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GLD Conference: Participation is the KEY – and, especially, the closing BALLOON debate!

April 7, 2018 1:47 PM
By Keith Melton


One of the key tenets of a real democracy, a LIBERAL democracy, is that people should always participate. This is certainly no less the case in a GREEN Liberal Democracy. For those of you who have seen the draft programme, you will already know that we have gained the participation of a number of excellent speakers who will, no doubt, raise interesting points we might not have thought about in depth before, or make us think about things from a different perspective than we might have done before.

But since the task of organising the 30th Birthday Celebratory Conference of the Green Liberal Democrats has fallen to me (actually, the truth is it didn`t "fall" to me, I deliberately sought it out and claimed it!!) - I wanted to refer back to the spirit of the inaugural conference in 1988 and ensure that we ALL participated. So, the structure of the day has been designed to allow maximum participation insomuch as we can achieve that in a single day`s debate covering just seven hours.

Actually, it will cover MORE than the seven hours of the formal conference, which starts at 11.00am with the keynote speech from Simon Hughes and closes formally at 6pm.

1 The training session 10.00 am - 10.50 am

We know that some people will be coming to Nottingham on the Friday evening (more about accommodation in another post, soon) but we have set aside an hour for early arrivals to have a "Training Session" on Green politics and the things you can do as newly elected Councillors to establish Liberal Democrats in a local authority as Green Champions; and what you can do as PPCs to lead the environmental debate in your constituency. This session will be chaired by Louise Harris, who has won accolades for her environmental creativity, and Jane Brophy, definitely a campaigning champion. You want to discover how to campaign greenly - GET TO NOTTINGHAM EARLY!

2 Networking 10.50 am - 11.00 am (and several other times during the day!)

One of the most important parts of the day - exchanging notes with fellow campaigners, with experts, with like-minded folk. Cannot be oversold as a concept.

3 Talking circles - with talking sticks, hand-made in Yew wood by George! 12.30 pm - 12.55 pm

A more formal approach to networking when EVERYONE gets chance to speak - provided you are holding the "talking-stick" at the time. A disciplined session will allow each person chance to introduce themselves, and raise pet topics briefly, leading into the networking at lunchtime.

4 The separate strands - various times through the day.

Each session will last between 45 and 50 minutes, with a formal introduction by one or two of our speakers (more about some of the sessions to come in future posts) but each session will have time for questions/answers and discussion - and by experience I know these discussions will overflow into the networking sessions as well! And if we have done our jobs correctly you will have the devil`s own task of choosing WHICH strand you want to go to!

5 The Balloon Debate - 16.45pm - 17.55pm

For some this may actually be the most important session of the day, you might think it perversely timed after the notional "Closing session" led by Wera Hobhouse MP and - all being well - featuring our Party Leader, Sir Vince Cable MP. But there is method in our madness. No, really, there is!

Balloon in flight (Keith Melton)I am sure you will be familiar with the concept of a Balloon debate? The idea is that the Balloon we are all flying in is losing height and each debater is given a persona and s/he has to defend that person`s right NOT to be thrown out of the balloon to lighten the load and keep the balloon flying. Essentially it is usually seen as "A bit of fun, just a bit of fun!" but we would like to try and use the idea to decide which key policy ideas the Green Liberal Democrats ought to be prioritising over the next few months and years.

If nothing else, during the day, it will have become obvious that we are living in "interesting times" with far too much for most of us to cope with effectively on a daily basis. Is "Climate Change" the issue we should be majoring on now, or should we tackle the pollution of our oceans with plastics first? What about air pollution and the huge numbers of deaths caused prematurely by noxious fumes - do we need a new `Clean Air Act` as there was in the 1950s? Should we worry more about Fracking than cruelty to animals? Should we campaign for endangered species sooner than the Amazon Rainforest? Is food safety more or less important than properly insulated homes?

Of course, each individual will continue to campaign on those things s/he feels most affinity for and we have no intention of stopping any member choosing their own highest priority areas. But, somehow, we do actually need to choose the best strategy for the Green Liberal Democrats to direct our central campaigning fire-power on.

And the winners are... (Keith Melton)What is being proposed, here, is a hopefully light-hearted way of choosing those high-priority items through a series of votes during the last hour and a quarter of formal conference time. Like the European referendum this voting exercise is purely advisory, of course! Your Green Liberal Democrat executive committee will use the insights exposed to set the forward strategy of the group, but we are not intending to leave anybody behind as a result.

...............AND THE WINNERS ARE.......................................??


Low Flying Balloon (Keith Melton)

We are going to ask each strand during the day to nominate its own balloon debater to defend the right of that "issue" to be saved for onward flight. Each debater will have one minute to summarise the reasons for NOT being thrown out of the balloon. I, Keith Melton, shall be in the Chair, so timing will be managed with brutal discipline! So, beware - if you have not marshalled your thoughts to get the best out of your minute - Tough!! You run the risk of being despatched over the side of the basket when the voting starts.

There will be three voting rounds on the day after roughly twenty minutes of debating time. After each voting round the bottom few "issues" will be ejected from the balloon. Each delegate will get three votes to cast for his/her favourite campaigning issues.

Let the debate start NOW - what issues would you like to see in the balloon`s basket at the start of the debate. Respond in this thread on Facebook and let us see what the starting line-up will be. I think I can predict Climate Change will be in the basket - but perhaps we should start calling it Climate Catastrophe as suggested in a Facebook post this morning!?


As I said earlier, for some of us the conference will last longer than the seven formal hours, especially if you live locally to Nottingham or if you are far enough away to have decided to stay over on Saturday night. Just a few minutes' walk from the Business School on the Jubilee Campus there is the De Vere hotel and they have a very reasonably priced restaurant and a comfortable relaxed bar. So, for those who are stopping a little while we can all meet in the bar of the De Vere hotel - and it will be mid-May, so we might even get to sit outside on their delightful patio in the sunshine! For those stopping a little longer we can eat in the restaurant. You can get a main course item from the a la carte menu for less than £10 and we can continue our debates there and celebrate 30 years of Green Liberal Democracy and look forward to the next 30 years - by which time I will be celebrating my centenary, if I am still around!!

Are you ready to register? Then go >>> https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/gld-2018-conference-tickets-43271323694

Keith Melton