Jonathan Fryer

Looking Forward to the Liverpool Conference

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 9th September, 2010

For the first time for many years I won’t be at the LibDem Autumn Conference next week, which might seem perverse, given that this is the first time in my lifetime that my party has been in government. However, I was offered a lecturing tour of the Arab world (including a part of Sudan that I have never been to), starting next Wednesday, which was just too good to turn down. So I shall be following and enjoying Conference vicariously. And, in fact, I have been previewing it quite a lot these past few days, first at an interesting Pizza and Politics put on by Chingford & Woodford Green (a constituency that straddles the boundaries of Watham Forest and Redbridge), at which Dr Mark Pack spoke, then this evening at one of Islington’s famous Pizza and Politics, at which the speaker/facilitator was local member Andrew Wiseman, recently elevated to Chair of the Federal Conference Committee following his predecessor Duncan Brack’s being appointed a government special advisor (SPAD). Interestingly, at both events, the issue which caused the most debate was how the party can or should address the problem of under-representation of ethnic minosirites (BME) in the parlimaentary, Euro-parliamentary and London Assembly parties, and to a lesser degree among the party’s membership. Actually, Islington has a rather good record at embracing and engaging people of different cultures, so there is much ‘best practice’ that can be shared, London-wide and maybe beyond. The other contentious issue related to Free Schools, though actually the motion before conference is rather critical of Michael Gove’s policy, so it will be interesting to see what transpires in Liverpool. I’m sad to be missing the real thing, but doubtless even in Arabia Deserta, I’ll be able to keep in touch.

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4 Responses to “Looking Forward to the Liverpool Conference”

  1. May I ask about more detail on the discussion on free schools? Did most people agree with the Conference motion or was there a range of opinions?

  2. Teek said

    Jonathan, you’ll be missed – but best of luck on the lecture tour, sounds great – look forward to reading about it!

    Niklas, as I hosted the Chingford event I’ll say a little about that meeting – can’t speak for the Islington crowd but from Jonathan says the discussion probably reflected similar sentiments!

    On BME representation, there was a clear recognition from (nearly) all quarters that positive action was required to address the dearth of diversity, particularly in the Parliamentary party – where we differed was on the nature of said action. As L(and small-l)iberals, most of us find all-BME/female shortlists distasteful but there was general agreement that some allocation/quota system was probably the best way to make the public face of the party more reflective of the populace.

    On Free Schools, there were many points raised that defended the principle of parental/community involvement in establishing schools, but there were grave concerns over the content of Gove’s reforms – or the lack of thought in them. of particular concern was the impact on non-Free schools in a locality, given the likelihood that Free schools could set admissions criteria – will existing schools be left to mop up excluded/unwanted students, and what democratic redress will schools/parents have over admissions/exclusions if Free schools are outside local authority jurisdiction? There were also concerns over the nature of Free schools’ curricula, and the potential for duplication and waste of resources in setting up the schools at a time when money’s tight. At the same time, there was criticism of the motion itself in that it focuses on details and not overarching principles – for sure the debate on the Monday (which, as my wife who’s a teacher pointed out, will not be attended by any teachers with it being a weekday!!) will be fascinating!

  3. It appears a comment made by me has caught in the spam filter or moderation…

  4. jonathanfryer said

    Because of a radical diary rearrangement, I will be at Liverpool after all — for the first three days. Rather a relief in many ways!

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