It has been a lovely sunny weekend, dry warm (after the early morning chill has gone) and a great time to be out admiring our countryside. However, I have chosen to spend most of it in a stuffy overheated hall in York at the Lib Dem Spring Conference.
As ever, Conference gives me a chance to meet fellow Lib Dem members from around the country, including some who I have spent years talking to on line but never met in person, and to recharge my enthusiasm for working to promote the Lib Dems here in Bassetlaw.
The highlight as ever was ever Tim Farron’s speech to close the Conference. He was funny, inspiring, challenging but above all, passionate in his liberal vision for the United Kingdom (you watch it here, Tim’s speech starts at 3:13:00, or you can read the transcript). He reiterated that it is only the Liberal Democrats that stand up for ordinary people, reminding everyone that Lib Dems “stand for election, not to be someone, but to do something!” If you want to do something for your community, then come and join us, you can do that here.
The main role of Conference is to make policy for the Party and on three issues, what we decided in York has a direct bearing on the people of Bassetlaw. These issues are Fracking the regulation of Cannabis and protecting tenants of Private Landlords (full details in the Agenda are on line)
On Fracking, I am delighted to say that we succeeded in getting a motion passed that was unequivocal in calling for an end to Fracking (see P43 in the Agenda) in England. I wasn’t called to speak from the platform for this debate as I only got an “intervention” spot so could only give part of the speech I had prepared (you can read the full speech here) but never mind we won overwhelmingly and now opposing Fracking is the Lib Dem position. (You can watch the whole debate on YouTube, it starts at 1:55:00, my contribution is at around 2:26:00.) We in Bassetlaw now know which of the major parties active in our area are working to support the people in getting the drillers stopped.
Straight after that debate (so carry on watching the YouTube video, page 45 in the Agenda), we debated “Regulatory Framework for Cannabis”. Another great, well informed & intelligent debate with an overwhelming majority for legalising, regulating & education about Cannabis. The debate included the memorable line from former senior policeman Brain Paddick the “the police are wasted on cannabis!”. Again Conference voted for a liberal comprehensive solution that looked to support people and not make them criminals. By breaking the link between the illegal drug dealers (who also push harder, more dangerous drugs) and cannabis, we will help combat these gangs that blight these lives.
Finally, this morning we debated giving better protection to those renting homes from private landlords (Page 61 in the Agenda, at 2:16:00 in this YouTube video). This is an issue that affect many not just in London or other big cities, but also in smaller towns like Worksop & Retford. Many of us either know the issues first hand, or through the experiences of our children or because we live next to house being rented out and not being cared for. The Lib Dems have taken a big step in driving the issue up the political agenda and the proposals in the motion will help those needing the rent (and the good private landlords) get the protection they need.
Obviously, there was much more at Conference than these three debates, training sessions, fringe events, even an unscheduled trip to A&E to support a young member who had damaged their knee falling down the steps at the Barbican Centre (and no, no drink was involved) but these three debates show that Lib Dems, far from being a spent force, are looking at how we can put people before vested interests, how we can make a difference rather than just hold office, how we can help build communities not just protect self-interests.
Conference for us is all about putting flesh on to the dry bones of our principles and our weekend in York did not disappoint.