The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
They Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
By Lord James "Jimmy" Greaves

There must be something in the bracing sea air in Blackpool. Instead of turning up in a mood of celebration, as party chairman Lord Razzall had bullishly predicted at the weekend, delegates seem determined to block any proposal the leadership puts its name too. Plans to limit the EU budget to 1% of GNP have already been defeated, provoking headlines which are surely even now being readied for inclusion in Tory "In Touch" leaflets across the land. Now plans for part-privatisation of Royal Mail have been mothballed just weeks in advance of the next, and crucial, stage in the liberalisation of European postal services in January.

Delegates generally believe themselves to be protectors of the flame of liberalism throughout the land, and conference to be a celebration of the democratic ideal as the citizens at last drag their leaders from their ivory towers and confront them with some home truths. Nothing could be further from the truth. Delegates to all party conferences are, in the main, self appointed windbags with the time, money and inclination to spend a week at the seaside at a time of year when most normal people are getting their heads down for the long march from here to Christmas (often having spent their annual allocation of leave on the school holidays already). With the exception of a handful of the most vibrant local parties, those who go are simply those who want to go. Most just about know one end of a "Focus" leaflet from the other but few are the key "activists" that the press and delegates themselves like to claim. And it would be laughable to claim they are the party's brightest and best.

And what of the party leadership this self-selecting, self-regarding gang claims to seek to call to account? Many - with the exception of spokesmen in the Lords - have been severely tested and passed fit to serve by a serious democratic body, the voters of Britain, just four months ago. Most are highly capable individuals who occupy their positions due to their proven record of being able to argue their case and put Government ministers on the rack on a regular basis. All have to defend the party's chosen positions for better or worse day in day out to journalists, opponents and the wider public.

As he urged sceptical delegates not to shelve his Royal Mail proposals, Norman Lamb - trade and industry spokesman and one of a tiny handful of MPs of any party to boast a mandate from more than 30,000 genuine electors - said, "As a spokesman I need to be able to go out and say what the Liberal Democrats believe in." You can understand his point and sense his obvious frustration. Mutterings about Charles Kennedy's leadership have focussed on a perceived lack of leadership. A fair proportion of delegates - in contrast with the wider party membership and support base - too often give the impression of not wanting to be led.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:41 am  
  • At 21 September, 2005 09:47, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 22 September, 2005 19:40, Anonymous Paul Griffiths said…


    I haven't conducted in-depth research, but if most Conference Representatives were really as dim as you claim I don't think the standard of the debates would be so high. Sure, there are some speeches that make me cringe. But the majority are well-argued and often based on first-hand experience.

    In my view, the leadership's defeats could all have been avoided with some better drafting and careful preparation.

  • At 23 September, 2005 13:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Absolute garbage from anonymous cowards.

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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