Tuesday 22 May 2012

Accreditation or time to move #LDConf into the 21st Century

So various Lib Dem committees say that they just have to allow police accreditation checks to let Liberal Democrat conference to go ahead. Do they have to or can we creatively think our way around this dilemma keep Lib Dem Conference liberal and move it into the 21st century.

Most of us who have working in a modern business environment know all about tele-conferencing. With Skype being readily available and used widely even images can be broadcast to delegates computers wherever they are. Most people have broadband or can gain access to someone who does fairly easily.

So do we actually need to meet in one hall to debate and vote on policy at all?

Speakers cards could be submitted electronically, and the chair and their aide may have to call speakers to stand by slightly early so that their webcam and microphone could be tested before transmission etc. All this could be chaired and managed from Great George Street and the cabinet ministers for their set pieces could either be in London or their constituencies or anywhere else for that matter. Anyone could see the feed an all speakers could speak from the luxury of their front rooms or studies. Think of the ability of those on lower incomes not having to pay for transport, food and accommodation.

Voting could be done electronically, we can already vote for our committee reps online with a unique code.
 If we allow a certain amount of time two to five minutes at a scheduled immovable time for a vote on a motion everyone should be able to vote electronically if they are an elected conference rep. You could even set up options that deal with every eventuality if amendments are accepted or rejected, so these options could all be voted for at the same time as separate votes for you, but confirmed by the system.

Some people will argue that some delegates will not be able to deal with such a change. But they could host younger or IT savvy members of the party for the period of the online conference who could set up and train them in how to use the new technologies.

The only people that would need to know anything about the identities of conference reps would be the party and probably Electoral Reform Services who would be carrying out the voting end of things.

Of course lobby groups would miss out on the chance to lobby us while they wine and feed us. But they could always use the successful conference call systems already utilised and these would not have to be in conference week but whenever they feel able to hold them. Questions could be emailed or texted or even put into Skype of MSN chat or alternatives in to the keynote speakers and the chair could then avoid the sometimes replication or irrelevant question that comes when you take questions from the floor.

Of course training would not be able to be done centrally. But the party is already starting to utilise and roll out some online training. This could also become something that is done on a regional level on specific weekends trainers could offer this to local delegates.

Sadly of course we lose the time networking the bars in the evenings, or over coffee at the conference venues or in the queues to fringe events or whatever. We'd also lose the chance to have a good old sing-a-long at Glee Club whatever our worries or disagreements to bring the conference to a conclusion. We'd miss the chance to go around the stalls in the exhibition, but think of the trees we would save and backs that wouldn't strain from all the freebies and brochures in our suitcases as we head off our separate ways after we've given the leader their standing ovation.

So yes there are some downsides from not having to hire a conference centre to hold a conference, but the business of deciding party policy doesn't have to give in to illiberal approaches to civil liberties. Indeed instead of the slim possibility of some action disrupting a unaccredited conference and costing the party a fortune we could actually save the party and delegates a lot of money year on year by not actually having to travel to one location. And think of the carbon we would be saving! Each rep would only have to offset their computer usage instead of flights, car, train or coach trips.

But we'd miss seeing our family. It is possible but it is a whole lot less sterile so don't give me the argument that this is about cost, that is b___s___ and FFAC know that.

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