inbox. If you want your submission to add to my workload, best get your skates on.

Please note not all submissions will come to me for advice, in fact most won't. Your investment can go up down sideways and peppermint

(PS: do let me know ASAP if you attempt to obtain drafting advice and don't get a reply: as someone who touts the service a lot it's in my interests to make sure it's working)
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
This post is going to cover both the timing of conference, and the timings within conference. I'm not going to be using technical definitions of things here - for example technically, the fringe is not part of conference1, but I'm just going to refer to the entire event as "conference" - in hopes of being understandable and not descending into jargon. As always I welcome questions in the comments.

The Timing of Conferences

Spring Conference is usually half way through March, normally the second but sometimes the third weekend in the month. It lasts for a weekend, normally having a soft start on Friday afternoon with consultative sessions and the Rally, with the official opening of conference being at 9am on Saturday morning. It usually ends with the Leader's Speech on Sunday afternoon.

Autumn Conference is usually half way through September, and lasts a little longer than Spring, in reent years running from 9am Saturday morning to Tuesday or Wednesday lunchtime. All the deadlines for submissions of motions etc. flow back from the date of the start of each conference - ranging from 8 weeks to one hour2 - and are published on the party website specific to each conference3.

Timings Within Spring Conference

Spring conference usually starts with consultative sessions at 3ish on the Friday afternoon, and then the Rally at 5.30/6ish. There will be evening fringe sessions on the Friday night, often social events, and there is normally a newbies' reception at which your friendly neighbourhood FCC members will be wandering round trying to look interesting4 and speaking to folks at random.

The official opening of conference is at 9am on Saturday morning, and is always done by the president of the party. There will then be various policy debates, set piece speeches, Q&A sessions, etc., until lunchtime, at which point there are fringes. Some of these may have food, although that has been scarcer since we are no longer in government, and don't have corporations pelting us with freebies in the hope of influencing us5.

The afternoon session is more policy debates, set piece speeches, Q&A sessions, etc. until roughly 6pm, at which point there are more fringes, leading up to Glee, which always starts at 10pm on the final night of Conference and goes on till we all fall over.

Sunday morning starts at 9am with a traditional quip from the chair about survivors of Glee club, and goes on until lunchtime fringes. The leader's speech/Not The Leader's Speech6 is usually after lunch.

Party training sessions are run in parallel with the main agenda, and are usually pretty continuous throughout, so if you want to get trained you will almost certainly miss something else you want to do (although it’s worth checking if the same session is being run more than once, they often are). They are worth going to, though, if you have a particular aspect of libdemmery you want to find out more about.

Timings Within Autumn Conference

This is a little more changeable. It used to be that autumn conference had the same soft start as Spring, but on the Saturday. So you'd get consultation sessions at 3pm Saturday, Rally Saturday evening, official opening of conference Sunday morning, and then conference went on till Wednesday lunchtime. The last couple of years we've been buggering about with this a bit, partly for time efficiency reasons for attendees, but also partly to save money7. So now it goes like this:
  • 9am Saturday: opening of conference. Then policy debates, set piece speeches, Q&A sessions, etc. until lunchtime, then fringes, then policy debates, set piece speeches, Q&A sessions, etc. until teatime, THEN the rally, then evening fringes including newbies' reception, etc. etc.
  • Sunday the same pattern.
  • Monday the same pattern, finishing with Glee at 10.
  • Tuesday the same pattern up until lunch, and then the leader's speech/Not The Leader's Speech after lunch.

When should I, personally, rock up to Conference?

If it's your first one, I would recommend coming before lunchtime on the Friday (Spring) or about teatime on the Friday (autumn), getting settled in to your hotel, familiarising yourself with where your hotel is in relation to the venue and the conference hotel, finding a nice pub/cafe/whatever that you think you'll be comfortable in, and then you will be ready for actual conference. It is possible if you’re pushed for time to do it all in a hurry first thing on Saturday (most hotels will be happy to look after your bags until check-in time), but be prepared for it to take longer than you hoped to get sorted and find your first event.

