Time to choose
The Green Liberal Democrat Conference and Hustings were held in Nottingham yesterday. It had been one of those days that you can scarcely see beyond. It has loomed large on my horizon for several months and, of course, this last week, in the direct run-up to Saturday, it has been – shall we say – a bit “manic” to say the least.
Last year`s 30th Anniversary conference in Nottingham was a pleasing affair to arrange and we had about 86 paying delegates, I think. About two weeks ago the number for this year reached 88 and I recall being quite pleased – then, suddenly it went a bit quiet. So, I grew a little concerned that we wouldn`t far exceed last year`s total.
After a couple of quiet days, however, entries started to trickle in again and by the beginning of this week numbers were up to 106, with a few days to go. Quite pleasing then – we were going to be about 20% up on last year. Then, by Friday, numbers had increased to 118 – 37% up on 2018.
On Saturday, during the course of the morning, I kept getting the nod from Alison, on the desk, that more people were coming in to pay on the door, And, as the morning plenary session progressed, with Wera Hobhouse, MP, making the Keynote speech of the conference, folk still kept arriving.
I need to check the paperwork before being absolutely certain, but I believe we finally reached 132 paying delegates – so nearly a 55% uplift on 2018. This was so much of a good result that, for health and safety reasons, we had to shift the plenary sessions in the afternoon upstairs to the LARGE Lecture Theatre, because we exceeded the holding capacity of the original room we were using!
There will be more to report about our afternoon plenary sessions in due course, in another blog post, but for the moment I will just say they were lively debates about campaigning issues.
We had arranged to hold a Green Hustings after the conference – and HQ indicated that would be fine, as long as we amalgamated with the expected regional hustings to be held in the East Midlands. Not a problem, I said, bring it on!
So GLD decided to pay the whole cost of the amalgamated hustings as our contribution to Liberal Democracy. Thus, incoming Lib Dems from around the east Midlands arrived to find cups of tea and coffee were waiting for them along with some biscuits – all luxuries that were not apparently available at other hustings around the country! I am told that our hustings were probably the biggest in the UK apart from the London hustings. There were so many people present that in the midst of the Q & A session we had to pause to open the two sets of large doors at the back of the lecture theatre to cool everyone down, we were generating so much heat.
And, now it`s time to CHOOSE.
In the run up to the event I have deliberately kept a low profile, staying absolutely neutral with respect to the choice of the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. But now it is time to choose. Clearly from our candidates list of TWO, we have a much, much better choice than the Conservatives do from their long list of ten or eleven. Indeed, we can be sure of electing a sound leader whichever of the two we end up choosing. And that is much more than you can say for the Tories!
One of our conference delegates posted on FaceBook yesterday that you can hardly get a tissue paper between them in terms of qualities and capability – and there are some people still having trouble choosing their winning candidate. However, I have already plumped for my choice and now the conference is behind me, I think I can safely stand and champion my choice for the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. So, let me explain who it is and why I have made that choice.
Before I make the “great reveal”, let me just say a little about my “backstory” for anyone who does not know me that well, because some of you, maybe most of you, only know me as a relative newbie to the party. I started paying my dues again in 2017 and have not only got thoroughly involved in the party since then, but also have picked up on my Green linkages too. But my political activity goes back a LONG way to the time at school in 1964 when I stood as the Liberal candidate in our school`s “mock election”.
I won`t go through the whole story because you can look back through my blog posts to find that should you so wish, but I became active in the Liberal Ecology Group (LEG) in 1978, just a few months after the group was started. And I was the Chair of LEG at the time of the merger, so I became the first Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats.
Scrolling forward to 1998, after four general elections as a candidate and two European elections as a candidate under my belt, I decided to “retire” from party politics, partly to concentrate on an excellent work opportunity to found and run the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business, but partly because I had become very frustrated at the backwardness of the party at coming forward to step up to the mark of environmental concerns.
We had, and have, an awful lot of very good environmental policies – and they are getting better and better over time, too. But – and it is a very large BUT – we have never, as a party, put the environment FRONT and CENTRE of our manifesto and our campaigning zeal in a General Election.
Even when the issues have featured in a GE manifesto, there has been little attempt – indeed, more often than not – there has been no attempt to concentrate on that strand of the party`s core beliefs.
So, guess what, this issue is at the centre of my decision on the next party leader. We face an existential crisis simply on the issue of Climate change. But there is a further existential crisis in terms of the massive biodiversity loss during the course of my lifetime. We heard about both of these issues in the conference yesterday and, frankly, if one don`t get us the other one might!!
So, is it to be Jo or Ed?
Both Jo and Ed are fully imbued with Liberal Values.
Both Jo and Ed are now experienced as ministers in Government – the first time in my lifetime we can say about our choice of leader (Vince, of course, wasn`t chosen, he was simply crowned, so that doesn`t count in terms of CHOICE) I will say a little more about “experience” below, too.
Both Jo and Ed talk the talk about Green issues and both place them high on the list of things they choose to talk about when left to their own devices and you can tell, listening to them that they believe in green issues from their hearts as well as their heads.
But, of the two, only one of them has taken Green issues into the CORE of their political being and that person is Sir Ed Davey.
I know, on the basis of a number of personal discussions with Ed that, at last, I am not going to be frustrated that Green issues will fall by the wayside as an Election campaign hots up.
I know that Green issues will form an important cornerstone of the fundamental image of the party I belong to, the party I am working for, the party that will, at last, really allow me to begin to CHANGE THE WORLD for the better. And who, in politics, (perhaps I should specify in Liberal politics!?), is not involved with a view to changing the world?
I know that Sir Ed Davey is not going to go chasing down the rabbit-hole of Neo-Liberalism that caused such devastation to the numbers of Liberal Democrat MPs in 2015.
I mentioned above that I would say a little more about “experience”. Ed`s experience as Secretary of State, in the cabinet, and on the international stage, is going to be very important, very soon. His success, in terms of getting such huge steps forward in renewable energy generation in the face of opposition from George Osborne, the chancellor of the day, shows a determination rarely matched in any ministerial position, let alone as the junior partner in a novel coalition.
More than that, Ed`s international experience will be important when he is heading up a Liberal Democrat government as the Prime Minister of this country. He already knows where our best friends are in Europe in terms of facing up to the issues of Climate Change. He has already been talking with the bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, about ways of Greening Capitalism, as a prelude to developing and devising a circular, or doughnut, economy.
Finally, although Jo is very good (usually, at least) at “cutting through” on the media, as she puts it, there is something rather more combative about the way Ed faces down impertinent journos.
So, my final decision as to the better candidate for the next leadership of the Liberal Democrats is Sir Ed Davey and I shall be casting my vote for Ed in due course over the next couple of weeks.
Go for it Ed!