Conference and Dorset Council Elections 2024

24 Mar 2023
Lib Dem Conference Hall

Liberal Democrats have just been gathering in York for the first live conference for sometime. Like it or not, computer-based, remote conferencing is just that, remote. You miss the the body language, the sudden and tangible hush in the hall, the spontaneous eruption of applause…

What came over very clearly was the continuing tension about leaving the EU. Many people are still jumping up and down demanding we rejoin immediately because, they say, almost none of the promised benefits have or look likely to materialise and the longer we stay out, the greater the damage. There may be some logic in that line of argument but it is one that needs a sky-hook to support it. The practical approach for all with an ounce of internationalism in their bodies is to be creative and constructive about working with the EU (ERG, DUP, TUV et al take note), be alert to the presence of babies in the bathwater when it comes to the sweeping away of all EU regulation and to look to defend important rights and standards when this government starts on replacement regulation and legislation. Other than that, patience has a virtue all of its own. Let the Take Back Controllers do the jumping up and down. The more furiously they do so, the more ridiculous they appear, the more ludicrous their claims and promises.

Personally, I like Sir Ed Davey’s vocabulary and mindset. He is the thinking man’s politician of these times. All too rare in a politician today, he is also straightforward and acts and behaves as it says on the tin, as it were: public service, community, compassion, fairness, internationalism. Consider the flip side of these. Public service? The over-weaning personal ambition we have seen in some. Community? Centralisation, corporatism, top-down diktat. Compassion? A financial failure to grip social care and a policy failure on migration. Fairness? The only tax reduction in the budget was abolishing limits on untaxed pension pots, benefitting the 1%. Internationalism? Unthinking, misplaced and irrelevant nationalism.

The Conference resulted in a number of very positive new policies and initiatives. I was especially pleased to see a good reception for the policy paper on Opportunities and Skills, an area dear to my heart. We are working hard to put in place a better, more durable approach to life-long learning with the necessary connectivity between individuals, employers and educators.

I am delighted, too, by the way in which Liberal Democrats across the county are stepping up in readiness for the Dorset Council election next year. It feels slightly eerie that so many others across the nation are having elections in May whilst the vast expanse of Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire waits for another day, bridesmaids not bride. We watch and wait!

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