Go to the consultative sessions and the rally (Spring) and/or be there for the official opening (Autumn). Try some policy debates, but also some training and some fringes. Wander round the exhibition and talk to the stallholders - some of them might not even try to part you from your cash! If you have any questions, find a steward8 or a member of FCC9 or ask at the information desk: I promise we won't bite. See what bits of conference work for you. Meet up with people off the internet or from your local party. Have fun!

Once you've been to a couple, you'll know which bits you like and which bits you don't. I, personally, cannot stand the Rally, considering it to have a silent "Nuremberg" in there, and will make almost any excuse to avoid attending10. But others really love it. On the other hand, I love Glee so much I've ended up co-presenting it, whereas others find it by turns embarrassing, offensive, and in one case I know personally so utterly awful that they left the party over it11.

The joy of Lib Dem conference is that all of us can be contained within it, without anyone getting too upset over anyone else's preferences. Don't assume that every conference is like your first impression of it, because it's impossible to see all facets in one go. Do assume that everyone there will be happy to see you, because there will be very few people who do not fall into that category for all first timers. We're all Liberals, and it's great to see people at conference. See you there in September?

All posts in this series:Do you have a request for a post in this series? Pop it in the comments below; I'm not going to promise a full post on every topic, but it'd be useful to be answering questions people actually want answered. Future posts I'm planning to do include: How to Participate in Q&A sessions, How to survive your first conference, How to Survive Glee, Submitting a Motion to conference, and the UNIT Dating Controversy.

1, This is why it's called the Fringe, because it's on the fringes of conference rather than actually being a part of it.
2, If you want more detail on this, you can look at paragraph 1.5 of the standing orders for conference, on page 49 of the federal party constitution.
3, You can go back and look at the websites for previous conferences if you want to. For example, I have fond memories of Spring 2010, when we were riding high in the polls and I stayed at my brother's house [/tangent].
4, This is easier for some of us than others.
5, This never works. Ask Gatwick Airport.
6, Not The Leader's Speech is an unofficial event for those of us who get hives at the enforced conformity of clapping and cheering at platitudes. We go to the pub instead. There have been jokes in recent years about putting this in the directory as an official fringe...
7, FCC has been considering whether or not we should go back to five days. I am a firm proponent of the idea that if we do, we should extend the soft start back on Fridays to match the pattern of Spring, rather than extending to Wednesday again, for two reasons. 1, it would match spring and this is pleasing to me, and 2, it feels WRONG having the rally after a full day of conference has already happened. The rally is supposed to kickstart conference, not be a distraction half way through.
8, They have bright yellow tops which say STEWARD on them in stonking great letters so they are easily identified.
9, We have FCC in stonking great letters on our passes so we are easily identified.
10, They tried to get me to speak at the last one, but I persuaded someone else to do it for me.
11, They've since rejoined, but have never been back to conference.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
I did actually take my laptop with me to conference, but with one thing and another I never actually got it open...

Realistically, this means that most of what I might report back is common knowledge now; everyone knows what motions passed and what fell and what Vince said in his speech. So I'm going to confine my comments to three big points, and then throw things open for questions. There may be a follow-up post if things get especially interesting... Anyway:
  1. The Venue

    The actual convention centre was... a bit of a curate's egg. It had a lot more rooms and facilities than (say) York Barbican, and it was good that you had to go through the exhibition to get to the auditorium, but there were some real accessibility issues (the corridor wheelchair users had to get down was way too narrow, the intervention mike was up actual steps, the seats would not accommodate several of the more ample delegates, etc). Also little niggles like they weren't ready for us with food availability when the doors opened, plus there were some little issues with the way the stage was set up that most delegates probably wouldn't have noticed: for example when I went to chair the first debate proper at 9.30am Saturday there was no clock on the chair's desk, and while there were bottles of water there were no glasses. So lots of little things which are probably just teething, plus the big accessibility issues.

