This weekend the picturesque beaches of Brighton will be swamped with lanyard wearing liberals. But if you can pull yourself away from the sunny skies for a few hours, in the dingy Brighton centre there are going to be some very important (and contentious) debates at this conference. Remember every party member who has paid to attend conference gets a vote. So for the perpetually unprepared, here is your guide to what the must-see debates are:
The motion “An End to Homelessness” is the sort of radical policy we’d like to see the party as a whole pursuing. We must be the ones to stick up for the most downtrodden and voiceless in society. This motion does exactly that and we urge people to support it.
The “Tackling Corruption and Corporate Crime” motion is okay but seems to focus on accepting Brexit as inevitable rather than trying to fight against it.
At 9am “Combatting Racism” is a great motion on tackling racism and discrimination. Hopefully it will also kick-start a more inward-looking focus on racism in our party. We have a problem with diversity, there is no denying this. We hope this is the first of many steps to tackle this.
The “UK and European Collaborative Research and Erasmus” motion had the potential to be brilliant. But it just fails miserably. It seems to focus entirely on keeping the perks we currently get out of self-interest rather than standing up for the spirit of European co-operation seem entirely self-serving. It needs more about the contributions of European students and frankly it just needs a rewrite all together.
After the mess that we made of legal aid in the coalition, the “Restoring Access to Justice” motion is highly welcomed. It’s clear call for an urgent review into legal aid is exactly what we need to support the most vulnerable.
At 9:30am, there's going to be a debate on a motion about Europe whose text has not yet been published online due to an extended submission deadline. The full text of the motion which some of our executive members have had sight of is promising . This seems to be something which emphasises that we are the party of staying in the European Union. This is our opportunity to really stand for something, and we hope that conference takes this opportunity. However, we also urge people to vote for any amendments which commit us to re-entry into the EU should we Leave it - the compelling arguments for EU membership will be just as strong in the event of Brexit as they were when we first joined.
At 3.15pm the Social Security Policy Paper is a huge a disappointment. Despite many calls for a radical, liberal alternative vision for the welfare state, they have not been realised in the final document. We believe the motion needs to be voted down and sent back to the drawing board. You can find more details of our reasoning here.
Tuesday – AKA Constitutional Amendment Bonanza
This conference is one filled with more constitutional amendments than even the biggest wonk in the party can handle!
The constitutional amendment “Towards a More Effective Party Governance” is really a mixed bag. There are some great things like the restriction that people can’t be elected to more than one federal committee. This leaves much more space open for new faces on these committees, who will inject some much needed change to the way our party works.
But the new Federal Board seems like a bit of a cop out to us. It is outlined in more detail in the constitutional amendment, “Committees” scheduled on Tuesday morning. For such a supposedly powerful committee, it only meets for a minimum of 4 times per year, reinforcing suspicions that it may merely be a talking shop to placate some more outspoken people in the party.
It’s good that young people in the party are finally gaining a representation on the Federal Board but is this really the best committee for the biggest voting bloc in the party to have one of their few guaranteed representatives on? The representative for young people on Federal Policy Committee is a little up in air and the suggestion of a youth representative on Federal Conference Committee was ignored.
Another issue which has been highlighted is the idea that the deputy leader should either be chosen by parliamentarians or elected on a joint ticket with the leader. This raises many questions. Not least that copying American-style joint tickets could also replicate problems with tokenism found in US politics. White, cis, male, middle class leadership candidates often opt to choose more diverse candidates as running mates. Is this really what we want in our party?