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Liberal Democrat spring conference agenda published

February 21, 2017 2:44 PM
By Joe Otten in Liberal Democrat Voice

Spring conference 2017 AgendaThe agenda for the Liberal Democrat spring conference in York 17-19th March is now available here.

We already knew the topics to be covered from Zoe O'Connell's report three weeks ago, but this is the first chance for most members of the party to see the full texts to be debated and consider proposing amendments.

Here's my rapid summary of some key points (and I have decoded some of the titles):

F4 Sex work Decriminalise sex work as the best way to reduce harm from it and to reject the Nordic model.

F5 Prison overcrowding We are against it.

F7 Europe This is an emergency motion slot, so the text will be written later in the light of events.

F8 The Crisis in Health and Social Care This is too important for the usual party political point scoring and needs a cross-party convention to draw up a long term settlement.

F11 Trident To support a medium-readiness nuclear deterrent as a step down from the current hair-trigger posture. Committing to a strong NATO in Europe, presumably to mitigate the harm of Brexit and Trump.

F16 The role of faith in State-funded schools Abolish the existing requirement for collective worship in all schools. Three options on admissions to faith schools - one phasing out the faith test, one not, and one capping it at 50% of admissions.

F17 Associate Citizenship of the European Union Yes, please.

Is that all the policy there is? Not quite. There are also consultation papers on the 21st century economy, Britain in the World, Education and Rural Communities.

And it's only a weekend. See you there?

* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield and Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

P-3: Could the Labour campaign be any more selfish and arrogant?

By Ed Fordham | Mon 20th February 2017 - 6:05 pm

Go round Stoke-on-Trent at the moment and there are a number of noisy clusters of posterboard and cortex signs - but slightly curiously when you compare them to the electoral register, residents there you will find none. Now what I am referring to is of course the age old power of the Trade Unions.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no union basher - when it comes to staff and workers right, on pensions, on health and safety and working conditions the history of the trade union movement has much to its credit. But it's modern and indeed recent historical context of the political engagement of the union movement is less honourable and, I believe, deeply corrosive.

The Hanley branch of the Unite Offices is currently a forest of Labour and Snell Boards, the Communications Workers Union is almost a barricade of Labour monster boards, specific houses around the city have posters clearly supplied by Usdaw - in short, those workers who fund the union, in turn are funding the price of Tristram Hunt's resignation and resulting by-election. (And yes, I know about the political level but that levy has not authorised the main high street building locations that are resplendent with posters).

In fact, when you think it through the Labour movement has a huge grip here. the combined membership of the Labour Party itself, plus the union memberships in a industrialised city like Stoke-on-Trent makes their numbers pretty night. It also means that within a fairly simple calculation Labour has a inbuilt structural and numerically high number of vote almost 'in the bag' that makes losing Stoke-on-Trent unlikely in most seasons.

Take that a little further and you see the sheer numbers of trade union sponsored or funded staff that have been poured into The City to canvass and deliver.

But then when you look a little closer at the campaign you see the complicit arrogance of what is going on here. I have watched several Labour canvas teams over recent week as they took to the doorsteps - they are clearly working from a filtered canvass. Now if I was generous it might be a second canvass, it might be a canvass of those on whom they have no data. But that is not my suspicion.

Rather, over the 70 years of dominating the politics of Stoke-on-Trent they have a database that means they can plot their course to victory by tactics, through targeting and through exclusion. That exclusion of key segments of the electorate in turn is arrogant and selfish.

Labour has realised they are at risk of being punished by the voters for their terrible record here in the City of Stoke and are just on an operation to get out "their" vote. The trade unions in turn are supporting and funding that campaign.

In fact what they could be doing is having a genuine open and sincere dialogue with the electorate, providing a positive and open offer to residents and winning the debate. Labour could be trying to mobilise the very workers and residents who feel disenfranchised with and of politics. In fact they are simply hoping to drag enough people out to vote to get them over the finishing line and return back to their old ways.

So rather than inspiring the people - the very approach that Corbyn articulates, but then fails to enact - Labour are calculating that they won this seat with 39% of the vote in 2015, overall turnout will drop further than the 49% of 2015 and therefore they just need to mobilise their hardcore voters to turn out and the Labour HOLD Stoke-on-Trent will flash up.

It this cyclical inbuilt complicit arrogance that is one that I find the Labour Party so unpalatable - it is an approach based on assumption, based on decades of dominance and based on suppression rather than expression.

For this reason, and more, I am motivated by the campaign of Dr Zulfiqar Ali - no corner of this constituency has been left untouched by the Liberal Democrat campaign. We have sought to have a dialogue with all of the electorate about our offer, about Dr Ali, about Stoke-on-Trent and it has been delivered by volunteers and activists.

So when the votes are counted on Thursday evening and Friday morning let us hope that the open dialogue of change is heard with increased numbers of votes for Dr Zulfiqar Ali and hope that the tactics of suppression and apathy encouraged by Labour is rejected. Only two days to go and we will soon find out.

* Ed Fordham was councillor for Stoke West 1998-2002, stood for Stoke-on-Trent Central 1997 and is working full time for Dr Zufiqar Ali