    As for the town, I kind of liked it, somewhat to my surprise, given that it's the wrong side of the hills ;). I wish there were more food outlets in close proximity to the convention centre, though. I think I'd be happy to go back there, subject to all the usual FCC caveats about cost and things. But I much prefer York, even given the shortcomings of the Barbican.

  2. The Referral Back of the McDonald Review.

    There is a part of me that wants to say to my fellow FCC members: "See! This is what happens when you give people a boring agenda, they pick procedural holes for something to do"... but actually, I think the referral back was justified. A referral back is not a rejection, it is "well, we kind of like this, but it needs the corners knocking off before it'll work properly". And given how close the vote for the reference back was, it is extremely unlikely that had the reference back fallen, the constitutional change would have hit the required two thirds majority to pass anyway, so handwringing about it being referred back is a bit pointless. If the business motion had have passed and the constitutional amendment fallen we would have been in a world of pain. SO I genuinely think referring it back was the sensible solution.

    There were enough people who spoke against, and every last one of them made different points, that I think referring it back for further polishing was the right things to do. I'd further point out that every last one of the speakers against said they accepted the current system is not fit for purpose, and a new one is needed. So I am hopeful that FB will consult (properly) and rethink and come back in the autumn with something that takes into account at least some of the concerns raised.

  3. That Line in Vince's Speech

    Obviously I was not in the hall for Vince's speech, as is traditional. But I actually think that line about blue passports, white faces and pink globes was a really good one, because two days later it is still on the news agenda. So while there are people who are offended by it (and some of that is obviously manufactured) I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. As dear old Ossie said, "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about", and this goes double for political parties. Plus, if this is a sign that the leadership are actually growing some pecs on Europe at last, then I am all for it. I'm sick of being told I must respect the result of a referendum based on lies that will take away my rights and my daughters rights and impoverish my country.

As usual, feel free to have a vent in the comments: all feedback gratefully received! Don't forget to fill in the feedback form you will have been emailed if you attended, but I will also, as last time, collect and collate all the feedback given here and put it forward to FCC myself. Last time two changes were directly made as a result of comments on my blog, so if you feel for whatever reason that the feedback form is not the place for it, the comments box is open below.
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
The hotel we stayed in last time was really nice, did good breakfasts, and most importantly you can pick not just your type of room but your actual room. All the rooms have individual decor styles and different facilities. The reason I picked this particular room last time was because the decor is a bit goth and I was feeling silly.

The reason I picked it this time? The huge, enormous, massive, easily fits two people and probably more, jacuzzi bath. Which was lovely to go back to and sit in with a bottle of wine after a hard day's conferencing.

I'm looking forward to it already.

Carlton does a happy dance
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
You can download the .pdf here.

Plain text version etc coming soon :)
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
A few notes before we start.
  1. I've done this in the form of tables because it would have been confusing in any other form, I think. If you need them in screen-readerable format, or if your display is too narrow and they slip under the sidebar, they are on a google doc here.

  2. I have tabulated how I initially thought I would vote as well as how I actually voted to show that arguments made in committee do have an effect.

  3. I have not tabulated how anyone else voted, or what the exact numbers were for any of the votes, because that information is not up to me to reveal.

  4. You will notice that the two motions I marked as essential both fell, albeit one of them by only one vote. Just in case any of you thought I was enjoying untrammeled power and influence...

  5. I really hope the way I have done this is clear, but if you want anything explaining, do ask in the comments*

  6. Because of the presumption towards taking motions from Federal Policy Committee (FPC) and Federal Board (FB), and because we had to take the two constitutional amendments, even after cutting the keynote speeches down to two (The Leader and A.N. Other) and skimming a few minutes off the lunch break, we were only left with enough space for two, possibly three member submitted motions**. This is obviously sub optimal, and is only going to get worse next conference because of how far FPC are backed up after the snap general election***.

