Answers to Jennie Rigg’s questions to FCC candidates
1. What ratio do you think is the ideal balance for keynote speeches, policy debates and Q&A sessions on the main stage at conference?
I think policy debates should have the lion's share of the time, certainly over 50%, probably more, then Q&As and finally keynote speeches. Ministers can make speeches all year round. This is our time as party activists.
2. How do you plan to make conference more inclusive?
This is my main theme. Going to conference can cost hundreds of pounds and our policies will suffer if those with harder lives can't contribute. I want Conference Office to help organise block travel bookings and car sharing, to match up local members as hosts with reps who need cheap accommodation and we need to provide alternatives to the ridiculously expensive food available at conference centres and hotels. Constituencies should consider subsidising their reps. I support the use of the internet and skype as well but it's important for people to be physically present if possible.
3. What is your favourite conference venue and why?
Brighton, because of the wide range of accommodation and restaurants from the cheapest to the most luxurious. I also have happy memories of performing in the Liberal Revue there. I like Harrogate too but it may be too small now.
4. What is your opinion on the proposal to make conference one member, one vote?
I hadn't heard the proposal but if it means more members can attend and vote, that would be a good thing. However, see answer to question 2. We don't just want the better off members to decide everything.
5. What would you do to make conference more affordable for the less well-off within our party?
See detailed answer to question 2. This would be my most important objective if elected.
6. What is your opinion on the proposal to allow non-attending members to participate in conference - remote voting, speeches by skype, etc.?
I'm in favour of using Skype to let people participate, to follow debates and even to speak. I'm not sure about voting. There would need to be very secure systems in place. This could be very important for people unable to travel because of disability, poverty or occupations like teaching.
7. How much consideration do you think FCC should give to avoiding embarassing our frontbench when it selects motions and amendments for debate?
Almost none. I successfully proposed an amendment at the Special Conference declaring our right to continue to make policy as an independent party. The only caveat I would make is that sometimes a Lib Dem minister may be able to achieve amendments to legislation or policy by quieter methods which would be undone by the fog-horn of conference, but that minister would need to convince us that this was so. Mere embarrassment would not qualify.
8. What are your views on whether outside experts should be allowed or encouraged to speak on the main stage?
This should be exceptional. For example, I would have wanted to hear Hans Blix on Iraqi armaments before the UK went to war. There is limited time on the conference floor. Experts can speak at fringe meetings.
9. Where do you stand on conference security in general and accreditation in particular?
I fully support the airport-style security which make us all safer. I totally oppose accreditation as an affront to democracy. No state agency whould have any say in the selection of our representatives at conference. I drafted, promoted and summed up for the resolution which conference passed last year condemning accreditation and I shall continue to oppose it and seek to end it.
10. If elected, how do you plan to engage with the wider party?
Even when it does a good job, FCC does seem a little mysterious and its decisions opaque. I would favour more openness about meetings and their decisions whenever possible. I would make myself available to talk to local parties about conference organisation. We used to have a two-stage agenda process which gave members more say over what was debated. The sausage machine of FPC-appointed working groups producing lengthy reports hasn't always been an improvement and can limit debate rather than encourage it. I want to explore ways in which members can have more influence on the final agenda.
11. Are you standing for any other committees, if so which ones, and if elected to more than one, how do you plan to divide your time?
I'm also standing for FPC. The actual number of meetings for both committees is not too demanding. If elected to both, I would have to reconsider the amount of time which I currently spend on local and regional party bodies.