It was another action packed 4-days at conference with a wide array of debates, diverse fringe and training sessions at conference. These included the Uighur motion that was passed with only 2 objectors, an emergency trade motion "Solving the Supply Chain Crisis" proposed by Sarah Olney MP and drafted by CLD executive member, Paul Reynolds (see below), and a Race Equality amendment to the Strategy motion drafted by LDCRE (LibDem Campaign for Race Equality) and supported by CLDs.
The party launched a new China focus group within FIRC (Federal International Relations Committee) and they hosted a fringe event on China with guest speakers including MEPs Reinhard Butikofer and Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Baroness Julie Smith and former diplomat and Chair of FIRC, George Cunningham. The lawyers group, Rights Liberties and Justice held a fringe entitled "Human Rights Challenges for the UK Foreign Policy" ably chaired by James Sandbach, with panellists Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chair of the Uighur Tribunal and Michael Marrett-Crosby, speaking on the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. Young Liberal's foreign affairs spokesperson, Peter Douglas Banks, summated on the discussions.
As in previous years Chinese Libdems had a virtual stall at the Conference Exhibition where we could share with anyone interested about our vision, aims and objectives, campaigning work as well as support for candidates. We were pleased to have welcomed members from other groups such as Young Liberals, LibDems Abroad as well as The Patchwork Foundation.
In the Leader's speech, Ed invoked the words of our former leader Paddy Ashdown:
"Our role," Paddy said, "is to be the catalyst, the gathering point for a broader movement dedicated to winning the battle of ideas which will give Britain an electable alternative to Conservative government."
Ed stressed the key messages and solutions provided by the LibDems: to restore the British fair deal, starting with parents and children, a catch-up fund of £15 billion for school children, extensive new measures to turbo-charge education and called for more support for small businesses.
More on the Trade Motion (summarised by Paul Reynolds)
The motion tabled is critical of the UK government's record on signing trade deals to replace trade agreements between the EU and third countries, and new trade deals with countries where no existing EU trade agreements had been made, such as with Australia.
The proposer was Sarah Olney MP, the Party's spokesperson on internatonal trade. Sarah accepted an amendment from former Party leader Tim Farron which called for more protection for British produce in the wake of imports which are cheaper due to lower reguatory standards.
More politically the motion pointed out that under the previous international trade secretary, now Foreign Secretary, the government had spun its trade deals to date as 'better' that pre-Brexit arrangements; an untrue claim. In the debate and in the motion itself, many examples of this were cited, includng Japan, Norway, and Australia. The motion and debate also focused on the UK deleting human rights clauses which featured in pre-Brexit EU trade deals with third countries, citing Cambodia and Cameroon as examples.