I think the thing I am most bothered about is that we took the NHS at 70 motion over the Mental Health Detention motion - which did eventually go down to a run-off vote. I want to emphasize that I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the NHS at 70 motion, and the NHS winter crisis is a timely topic to highlight, and all that. But:
  • Everybody, especially in the party, knows that we like the NHS, we want to fund it better, and thus the "debate" will be really dull because nobody in the party is going to disagree with anything in the motion. I bet we get a tonne of "this motion doesn't go far enough" cards.

  • The mental health detention motion would have highlighted an injustice that is not widely known and would have given us a distinctive policy platform which none of the other parties have - with all due respect to the submitters of the NHS at 70, there's little in there that is distinctive.

  • We already had a load of big slices of apple pie from FPC and FB, and putting in yet another one risks the entire agenda being deathly dull. This is not going to attract people to a conference that is already struggling to attract people due to a difficult location for many members to get to.
However, what do I know? My position was the minority position, albeit by only one vote.

The other big discussion I was on the losing side of was who to give the keynote speech to. That vote also went to a knife edge and a majority of one. Several of FCC felt that as the agenda was light on Home Affairs content, we ought to give the one non-leader keynote speech to our home affairs spokesman. Several others of us felt that would mean that the only two keynote speakers at our conference would be middle aged cis het white guys, and this would look really bad, especially after recent furores in the LGBT and BAME sections of our membership and supporters. I (and some others) felt we really really ought to have someone who was demographically divergent from Vince*****, and who could speak on equalities, which was also completely absent from the agenda after motion selection.

"But we haven’t given Ed a speech since we were in coalition" won. Just. And you know what? I could see their point. We haven't given Ed a speech since we were in coalition. It's just that I think the unfairness of giving our only two keynote speeches to middle-aged cis het white guys after what has gone on the last couple of months is worse than the unfairness of not giving a middle-aged cis het white guy his turn at a speech. Sorry, Ed.

And I'm hitting post on this in the hopes that my openness about what happened and what part I played will outweigh the offence I have caused to people whose motions I didn't vote for when it comes to the next set of committee elections...

*I suspect that one thing that needs an immediate explanation is "Snowball test" - the Snowball Test (©Zoe O'Connell) is "does this motion have a Snowball's chance in hell of getting onto the agenda given the various other things that are already on there and everything else that needs to be considered". If a motion fails the snowball test then there is no point in putting energy into arguing for its inclusion, even if you really like it.

**There was an attempt by some of us to drop one of the federal board motions, because it just seemed utterly anodyne and pointless, but the weight of tradition is heavy and it got taken.

***A really clever person, were they thinking of submitting a motion to autumn conference, would already be looking at which FPC papers are due to come forward for it, and picking topics not being covered by FPC. This information is publicly available... That person would also, obviously, have their motion written in plenty of time to be pimped by the drafting advice service****.

****yes, I know I go on about that a lot.

*****no, I'm not going to name any of the people suggested, as that would be unfair.
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
The deadline for submission of motions to Spring Conference is very soon now (Wednesday Lunchtime). I have three motions in my inbox looking for signatures, none of them written by me. I have said I'll help to publicise them and get signatures. They are titled as follows:

Improving Transport
The Rehabilitation of Taxation
Time to Stop Brexit

If any of those sound like they might float your boat, let me know and I'll pass them along for you to check. Comments to this post are screened so you can leave your email address if you'd like, or you can email me if you've already got my email address, or DM me on twitter or text or phone or whatever.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
Federal Conference Committee has it's feedback and debrief meeting relatively soon. Is there anything you would like your friendly neighbourhood FCC member to feed back about your experience of conference? I'v"e already had a bunch of useful comments left on this entry but I'm sure other people have more to say, and you'd be most welcome.

Was there anything that you found particularly praiseworthy, or that particularly bugged you? under the courtesy cut for non-libdems, who don't care about this stuff )

Thanks, folks!
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
One of the things I have to do at conference is help to plan debates; this necessarily involves looking at a lot of Speakers' Cards. There used to be, in the agenda, an illustrated guide to filling in Speaker's Cards. This hasn't been in there for a little while now, and judging by some of the cards we got submitted, it needs to come back.

