Liberal Democrat spring conference cancelled

The Federal Board has tonight decided to cancel the 2020 Liberal Democrat spring conference:

Following careful consideration of the latest health advice and risks, the Federal Board has tonight decided to cancel our federal conference this weekend.

It’s not a decision that was taken lightly as conference plays a key role in our democratic party as well as being an important training and information exchange event. However, the health of our members and supporters, the staff who work on conference and the wider public is far more important. 

We have noted today’s announcement from the WHO, treating this as a pandemic and calling for “urgent and aggressive action”, and also how other organisations have started cancelling events, such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists stopping all meetings with over 100 people. We have also paid close attention to the public health advice from the NHS, and note that some of the advice, such as around keeping distant from people who are ill, is in practice very hard to follow given the format of our conference involves large numbers of strangers sitting close to each other for extended periods of time.

We are aware that many people, particularly those in high-risk groups, have said in the last few days that they are not coming to conference. Conference operates on the principle of ‘one member, one vote’. We very much want to avoid a situation where people feel unable to participate in our democratic decision-making because of fears over their health. 

It’s a matter of regret that for many people coming to the conference it will not be possible to cancel travel and accommodation arrangements and recover the costs. The party itself will also have to incur significant costs and refunds. We hope though people will understand the priority being given to people’s health. 

We will offer refunds on conference registration, though we hope that given the costs the party will have to pay anyway that members who can afford it will be willing to waive the refund and make it a donation to the party instead. Details of how to reclaim registration fees will follow in the next few days.

Mark Pack, President
Geoff Payne, Federal Conference Committee Chair
Mike Dixon, Chief Executive

If you have accommodation booked, it may be easier to change the dates than to try to get money back – especially as the spring 2021 conference is also going to be in York.

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6 responses to “Liberal Democrat spring conference cancelled”

  1. Thank you for letting us know.. probably going to have a weekend in York as already paid for rail and accommodation

  2. I am disappointed that it took so long for the party to decide to cancel the conference. All the reasons for cancelling that you list were available a week ago and things were likely to get worse. People with travel and accommodation may also have been able to cancel and recover. We also have a duty of care to many conference goers who like us are more mature than others.

    • Re the timing – the question has been kept under careful review for some time, but it’s only very recently that the balance of argument/evidence has tipped over to cancelling. There was also the risk that if we made a decision much earlier that it would then be overtaken by events or new government advice. Taking a decision and then u-turning would have not been good! Hence between those conflicting pressures on the timing, this evening came out as the best (or perhaps, least worst) time to make it.

  3. A good call, Mark. That said, I think it is time that we updated how we make policy. Sitting in a conference hall listening to speakers and raising your hand to vote is a 19th Century approach. We already have live YouTube feeds of conference proceedings, why not add online voting where you have to view the YouTube feed of the debate before you are able to vote. Only a tiny minority of members attend conference anyway; we need to involve more of the membership in making policy.

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