Wake-up call

Planning reform and action on climate change will be among the issues highlighted at next month’s Liberal Democrat party conference.

A beachside conference eludes the Liberal Democrats for another year, with the party hosting our autumn conference online again, from 17-20 September. 

While I’m sure all regular Lib Dem conference attendees are beginning to miss the atmosphere of the conference hall and the buzz of the stalls, there are undeniable merits to a digital platform. 

Attendance alone is a huge advantage, with many people finding an online conference much more accessible in terms of cost and time.

There will be one big difference between this conference and the last – our fantastic new MP Sarah Green, who pulled off a stunning by-election victory in Chesham and Amersham.

Sarah was a brilliant candidate, and the team ran a near-perfect campaign; there was a real sense of anger towards the Government on the doorstep, particularly over its planning reform proposals. 

This shock win should serve as a wake-up call to the Government, that local people demand a say in what happens in their local communities. 

We cannot be negligent and expect a change of heart from the Government, so the LGA’s Liberal Democrat Group will be running a fringe on the planning reforms, and what the impact will be on housing, environmental standards and local democracy. With a line-up of fantastic speakers, it’s certainly an event not to be missed! 

This year’s Liberal Democrat conference may well be the first in recent memory that is not the most important conference of the year. 

With the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, the eyes of the world will be watching as world leaders gather to (hopefully) agree on a range of measures. 

The Liberal Democrats have an outstanding record of climate action and were the only party in the 2019 General Election with a credible plan to achieve our net-zero carbon target. Climate change is a global issue that can only be tackled by all levels of government, from international to local, working together. 

Therefore, the party conference Q&A with Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP will be particularly significant: as a party, we have much to be proud of, but as a country and a species, we have so much work to do, and the Liberal Democrats have a part to play. 

Over the conference weekend, we will also have the opportunity to speak with key spokespeople, including Alistair Carmichael MP (home affairs and political reform), Christine Jardine MP (Treasury and business), and Sarah Olney MP (energy and industrial strategy).  

There are some fantastic fringe events, too, many discussing topics right at the top of local government priorities, from the skills agenda and levelling up to tackling poverty, a green recovery, and rethinking the high street. 

It wouldn’t be a Liberal Democrat conference without an abundance of training events, with sessions for newbies and seasoned members alike, many of which are facilitated by the fantastic team at the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors.

The ‘Boris bubble’ is bursting, the ‘vaccine bounce’ is dropping, and the ‘blue wall’ is crumbling. 

This conference may well mark the beginning of a strong Liberal Democrat revival at all levels of government and the continuing collapse of Conservative support in their former heartlands. 

We look forward to working with our fantastic leadership team to make this a reality. 

See www.libdems.org.uk/conference. See next month’s first for more about the Labour and Conservative party conferences

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