Wednesday, January 21, 2015

International Relations Committee meets. Nobody gets hurt.

So, having worked out which day we were actually meeting (it wasn't yesterday, it seems), I made sure that I was in good time for a prompt 6.15 start, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a number of us from beyond the M25 present.

But you don't care about that (well, not much, anyway), so let's get on with the report...

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We opened with a presentation by Martin Horwood MP, outlining what the key international themes are likely to be - there won't be any great surprises, you won't be shocked to hear - including Trident, FGM and international development and the good the United Kingdom is doing around the world, saving lives, fighting disease and educating children. In truth, it is unlikely that international affairs will be at the heart of the election campaign generally, especially given that immigration is seen as a domestic policy issue, but we will have a good story to tell, which will emerge over the coming weeks. We did make some suggestions in terms of possible emphasis, and I was keen to note that our international development work, enhancing democracy and nurturing economic growth, will create political stability and a resultant fall in demand for military intervention.

There was a brief discussion about Spring Conference, and the increased level of interest amongst the diplomatic corps - perhaps a sign that they think that we might be relevant in the post-General Election environment, who knows? The cost to AOs and SAOs of holding fringe meetings was noted with some dismay - it would be nice if the benefits of a lively fringe could be nurtured, but one does understand the limitations of finance.

Next came the reports from relevant bodies, Liberal Youth, whose international work is really impressive, from Liberal International British Group, and the Liberal Democrat European Group, from the ALDE Gender Equality Network and, last but by no means least, from the International Office itself. Harriet Shone reported on work done in Bosnia and Serbia, as well as in South Africa and Botswana, passing on skills in terms of the mechanics of campaign organising, and on LGBT issues and how to address them.

Finally, we discussed the difficulties surrounding the forthcoming ALDE Council meeting, scheduled for 8/9 May, in Oslo. We aren't expecting a huge turnout from our delegation, due to the clash with some General Election or other on 7 May, but we will have a presence - I'll be there and I certainly won't be alone. There was a brief mention of possible review of ALDE's membership fee structure, and we also gave some thought towards submitting more resolutions for ALDE to consider - we've been a bit reactive, rather than proactive, in recent times.

So, there you are, my first formal report, not ninety minutes after the meeting ended. I can't guarantee that I'll be as prompt in future, but one can only try...

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