Did you spot the problem with the Liberal Democrat conference paperwork?

The next Liberal Democrat federal conference is now only just over a month away, starting in Brighton on Saturday 17th September and running through to 20th September (yes, 20th – a Tuesday – rather than the more usual Wednesday finish).

As a result of the changed timings, the usual order of events has also changed with policy consultation sessions no longer being the first thing. If you are a regular conference attender it’s worth taking a closer look than usual at the agenda before finalising your plans.

One thing, alas, which hasn’t changed is the way in which conference paperwork shows up the party’s lack of a clear strategy and subsequent message.

If there is one, then it naturally flows into different parts of the paperwork such as the strap line in the agenda or its back page. If there isn’t one, you end up with different pieces of wording crafting in a semi-vacuum.

That’s not a new problem (see Autumn 2011 and Spring 2016 for other examples.) But lack of novelty does not make it any less of a problem.

And so a problem it is that there’s the disjointed use of phrases such as “A vision for Britain that is open, tolerant and united” in some places and “Britain’s strong Liberal movement” elsewhere, with neither then flowing through the parts of the agenda that comes from the ‘centre’ (as opposed to grassroots motions etc.). All the more so as the use of a capitalised Liberal without a following Democrat is sloppily risky, inviting the sorts of counter-productive coverage we’ve seen before.

Many of the usual explanations that have applied when I’ve written about similar problems in the past apply once again – new staff just in post, new research on its way etc. – but at some point ‘there’s a good reason we haven’t…’ has to start becoming ‘we have…’.



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