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Southend Liberal Democrats attend Spring National Conference in York

March 27, 2017 9:11 AM

Southend Liberal Democrats attend Spring National Conference in York

Southend and Chelmsford Lib Dems at Spring Conference 2017Some of our members, Katherine and Ben Loades, Adam Hutchins and John Batch have just returned from the National Spring Conference in York.

Adam and John are pictured here with some of our colleagues from Chelmsford Liberal Democrats (L-R: Edward Longford, Andrew Sosin, Marie Goldman, Giovanni Sechi, Adam and John).

A monumental conference with a record high attendance, coming just after the party had 1000 new members in just 9 days (up to 86000). Such is the speed that we are growing, our newest MP Sarah Olney said in her speech at the opening rally was "PROUD to be one of the 40000 that have joined since the last election" - by the time she was saying this it was over 43000!

Adam Hutchins, who joined the same time as Sarah Olney said: "My second conference and I have come away feeling even more empowered. I joined the Liberal Democrats to fight the politics of hate. Being at conference, voting on each policy motion, amongst such a wealth of intelligent, passionate and frankly lovely people all wanting to fight the same thing is wholly self-confirming.

"I can't wait to meet up with my Liberal Democrat colleagues in London for the March for Europe on the 25th March".

John Batch, referring to his first National Conference: "It was good to see a confident party, celebrating recent successes in Richmond park and many other by elections, the new members and fundraising. A party ready to fight for the 48, business and those relying on the NHS.

"I was struck by the number and passion of new young members, under the age of 30 , who were fully engaged in fighting this hardest of hard brexits Theresa May has chosen. Also, the range of topics debated, showing that while we are united on brexit we are not solely focused on it like the Tories."

Of course, overwhelmingly, the new members have joined the party and become active since the referendum. Last week, Theresa May has announced the triggering of Article 50 for March 29th. A competent government giving such a referendum would have course been able to trigger this on June 24th; sadly this shambles of a government had no consideration of the wishes of 52% of the voters that turned out. Once the government have at least more of a plan than one scrawled on the back of a fag-packet we hope that the people of the UK will be allowed to have their say on whether they accept the plan that should have already been in place.

A key feature of the conference was the dispair that currently we do not have an active and competent opposition party able to stand up for the British people - indeed whilst writing this with News channels on the TV all we hear about is infighting and plots within the National Labour Party. The people of the UK deserve much more than this, and we - the Liberal Democrats - are ready to and already fighting for them. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg put it that: "The Conservatives have become utterly indistinguishable from UKIP, Labour have gone Missing in Action!".

Spring Conference is far smaller than the party's conference held in Autumn, but the energy and passion of the record attendance belied this. Here are some of the key moments:


A key, and vitally important feature of the Liberal Democrats is unlike Labour and the Tories, we have one member, one vote. This allows all members to be on an equal footing and so all policies are debated and put to a vote. Here is the round of those passed at conference:

The motion, 'A Rational Approach to Harm Reduction', was passed unamended

The motion, 'Tackling Overcrowding in Prisons', was passed with the amendment

The emergency motion, 'Britain and the EU', was passed

The motion, 'The Crisis in Health and Social Care', was passed with the amendment

After a lengthy and empassioned debate, with the vote needing to be counted, the motion, 'Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons', was passed unamended

The motion, 'Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children', was passed

'The Role of Faith in State Funded Schools': Option A selected, Amendment rejected, Motion passed

'Associate Citizenship of the European Union': Amendment accepted, motion passed as amended


There were, of course, a number of fantastic speeches. Bookending conference were two fantastic examples, with the Rally which can be viewed here and Tim's Leader's Speech (which can be viewed here) commenting:

