Thursday, June 02, 2011

Federal Conference - is it really worth the hassle of turning up?

I have to admit that I didn't enjoy the Sheffield Conference. The iron curtain drawn around the venue, the hassle of avoiding demonstrators (not that there were anywhere near as many of them as had been threatened). It felt deeply uncomfortable but, at least, the security was efficient and friendly enough, and Ros and I had to be there so that she could hand over the gavel and the copy of 'On Liberty' to young Mr Farron.

I was looking forward to Birmingham even less. Without any real purpose for being there, with the prospect of even greater security, and having seen the cost of conference hotels, it did cross my mind that I didn't actually have to go. And, of course, I don't.

But now that it becomes apparent that I might not be able to go anyway, I do wonder if I really want to bother at all. When I applied for a spouse pass for the House of Lords, my application was delayed for further checks - it's a long story, and quite a dull one, so you'll pardon me if I don't go into details. If the checks for Federal Conference are of a similar nature, they make take some time, and the temptation would be to refuse me on the grounds of caution.

It is unlikely that I will be refused accreditation, I admit, but it is possible that friends or acquaintances may be, and I'm uncomfortable about condoning such a possibility, indeed I am angered by the notion that the Greater Manchester Police should have the power to decide who may, or may not, attend our Party Conferences.

And yes, there are those who suggest that this is merely a by-product of our Party's accession to government, and that the concerns shown by a number of people whom I like and respect are overblown. However, it is a principle of liberalism that the State shall not interfere with our legitimate freedoms without just cause, and I am yet to be reassured that the case has been made.

It is not an easy time to be a liberal in politics, and a squabble which leads us to question the very principles we believe in hardly makes things easier.

However, on the positive side, I am led to believe that a full explanation is forthcoming from Andrew Wiseman, the Chair of the Federal Conference Committee, and as I know Andrew to be a decent, John Stuart Mill-fearing liberal, I'm happy to await his comments before I make a personal decision on whether or not to attend.


Unknown said...

I know that FCC are good, liberal people in the main, and having seen the response from one of them on my Facebook wall, I can see that they have had to make some difficult decisions.

However, I think that the Police will always be concerned with security - we have to inject the liberalism into the process.

There are bag and body checks to get you into the venue, and if you're a conference rep, you have a constitutional right to attend. That for me is fundamental - the Police can not veto people attending our conference, at least not our members.

I am going to go, though, for my first Federal Conference in 13 years, simply because I don't want to leave policy making in our party to people who are ok with this.

I hope you come too, not least because I would miss you and Ros if you weren't there.

Mark Valladares said...

In some ways it would be nice to come, to see my friends, and enjoy a drink at the bar. On the other hand, it's not cheap.

I think that I'll see how I feel nearer the time...

Helen Duffett said...

Conference would be the poorer without you, Mark! You helped to steer me round my very first one, as a bewildered conference n00b, and have been a reassuring presence ever since :)