Word reaches my ears of an intelligent, calm and rational debate at Federal Conference Committee last night as they discussed the pros and cons of whether to accede to the request of Sussex Police to use an accreditation system for those registered for this year's Autumn Conference.
Don't get me wrong. I am not in favour of accreditation. I think it's wrong and illiberal and my opposition to it is absolute. However, I am pleased to hear that the matter was discussed in passionate but realistic terms, and not using the lazy and destructive arguments (ie terrorists want to kill us) proposed by some supporters of the system in the Conference debate last year.
There is a perception that FCC meekly acquiesced to the Police request last year and are well on their way to doing so this year. I don't think that's quite true - and Andrew Wiseman, who as chair takes most of the flack has been proactive behind the scenes in trying to find a solution with the Police that does not involve such illiberal and intrusive measures. While FCC have maybe not done themselves any favours in the presentation of all of this, I think we need to recognise that they are trying to get the best and most liberal outcome.
The meeting heard from 3 members of LGBT+ on their concerns. Zoe and Sarah have both blogged about their experience and they both seem to think that they were listened to. Certainly the arguments they made were very persuasive.
After two hours of discussion, the meeting voted between two alternative propositions. The first was to open registration with accreditation. The second, pulled together by Arnie Gibbons, was a six point plan which covered further discussions with the Police, the importance of the Conference motion, the need for further evaluation of the risks as regards things like insurance and venue acceptance as Jeremy Hargreaves tweeted to some random bloke from Ham Common and involvement of other party bodies. I'd have added in a seventh which would involve getting our Parliamentarians to persuade the Home Office to withdraw its advice on accreditation. After all, when Danny Alexander wants Government Departments to save as much money as possible, having the Home Office meet the costs for checks for tens of thousands of people across Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat conferences, which aren't going to make any single person safer, is a waste. I still think it was a good all round effort by Arnie, though.
Arnie's motion won the day by just one vote. Those voting for it were Arnie himself, obviously, Justine McGuinness, Jeremy Hargreaves, Geoff Payne and Lucy Care, the FPC representative. I send each of them a big hug and lots of thanks.
This is by no means the end of the battle against accreditation, but I'm glad that FCC have made a very sensible decision in the short term. We'll just have to see what happens next. Watch this space.