Yesterday we had our last two fringe events. First up was ‘Holding their feet to the fire: Civil Liberties under the Coalition’, with:
- Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty
- John Kampfner, author and activist
- Sir Menzies Campbell MP
This meeting was particularly popular, and Lib Dem Voice’s Stephen Tall kindly agreed to chair the panel. There was general praise for coalition policy on civil liberties passed so far, including the ending of child detention and the abolition of the ID card scheme. Shami Chakrabati and Sir Menzies Campbell MP took different positions on the Justice and Security Bill, which was later opposed overwhelmingly in the conference hall by voting members.
Our last event of this conference was The Big Free School Debate, a head-to-head discussion between Dr Evan Harris, former Lib Dem MP, and Toby Young, Sun columnist and founder of the West London Free School. Toby Young set out to debunk myths surrounding Free Schools, while Evan Harris contended that removing local authority control was anti-localist.
Interesting Motions Yesterday
No Government Above the Law
This motion, supported by Liberal Reform and in opposition to most of the Parliamentary party, was overwhelmingly passed to condemn the Justice and Security Bill. Party policy is now to oppose the progression of the bill entirely, either by forcing the withdrawal of or by voting against it in Parliament.
We supported the passing of this motion, which included a passage confirming Liberal Democrat support of competition in public services, including the use of small and large firms, cooperatives and the charity sector. It also demonstrated liberal principles surrounding rehabilitation.
While we felt this motion was always likely to pass by a large margin, we opposed it. We feel that opposition to local pay bargaining is at odds with our agenda of localism and decentralisation, and that there is a strong case to be made for changes in the system, illustrated here by Stephen Tall.