  • "Because whether you support Brexit or not, Britain needs a decent opposition."
  • "Brexit means jumping out of the Single Market, the world's biggest marketplace, with all the consequences that will have for people's jobs and our economy."
  • "The politician [Theresa May] who rose to prominence in her own party for accusing it of being 'the nasty party' deliberately leaving millions of people insecure and uncertain about whether they can even stay in the country they call home."
  • "George Osborne. That's where the left starts now [for the Tories!]. That's how far Theresa May has moved the Conservative Party."
  • "The Conservative Party has been taken over by [...] The Hard Brexiteers. The anti-free trade protectionists. The shrink-the-state extremists. The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-international aid zealots. It's their party now - and it's hard to be sure whether Theresa May is their leader or their captive."
  • "[May] is to blame for every job that is lost, every shop that closes, every company that downsizes, every factory relocated overseas. There was nothing inevitable about leaving the Single Market. That's her choice. The blame for the damage lies at her door."
  • "If I was a businessperson who had given money to today's Conservatives, I would demand my money back. [They] were sold a free market, internationalist, pro-business party but what you've got is protectionism, nationalism, economic vandalism."

  • There is only one party in British politics right now fighting to keep you in the world's biggest marketplace…

    • …who wants to encourage an economy built on dynamism, innovation and opportunity…

    • ...who believes in a genuinely free market; who wants challengers, ideas, innovation;

    • …who wants a liberal economy:

    • And that party is the Liberal Democrats.
  • "Conservative MPs [...] attracted by [...] a new era of Compassionate Conservatism under David Cameron: pro-business and pro-environment who [believe] in social justice as much as sound economics [...], know [what the government is doing is] wrong, so for pity's sake, [they should] have some self-respect. Defect or resign.

    If [they] don't then when the next election comes we will do to [them] what we did to Zac Goldsmith"

  • To Jeremy Corbyn: "You want to help the refugees, to help those desperate on a housing waiting list, to help those who need better social care? Well let me tell you, by making yourself the most unelectable opposition in history you are betraying every single one of them."

  • "Who'd have thought it? Being sensible is now a radical concept."
  • "Let me tell you about a friend of mine. She woke up the day after the 2015 election, heartbroken that fear and division had won. She made a choice. Not to hang her head in despair, but to do something about it.

    She joined the Liberal Democrats.

    Today, she is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Park.

    Sarah Olney exemplifies the best way to respond to the nationalist nightmare.

  • "Progressives and liberals need a rallying point. Britain needs a business friendly, socially just, electable alternative to the Conservatives: So let's be it."

  • "Britain needs a new deal for the NHS and social care: Let's create it."

  • "Britain needs a new dynamic, innovative, entrepreneurial economy: Let's design it."

  • "Britain needs a school system that gives our children the knowledge and skills to thrive in that new economy: Let's do it."

  • "I want three million affordable homes, I want the best railways in Europe."
  • "Britain needs a confident, optimistic, liberal alternative, built on a clear, credible plan."
  • "With that we can be more than just the real opposition. We can be an alternative government."

  • "A century ago, the tectonic plates of British politics shifted dramatically [...]. And today, you can clearly see and feel those tectonic plates moving again."
  • "Labour won't just bounce back. They are not resting. They are not stunned. They are not pining for the fjords. Stop nailing them to the perch."
  • "We know the Britain we love and the Britain we want to build - an open, tolerant, unitedBritain, innovative and ambitious, generous and outward-looking, confident and optimistic."

  • On Donald Trump: "Here is a man who is building a wall, banning Muslims, telling the world that climate change is a conspiracy. A man who ridicules people with disabilities and jokes about sexually assaulting women. A man who claimed that President Obama wasn't born in the USA. And there was our Prime Minister, holding his hand."
  • "Patriots love their country, nationalists hate their neighbours. I am a patriot."

  • "What an irony that people born thousands of miles away know the character of Britain better than our own Prime Minister."
  • "We ended decades of injustice by winning the pardon of thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of crimes that should never have been crimes."
  • "Our role is to be the real opposition this country needs."

  • "Our purpose is to create a better future for Britain."

  • "Our ambition is to change the country we love for the better."

  • "Our time has come."