When I last made a broad-brush comment about how many conference strategy motions pass without leaving much of a trace behind, Tony Greaves pointed out the major exception to that: the Community Politics strategy motion of 1970. When it comes to details mattering, the triple lock mechanism from the No Glass Ceilings strategy paper also turned out to be important, as we saw last year.
The prime author of this year’s strategy paper is one of the founding fathers of Community Politics and the author of the triple lock, Gordon Lishman. The related motion being debated on Sunday morning at the Liberal Democrat spring conference may be lengthy but is unlikely to have the same impact of either of those two other texts. It can be summarised as, “We’re an independent party and we don’t want any pre-election deals”.
The motion rules out pre-election pacts or any preferences for post-election partners and sets out a five point list for how the party should decide who to make any future post-election deal with. Unlike the triple lock, this list is likely to have little lasting value as the political and media pressures to have a simple, clear one sentence answer to such questions means the list will be stripped down to a much shorter position as the next election nears – and it’s the debate over that which is what will really matter.
Tempting though it is to find reason to object to the motion calling for the party to win elections … I suspect the motion itself will not be controversial (unless there is an amendment submitted which kicks off a dispute). Rather, it will give people the opportunity to talk on a wide range of matters and it is the tone and balance of those contributions which will be the more revealing and, possibly, the more influential.
An overwhelming vote for a motion that says no to pre-election pacts and no to picking a preferred post-election partner may also be useful in both quieting some of the more fanciful speculation in the Conservatives and the media, and also in reminding one or two Liberal Democrats what the party overall thinks.
The full text of the strategy motion (F16) is in the conference agenda and directory embedded below.
Further information about the Liberal Democrat federal conference is available in the Party Conference section on the main party website and the official Lib Dem conference Twitter account is @LibDemConf.