Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Liberal Democrats insist on police accreditation for Conference representatives

If I go Liberal Democrat Conference these days it is to help out with the party newspaper rather than as a voting representative. So in a way the announcement that the Lib Dems are to continue to insist on police accreditation of representatives does not affect me. But it has still saddened me.

It appears we now live in a country where you need police permission to attend political conferences. I grew up in a country where we congratulated ourselves precisely because we did not live like that. This was seen both as a way of showing we were not like the Soviet Union and as our reward for having defeated Hitler.

If you can hear ghostly laughter, it is probably Osama Bin Laden.

Proudhon said that to be governed
is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so.
More and more that describes the experience of being a political activist in modern Britain.

And if you do use the party's democratic structures to challenge something, as Lib Dem members did with police accreditation last year, then you will ignored.

In fact it is worse than that. The strongest argument against accreditation as far as many of us were concerned was that it would not make us any safer. Yet the signatories of the announcement write:
However, whilst some of us are willing to risk the possibility of serious harm to ourselves by not following police recommendations to accept accreditation for all conference goers, we accept that we do not have the right to impose this on others who have no choice about attending Conference. This includes the many staff that will be working for the venue, the Conference hotel or for the Party.
So not only are our arguments ignored: we have to suffer the clear implication that we hold our view only because we do not care about the workers.

As I wrote on the Guardian website at the time of last year's Lib Dem Conference:
If activists are treated like this, and also face security precautions that make attending conference the equivalent of taking a transatlantic flight, many will drift away from the political process.
It is no wonder that so many people are choosing to be active in charities and single-issue pressure groups rather than political parties. If nothing else, you are more likely to be treated with respect.

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