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After the nightmare that was Vote Match Europe, this one was comparatively plain sailing (on the launch of the Europe version I was still trying to make it work five minutes before Stephen Fry started promoting it at the launch). Nonetheless, I’m desperately in need of some sleep. Please spread the word and give us some linky love.
God know’s why I’m still up at 3am. Still a bit wired after conference I guess. I’m not staying up much longer but I wanted to write that I thought it was an excellent weekend both for the party generally, the Social Liberal Forum in particular and me personally. A few random thoughts:
1. I was pleased by the answer Danny Alexander gave me regarding the FPC playing a more pro-active role in formulating a response to government legislation in light of the Digital Economy Bill debacle. I have a few thoughts on this but will write about them later.
2. I was less pleased by Nick Clegg’s non-commital answer to my “friendly” question about if he rules out further tax rises, as he appeared to do in the Spectator this week. He neither confirmed nor denied the position he took. SLF Chair David Hall-Matthews also pressed him on this during the economy debate. The rumour going round was that he privately acknowledges “misspeaking” but it is concerning nonetheless.
3. Despite my constant grumblings, I really do think that Nick Clegg nailed it in his conference speech. “Change that works for you. Building a fairer Britain” is a lousy slogan but then, aren’t they all? As spelt out during the speech however, at its core is a brilliant narrative which encapsulates what distinguishes the Lib Dems from the other parties. The fact that we even have a narrative (or rather, a narrative of our choosing rather than one imposed on us) is a bit of an innovation for the Lib Dems going into an election. The four themes work well and, crucially, join together. The bad old days of the 2005 policy pledges seem long ago.
4. Standing room only at both SLF fringes, including the one about passing a constitution. FTW!
Finally, over on the SLF website, I’ve written a response to the Left Foot Forward/Fabian “research” which purports to prove that the Lib Dem tax policy is regressive – by its own admission it only applies if you cherry pick the tax cut while ignoring the tax rises being introduced to pay for it. Spectacularly bad.
Since I previously wrote about what it was, and then wasn’t, I feel it is encumbant on me to include here what the official line on homeopathy now is:
A recent report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee examined the provision of homeopathy through the NHS and called for funding by the NHS to be stopped. The Committee did recognise that many users derive benefit from its use and did not argue that such treatments should be banned.
The Liberal Democrats believe that, as a basic principle, individuals should have maximum freedom about how they choose to get treated, so long as the therapy is safe. When it comes to NHS provision, we support a review by NICE into the cost effectiveness of Complementary and Alternative (CAMs) therapies, including homeopathy; as well as expanding the work of NICE to look at the cost-effectiveness of existing conventional treatments.
We know that many complementary therapies are popular with the public. The NHS budget is limited and we want to make sure that NHS funding is focused on treatments which are efficacious and cost-effective. NICE reviews of all existing treatments would give us the best possible basis for future decisions over funding.
That sounds much more sensible and measured. On top of that, I am now getting (unconfirmed) reports that the Scinos will not be at Lib Dem conference after all. Looks like the party may have had an outbreak of common sense.
Or maybe not.
If you haven’t already joined the Lib Dems Save the Net Facebook campaign, I recommend you do so.
Meanwhile, an emergency motion has been submitted to Spring conference. Bridget Fox has the details.
I’ve submitted the following questions to the Federal Policy Committee for the morning of conference:
1. What role has the FPC played in formulating the Liberal Democrat response to the Digital Economy Bill?
2. The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party often finds itself having to respond to legislation that the party has little or outdated policy on. What does the FPC do to ensure that the eventual response from the Parliamentary Party is a) the result of as open and democratic a process as possible; and b) adequately consults the views of all stakeholders with an interest in the legislation?
And finally, I’ve written an article on Comment is Free about the Clement-Jones/Razzall amendment:
No doubt Clement-Jones and Razzall felt that making bad less awful was the only responsible thing to do. In fact, forcing us to choose between judges and lawyers having to interpret a bad law and ministers making it up as they go along is no choice at all. After five years of one of the most depressing parliaments in living history, the last thing the Lib Dems can afford to do is to present themselves as the nicer, slightly less unacceptable face of the establishment. Leave that to David Cameron.
Flicking through my Lib Dem Spring Conference agenda and directory, I was dismayed to spot the following exhibitor:
Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights
CCHR: international watchdog in the mental health field since it was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.
CCHR is one of a family of “independent” organisations that can be found hovering around the Scientology hub, which includes Applied Scholastics and the comically named Criminon and Narconon. If the Applied Scholastics stand at Conservative conference a couple of years ago is anything to go by, literature from all these organisations will be included, as will plenty of copies of the L. Ron Hubbard-penned The Way to Happiness.
Of course, most Lib Dem conference attendees will treat this stall in the way they treat most commercial exhibitors: with polite contempt. But I am profoundly uncomfortable about the way these organisations tend to present themselves as secular and independent when they are anything but. It is a trap for the unwary – note the misleading “Tax Payers’ Alliance” type name for instance.
Ultimately what I’m saying here is: be aware of who they are. And if you do happen to have a V for Vendetta mask…