A few days ago, I received an e-mail that said:
"Dear Mark, just to confirm, we have received information from Greater Manchester Police that you have been successfully accredited for the upcoming Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2011. Your conference pass will be posted to you in September".My e-mail response to the Lib Dem conference office was this:
"It's good to know. I was worried my past in the Colombian rainforests would come back to bite me. Maybe next year?"The additional security measures at this year's conference has been met with hostility by a great number of long-standing liberals who deem the illiberal measures enacted for this September's Birmingham conference as a front against our civil liberties.
I sympathise with the sentiment and feel that having been a regular voting conference attendee, as designated by my local party for nearly a decade now, the concept of being 'checked out' by the police to ensure that I am suitable to attend is pretty demeaning.
But then I suppose I should count my blessings because at least I've been given permission to attend.
The same can not be said for many long-standing members who have had difficulties with their accreditation. Despite having paid for accommodation and planned for travel months in advance, delegates are now facing the uncertainty of whether they can attend or not.
Gareth Epps is one of those in the former category and anyone who knows him realises what a ludicrous situation this is. Andrew Wiseman the FCC Chair has reacted on Gareth's Facebook wall tonight in a very matter of fact way which has not helped matters. Complaints that Gareth hasn't been sending the right passport style photo through to the conference office is missing the point entirely. Gareth Epps is a long-standing and well known Liberal Democrat activist, Federal Committee member and PPC (and nearly an MP in Reading for his efforts). He's opinionated, passionate in his views and is also very importantly, a keen member of the conference Glee Club.
Gareth Epps you could almost say is your stereotypical Liberal Democrat conference delegate for crying out loud and he's being refused entry now not only apparently by the police but by our own conference committee! If this can happen to someone like Gareth Epps who has the stomach to raise his voice and fight back against the authorities and these draconian measures, what about the quieter members who may not be so confident to challenge these dubious decisions? How many delegates may end up missing the conference because of these ill-conceived measures?
It is a complete and utter bloody farce.
Andrew Wiseman and his committee need to sort this out with a cold, sharp dose of common sense. If the likes of Gareth aren't able to enter conference, there'll be a blood-bath on the conference floor in the debate on this very issue on Sunday morning and it will be the members of the FCC that will be scrapped off the walls.