In lieu of that, though, I have done my own (somewhat irreverent, and rather long) version under the cut )
I hope to get more cards like that last one, and less like the other seven, by the time next conference rolls around.

ETA: just to add: feedback to your friendly FCC member is often helpful. Thanks to Holly's comment below, the new speakers' card now says "I will need step-free/wheelchair access to the stage", as mentioned above. Also, the app should now have line numbers in motions, thanks to Laura.

All posts in this series:Do you have a request for a post in this series? Pop it in the comments below; I'm not going to promise a full post on every topic, but it'd be useful to be answering questions people actually want answered. Future posts I'm planning to do include: How to Participate in Q&A sessions, How to survive your first conference, How to Survive Glee, Submitting a Motion to conference, and the UNIT Dating Controversy.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
Many Lib Dems really love The Leader's Speech. It's the traditional end to conference, and sitting in a hall full of likeminded people while the leader's platitudes wash over you is some people's idea of fun. Equally, many of us dislike it intensely. The social pressure to clap in the right places* is intense, and as a liberal who decries conformity it makes my skin crawl. Also, if the leader says something you don't like and you then walk out, it creates negative publicity.

So there are several sets of lib dems who avoid going to The Leader's Speech. Many just go get on the train before the big rush. I know of one group who have a rather sweet tradition of going to get ice cream while the Leader speaks. The Awkward Squad goes to the pub.

It started when Cleggy was Our Glorious Leader. You may recall that I had one or two policy differences with Cleggy**. One conf, and I can't remember which one, I attended the leader's speech, like a good lib dem, and walked out about half way through utterly furious with something or other he had said, thinking "sod this, I'm off to the pub". When I got there I discovered a dear friend was already there. He explained that as he knew Cleggy was bound to say something really annoying, what he did was go to the pub, download the text of the speech, and work out which point he would have walked out anyway. I thought this was an excellent idea, and have been doing it ever since***, and the group of likeminded curmudgeons doing the same has gradually grown over the years.

Fast forward to yesterday.

There's a bunch of us in the pub. One or two would have walked out at the "single market is ok" bits of the speech. I'd have made it past that, but only a couple of paragraphs, the bit about having achieved equal marriage would have been my breaking point****. Anyway, we were all happily chatting away and discussing things and it was all good.

... The problem was when Vince turned up. Yep, that's right, The Leader turned up to Not The Leader's Speech. Apparently it was some photo call to do with a motion we'd passed earlier in the conference.

I wouldn't have minded, but he didn't even get a round in. Bloody Yorkshirefolk, they're all the same*****.

So, I am now carefully researching pubs in Southport for Spring Conference to find one that's 1, good and 2, less likely to be crashed by the sodding leader. It doesn't half put a crimp in avoiding the leader when he turns up all smiles and handshakes.

ETA: Caron has posted about this on lib dem voice now. Countdown to po-faced condemnation in five... four... three...

*and even to stand and ovate. People who don;t stand and ovate in the "right" places often get glared at, or even tutted at.
**although as a human being I find him perfectly personable and likeable.
***Except for Tim Farron's first speech. Tim knows/knew all about Not The Leader's Speech, and made me promise him that I would go to his first one. I warned him that this would mean actually walking out if he said something walkout-worthy... Thankfully he didn't. But none-the-less I didn't go to any of his others. I'm just not a keynote speech type person.
****See here for the big rant about that one. There was a big chorus of groans about this in the pub - "Oh FFS we have to train ANOTHER leader and his staff not to do this..."
*****I am allowed to say this being Yorkshire myself
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
I did GLEEEE and it felt like it was a good one and I got a whole four hours' sleep and I chaired the first debate of the morning (link here for those in the UK) and it didn't all go horribly wrong and nobody tried to suspend standing orders on me.

The next thing is Not The Leaders' Speech. Which, the way things are going, will be in the sodding directory by Spring.
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
Running round like a blue arsed fly.
Have chaired first thing - health spokesperson Q&A with Liz Barker, Joan Walmsley, and Norman Lamb. I think it went quite well. Have also done MOAR aideing, HSLD AGM, and am now preparing for GLEEEEEEE.
I voted on some stuff, but none of it was controversial.

