Musing on party democracy

I'm not the biggest fan of party conferences. I've being attending them for over 30 years and when I was Director of Public Affairs for BT and then for Transport for London, I had to attend all the major party conferences each year - and when I was really keen, the SNP conference too.


Three weeks on the trot is of course unbearable and by the third major conference - which by tradition is the Conservative one, everyone is faintly barking- and that's just the commentators and media. It's a function of being locked up in airless halls under artificial light and living off a diet of nasty canapes and too much late night alcohol.

And I find it slightly unnerving to be surrounded by thousands of people who think they have the sole route map to utopia. The real world is not like that. But the LibDem conference has one major difference from the Labour and Conservative conferences.  There is proper debate and argument. The voting delegates are chosen by local parties in proportion to local membership and they can table their own motions and probe and challenge the thinking of the motions put forward by the leadership and party spokesmen.

I found myself on the wrong side of the argument on the role of the internet in democracy - but I had my say, people listened, and Lord Tyler who moved the motion told me that they recognised they would have to review their thinking in this area. When I was at school we were taught that the word for that was democracy.  Perhaps the other two main parties should try it sometime!

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