Friday, September 30, 2022

GUEST POST Why we need an emergency Lib Dem special conference this year

Ed Davey, party members and Britain as a whole need a Liberal Democrat emergency special conference, argues David Evans.

In less than 26 minutes last Friday Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng took an axe to what remains of the British economy and to the hopes and prospects of so many people, and totally destroyed the last vestiges that the Conservatives are the party of Economic competence.

By the end of the day the pound had crashed over 4 per cent in value (and is still falling) and the FTSE a further 2 per cent, undermining the savings, pensions, and prospects of workers, the retired and the unemployed, be they teachers, doctors, farmers, workers in industry or workers in entertainment.  It affects them all.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats' federal board and federal conference committee had decided to completely cancel the party's annual conference and put everything on hold until Spring conference is held In York next March.  

While the decision that it would be seen to be inappropriate to hold conference during the period leading up to the Queen’s funeral was justified, it was misguided to think that the Lib Dems, as a party, should have no opportunity to say anything about the new prime minister and her deeply damaging new ideas for six months.

Every Lib Dem who met Liz Truss when she was, temporarily, a member of our party seems to have quickly formed the view that she had an eye for self-publicity and an extremely radical view on things. But it wasn’t a Liberal Democrat view, as she quickly found out when they began to question the reasoning behind her vision.

Everyone who works in business knows that real growth and progress comes slowly, and need careful planning and sustained amounts of effort over years and sometimes decades. The desire for a quick fix, a dash for growth based on throwing vast amounts of borrowed money at its supporters, underpinned by a total lack of understanding of simple economic realities is no substitute for hard work and effort.

Sacking a permanent secretary on Day One and calling the most outrageous gamble with our nation’s economy "a fiscal event" in order to avoid Office of Budget Responsibility scrutiny shows linguistic cunning that Vladimir Putin would be proud of. 

We all know that our party has a proud record of economic competence thanks to Vince and his spell as secretary of state for business, innovation and skills - a time when he actually got industry leaders talking to each other and dealing with the fundamental issues they faced.  He even started to develop a proper industrial strategy, something the UK hasn’t had since the 1970s.  

However, we can’t expect Ed and his few close advisers to develop and make a case for a radically different Lib Dem solution to Conservative incompetence on their own in a five-minute slot on the BBC between coverage of the Labour Party Conference and the sports news.

He needs the support of the whole party and help from party members to develop a radical Liberal Democrat alternative to this Tory-created crisis, and a forum that will cut through into the national media, so we can present these to the country.  

We can only do this by being more wide ranging, radical and comprehensively better in our proposals, and to do this he, and we, need a conference.

But we don’t need yet another set of deadly dull Lib Dem policy motions that simply say

  1. Conference notes - Things are bad.
  2. Conference believes - Things should be better.
  3. Conference further notes – The Government are responsible for this mess.
  4. Conference reaffirms – Everything we ever said about this in the past, that the government still hasn’t done.
  5. Conference calls on – The Government to magically change its mind and do what we want.

When what need to get cut through is

  • This is the solution and Lib Dems Commit to do everything it can in government to sort it all out

Currently there are good Lib Dems working on a solution to these problems, but to make it successful we need a federal conference to give it the publicity it needs.

So in summary

  1. I note - Things are bad.
  2. I believe - Things can be made much better.
  3. I further note – That we have better solutions but we need to promote, debate and agree them, quickly.
  4. I reaffirm – That we need to hold this government responsible for the mess
  5. I call on - the federal conference committee and federal board to convene an emergency special conference later this year to allow these to be discussed
  6. To make sure this happens - Every Lib Dem who cares about our country’s future and our party’s continuing relevance should formally request that the party call an emergency special conference later this year, in accordance with Section 6.3 of the party’s constitution, to discuss our solution to the economic crisis that the Conservative Party has unleased on the British people.

David Evans is a lifelong Liberal and Liberal Democrat.


nigel hunter said...

Yes we need a conferance to thrash it out.Kwarsi is an economist?!I note this is cos he helped write Britannia Unchained has banking experience and has'Economic History' as a qualification NOT AN ECONOMICS one.He is a Chancellor thru false pretences.
Iequally note that by cancelling our conferance we miss out on media coverage and the Greens are covered.We are missing a trick.

MartinRDB said...

Whilst constructive proposals are important (integrating with the Single Market would greatly help the economy), there really is a place for our people to spell out that "things are bad", "the Government are (sic) responsible for this mess" and that "things should be better".

Missing out on media coverage leads to an unwelcome perception of irrelevance. If recent polling is anything like a reflection of current politics, it means that Labour has successfully detached a significant portion of the electorate from a default attachment to the Conservatives. In all likelihood, such people would be open to supporting us, if only we were more prominent in the political landscape.

Frank Little said...

As Ria Lina pointed out on Have I got news for you? last night, Kwarteng's degree was in Economic History, not economics. Mind you, he should have learned from the subject of his research, an economic disaster of 1796.

David Evans said...

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far. I agree with what you have added. What we all need to do is complete Step 6. I submitted my request for a special conference on 19th September to Nick da Costa (Chair of FCC) and have had it acknowledged with a suggestion that I submit it also to Sian Waddington as Director of Operations. I would suggest that anyone who supports my idea does likewise and lets me know, so I can keep count.

However, I haven't had any response to my query as to who is the correct person to submit the request to, nor if there are any other specific requirements needed to make this a valid request.

If anyone who was involved in the previous request for a Special Conference back when Tim was leader, if they would contact me to let me know what they found, it would be appreciated.


Jonathan Calder said...

Would you like to leave an email address in the comments, David?

MartinRDB said...

David and Jonathan,

I hope Mark Pack is OK with me posting his response on your website. I had asked to whom I should address a plea for an emergency event/forum/conference.

"Dear Martin,

Following up your message via my website, a request for a special conference would be made by party members to party HQ.

I hope you don't mind me adding that I very much agree with the importance of getting Lib Dem media coverage, and I think it's worth bearing in mind that the effort that would need to go into organising a special conference would be effort that would risk taking away from our press efforts, such as getting Ed on the BBC this morning.

He is going to do a substitute keynote speech in the next few weeks, the timing of which is being negotiated with the media, so we will still get that keynote speech coverage opportunity.

Best wishes,


My feeling is that a "keynote speech" needs to be earlier than a "few weeks" and that the event needs to be upgraded for membership participation, together with input from other key spokespersons.

David Evans said...

Sadly, Martin an absolutely typical non-answer from a senior party member, who has sadly gone totally native in the hierarchy of the party. You ask a clear question and you don't get an answer, but instead a response that tells you why what you want is not needed.

A keynote speech will not be put together by anyone who has listened widely to those who care enough about the party to have the courage to say we are going nowhere and certainly won't say anything radical enough to make any impression on the media or the polls. It will just kick the can ever further up the road, until such time as it will be obvious it will be too late for it to achieve anything (Labour and the Nats will have grabbed all the headlines), but it will have made it impossible for anyone else to achieve anything as well.

Truely a bureaucratic placemen's heaven.

If you want to push harder, by all means contact me on 01539 737068.