I have also undertaken to do a post (after conf) on How To Fill In a Speaker's Card, with examples. I am looking forward to doing this. Right, must dash...
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
I went to the Opening of conference, and was impressed by how quickly El Presdente got it done - because she knew what was coming. The FCC report was passed, as is custom, and then the debate about suspending standing orders happened. There was a counted vote, despite some idiot protesting it wasn't necessary (IMHO on these contentious things you don't want to leave ANY room for doubt) so we know the exact margin, and it was 4-1 in favour of suspension. Obviously I voted in favour of suspending standing orders. I voted to pass the FPC report, and then it was time for an FCC Meeting. Now that we knew what was going to happen in F17, we had to plan it.

Then, because I was going to be stage aide on F6 The Paris Agreement, Zoe (who was chairing it) & I went to plan the session - deciding what order to call speakers, etc. When it came to The Paris Agreement debate itself, as I got on stage I suddenly realised I had parted my hair the wrong side, and every time I looked at the speaker I was presenting a curtain of hair to the audience. Also, if I needed further incentive to lose a little weight, I can only just fit my ample derriere into the chair provided...

I grabbed a (rather manky) toastie, and then lurked in the back of the First timers' Q&A session, mainly to check that the sort of answers I have been giving when newbies ask me stuff had some congruence with official answers. Then there was more debate planning, this time for F10 The Natural Environment. Apparently while I was doing this I missed some barnstorming speeches in the Impact of Brexit on Public Services debate. Still, as I was Hall Aide rather than Stage Aide for the Natural Environment motion, I actually got to vote in the debate - my first policy vote of the conference. I voted in favour of the amendment, then in favour of the motion as amended, as did pretty much everyone else.

Then, while everyone else was at the rally, I had Safeguarding Training - compulsory for FCC members - followed by a quick dash to the pub to obtain food. We dragged a journo along with us and talked to him about trains. I think he secretly quite liked being at conference. Then there was the First timers' Reception -this is another thing I have to do as a committee member. Go and wander round looking approachable and asking people how they are finding conference. I think I was actually helpful to some people - showing them a speaker's card and explaining how to fill it in and things.

Then, for the first time ever, I was inveigled into going to the lib dem Disco. It started with headbanging to rage against the machine and ended with a drunken impromtu rendition of Poisoning Pigeons In The Park on the street outside.

All in all a reasonably successful day. Today is a bit less full on, although I do have ALL THE LGBT+ THINGS tonight... Now have to dash to the venu to get to (you guessed it) an FCC meeting.
miss_s_b: Mindy St Clare from The Good Place, hiding her nakedness behind very large sunflowers and looking shocked (Default)
Per my last report back from FCC, for various reasons the contentious vote was retaken, I voted the other way, and it went the other way, by 6 votes to 7 this time (there were more of us attending).

So there's going to be a mini debate on the suspension of standing orders, with a maximum of six speakers with a maximum of two minutes' speaking time each. It's going to be chaired by Mary Reid, who is absolutely scrupulous about debate balance and fairness. Whatever happens, I think it's going to be interesting.

Other things that happened included boring stuff like checking everyone knew which debates they were chairing/aideing/hall aideing, people covering stuff that other people could suddenly not do (I'm going to be chairing a spokespeople Q&A session now as well as a debate), a tour of the venue so we know where all the backstage bits you guys don't get to see are, and then chair's training, which is always huge amounts of fun.

For the first time I got one with absolutely no clue as to what the problem I was going to be faced with was, and I think I did OK. SO I'm a tiny bit less nervous about debate chairing...

Now off to have breakfast, and then going to the hall for The Contentious Vote.

