Friday, November 25, 2011

ELDR Congress: adrift on a familiar sea...

It is that moment, where you find yourself alone with a glass of wine, looking out over the azure sea, when you almost feel as though you are on holiday, rather than debating war and peace, feast or famine, life or death. I tend to the view that this is a good thing, a reminder that perspective is precious, that we are not consumed with our own importance.

This morning, we have been occupied with an ELDR Council meeting, most of which was quite dull, and a debate on various resolutions. Astonishing though it might seem to Liberal Democrats, we got through thirty-two resolutions, on everything from the Debt Crisis to Prison Reform, from taxation to Iran, in just eighty-five minutes.

You see, most of the arguing goes on in working groups before hand, allowing only brief arguments on the floor of the Congress itself. Delegations then vote as steered by their leaders (well, mostly, because Linda Jack is amongst us...). I'm one of the scrutineers, tasked with counting votes from time to time. I've also been given another task, which might well be intriguing.

I've promised to report back via Liberal Democrat Voice, so I won't cover the outcomes of our deliberations. It would, however, be remiss of me not to pass on an impression.

ELDR is, in many ways, much like our own dear Liberal Democrats. There are social liberals, economic liberals and those willing to be swung by the arguments or by their own innate pragmatism. And whilst, perhaps, the balance is more in favour of the economic liberals than social ones, we act as a critical voice with a weight of votes which cannot be ignored.

However, there is a question as to whether our delegation is entirely representative. It excludes those without the means to pay for two or three nights and flights, it is predominantly white, overwhelmingly male, astonishingly middle class and almost entirely self-selecting. That is, some might suggest, an inevitability. Our Party has no funds to commit to support our delegates financially, and getting to, as an example, Palermo, is not cheap.

But if we cannot take financial steps, perhaps we need to find ways of inviting those from under-represented groups to take part in our international work.

Just a thought...

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