#ldconf and why I stayed away

I ought to have been in Birmingham this morning, voting on the motion on Accredtiation for Party Conference and between the amendments to it. This motion was brought to conference as a result of the so-called security measures that were brought in for this conference by the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) and the Constabulary. I know which way I would have voted. But sadly, my vote does not count this year. I am not there.

I read from Andy that, and indeed the coverage on BBC Parliament allowed us to hear that, some people do not believe that there are people who

… denied the very existence of anyone who had stayed away from conference because they didn’t want to submit to the process. Those people deserved all the angry heckles they got today.

Let me quite categorical about this. I am one of those who felt unable to submit myself to the process. I have had contact with the Wiseman (sic) of the FCC, but I still found myself unable to submit myself to the process. Therefore, one more voting member was not in the hall. Who knows, with a few more of us there, Amendment 2 which would have inserted the following at the end of the motion

Conference rejects the current system of accreditation as it is discriminatory and has resulted in members being denied their constitutional right to attend Conference, and requests the Federal Conference Committee to refuse to operate it for future Conferences.

would have been passed – as I recall it would only have taken seven more of us in favour of it.

I found that I was unable to fill in the form that was produced by those responsible as I did not wish to be accused of lying by the Police. I also do not believe that this form of security is really necessary.

Watching as Stephen Glenn, who was elected by the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats last year to represent us, spoke very well expressing our concerns about the information that has been shared with Constabulary. Will the fact that he has two passports one from the UK and one from Ireland mean that he could be refused a Visa to the USA on the grounds of previous travel logged by them on his old UK Passport? Will any of those who submitted to the process face problems from the Constabulary either here or abroad because of giving details to those requesting it for attendance at this conference? I sincerely hope and agree with Stephen that this will not be the case.

I am glad that the motion was passed and that amendment 1 was defeated.

I look forward to hearing more about this in the future.

Motion as passed.

Accreditation for Party Conference
Conference accepts the need for physical security measures to protect those attending but does not accept that such measures can interfere with the democratic decision-making processes of a political party.

Conference affirms that Liberal Democrats have always defended and promoted the fundamental rights of freedom of association and assembly, protected by Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, by Article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and by Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Conference recalls that:
a) The preamble to the party constitution states that “We will at all times defend the right to speak, write, worship, associate and vote freely…”.
b) The party’s general election manifesto specifically proclaimed “The best way to combat terrorism is to prosecute terrorists, not give away hard-won British freedoms”.

Conference therefore condemns the system of police accreditation adopted for this conference which requires party members to disclose personal data to the police and which is designed to enable the police to advise that certain party members should not be allowed to attend.

Conference therefore calls upon:
1. The Parliamentary Party and Liberal Democrat Ministers to question the current police guidance on accreditation and to seek to persuade the Home Office to change guidance on current practice to reflect the rights of association and assembly and the internal democracy of all political parties.
2. The Federal Conference Committee to negotiate security arrangements for future conferences which protect the privacy of members’ personal data and which respect the party’s constitution and internal democracy.
3. The Party President to ensure that conference arrangements respect Article 6 of the federal constitution which provides that Local Parties elect representatives and that no other body within or without the party has the power to exclude in advance their attendance at conference.

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