If you're in Bournemouth and you spot me, do say hi. My hair is bright purple this year, and today I am wearing this t-shirt.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
My schedule is filling up pretty quickly, but I still have the odd gap, especially at times where there might be food available. I've got my conference schedule all typed up, but it's editable until Friday morning, so if you want to negotiate a gap, let me know :)
miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
You may have noticed that the previous two posts were somewhat light on my usual "we debated this motion, and I voted this way on it" details. That's mostly because after I had done the reporting-back-from-FCC bits (which I pledged to do upon my candidacy for FCC - I keep my promises, me. Mostly...) the posts were already stupidly long, but also in part because my lovely friend Andrew has done an excellent summary of the salient points here, and given that I am his evil twin (or he is mine - honestly, basically the only difference between us is that I really like beards and he merely has one) I don't feel the need to reiterate his points.

For the avoidance of doubt, though, here is how I voted:
  • Emergency Motions Ballot: can't actually remember, except that I put the second Scottish referendum motion bottom (we can't mandate our MPs how to vote so it was utterly pointless, AND it's not up to English MPs to tell Scotland what to do anyway IMHO) and the Trump one next to bottom (he's not coming till October. Put a (better drafted) motion in for Autumn conference, when it will be a live and salient issue). The others I was happy to see a debate on.

  • A Rational Approach to Harm Reduction (aka the Sex Work Motion): I voted against the (mildly wrecking) amendment and for the unamended motion

  • Tackling Overcrowding in the Prison System: I voted for the amendment and the motion.

  • Britain in the EU: I went for lunch during this motion as hell would freeze over before anyone voted against it, and during the scheduled lunch break I would be prepping to aide in the health and social care debate.

  • Crisis in health and social care: I voted for the amendment, and then for the motion as amended, from my shiny shiny "seat reserved for FCC Hall Aide" seat.

  • The Biennial Trident Fudge: I Paired with Alisdair and went to the pub since we would have voted exactly oppositely on both the motion and amendment and thus cancelled each other out. The England/Ireland match was nailbiting.

  • Emergency motion: Unaccompanied Child Asylum Seekers: I voted in favour of us taking in more of them.

  • Faith Schools: We had to vote between three options, then for the amendment, then for the motion as amended or not with whichever option we voted for. I'm going to use Andrew's characterisations here: I voted against "YAY faith schools" & for "Faith schools should be restricted as much as humanly possible without actually banning them". Then I voted for "Faith schools should be restricted as much as humanly possible without actually banning them" and against the horrible and nonsensical fudge which tried to split the difference between the first two. Then I voted for the "ban all faith schools" amendment, but not enough other people did, so it fell. Then I voted for the motion unamended with the option "Faith schools should be restricted as much as humanly possible without actually banning them" being the winning option. And I am not ashamed to admit to shedding a tear during Sarah Brown (Cambridge)'s very moving speech. I am glad Julian and Zoe were there to give her hugs when she had finished.

    As you can tell, this was quite a complicated vote. Small FCC note: I am glad Geoff Payne was chairing it. Although I have had my disagreements with him, he has just the right sort of forensic, nitpicky, legal mind for this kind of thing, and is a very clear and non-waffly chair. He's one of only about four people I would trust with such a contentious debate with so many options, and two of them are no longer on FCC.

  • Associated Membership of the EU: I voted in favour.
I think that covers everything. So... after three long posts... Any questions?
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
Following on from my previous post on York conference, I thought people might be interested in how we plan the debates and how cards get chosen and things like that.

I also recognise that many of you will NOT be interested in this in the slightest, so am putting it behind a cut )

And then of course, we had Not The Leader's Speech. The tradition of Not The Leader's Speech started when Cleggy was Our Glorious Leader. I went to a couple of his leader's speeches and found them excruciating. In the pub after, a Bad Influence who must perforce remain nameless asked me why I hadn't just walked out and gone to the pub, because that's what he had done. The next conference, I walked out (after 7 minutes, as I recall) and found this same person in the pub. The conference after that... well, we just cut out the middle man and went straight to the pub, downloaded the text of the speech, and worked out at which point we would have walked out had we bothered to go in. At the height of coalition the record occurred: we both agreed we would have walked out in the second sentence of the speech. By that point, though, word had got around somewhat and there were a reasonable number of us in the pub for Not The Leader's Speech.

When Farron was first elected Glorious Leader he was fully aware that this had become a tradition. I made him a personal promise that I'd go to his first leader's speech, but with the proviso that if there was anything I didn't like I would walk out. There wasn't, and I didn't. In fact it was a really really good speech. The thing is, I still don't like leader's speeches (or for that matter, The Rally, which I always feel has a silent Nuremburg in between The and Rally). I don't like sitting there being spoonfed and not participating. I don't like the enforced conformity of the expectation to applaud in the right places (and in some cases standingly ovate). IMHO it's Just Not Liberal. So the only one of Farron's leader's speeches I have been to, and probably ever will go to, remains his first. I no longer feel the need to read the text and work out at which point I would have walked out, because I don't have that sort of fractious relationship with his leadership, but it's still nice to find a good pub, claim a room in it, and have beer and food instead of listening and clapping.

The problem this time was that the group of people going to Not The Leader's Speech has grown to more than 30. And we hadn't booked. Admittedly there were only six of us queueing outside the door waiting for the pub to open, but the rest had DMed or texted me asking for a venue and turned up in short order after. As a former barmaid, I felt really bad about doing this to the pub. I think that next time I will have to at least warn the selected pub in advance... And as Zoe said in the comments to the previous entry, now I am on FCC this is in danger of becoming an officially unofficial event... If it gets any bigger it may have to be in the Fringe guide... You can tell how uncomfortable I am with that idea by the number of ellipsis LOL.

This conference we were biefly joined by a not-Lib-Dem friend and segued off into a discussion about cricket for a while, which was lovely I don't think we terrified her too much.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed my officially unofficial reports from conference: next FCC news will probably be from the Shadowy General Purposes And Resources Sub Committee, which I suspect will be quite vague and heavily redacted, so I apologise for that in advance. I will, obviously, explain exactly why I'm having to be vauge and heavily redacted if and when I am.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
The short version of What I Did At Lib Dem Conference is:

Attended lots of FCC meetings and training; co-hosted Glee for the second time; hall-aided my first debate as a member of FCC; "organised" Not The Leader's Speech.

click here for more detail on the first three )

Coming soon: What I Did At Lib Dem Conference part two: structuring an actual debate: this time it's personal PLUS Not The Leader's Speech.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
All the usual things, really. Met up with and broke bread with people I consider family. Voted in lots of debates. Went to fringes. However, there are a couple of things that were out of the ordinary:

- I was very proud that Calderdale's anti-racism motion went through (helped along by a barnstorming speech from the amazing Pauline Pearce).

- I was similarly proud that our amendment to the transport motion went through, and it's now officially lib dem policy to support HS3 connecting the north.

- I made a few speeches, but one that was particularly well-recieved was the one on the social security motion. (if you're a license fee payer, you can watch it here for the next 27 days - I'm at 1 hour 40 minutes and 15 seconds in). Sadly conference still voted the motion through, albeit with amendment one removing the commitment to sanctioning people, but I apologise to all my disabled friends that I wasn't able to get it voted down for the commitment to devolve WCA to local councils (several times this was nonsensically referred to from the stage as "abolishing" WCA - like local councils have the money or inclination to run it any better than ATOS or Maximus).

- I co-hosted Glee for the first time. Which was initially terrifying, but actually... lots of fun. And I really genuinely loved seeing all the journos who gladly sing along with stuff while they are there doing their biennial pretending-to-be-outraged-at-Glee articles the morning after.

Lots of other people from Calderdale made speeches too - Mick Taylor, Ruth Coleman Taylor, Sarah Noble and Alisdair Calder McGregor prominent among them - till it got to the point where in a debate on the final day the chair made a joking reference to a constitutional requirement that someone from Calderdale must speak in every debate for it to be valid. While we didn't win every fight, I think we did pretty well. All in all I think we had a pretty good conference.

And now it's back to the real world...

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