Some hard numbers for the conference accreditation debate


I’ve mentioned the results of my FoI-request digging in various places, but not in one spot and not on my blog. For those not familiar with the back story, there has been a bit of a fuss kicked up about the new security arrangements for the Liberal Democrat conference this year, which requires police vetting of all attendees.

Based on an admittedly small sample size of 1 year, conference refusal rates are very different between Labour and the Tories. For the Tories, it’s 0.04% (Conservative Party Conference 2010, 6 refusals of 13,767 individuals vetted) and for Labour, 0.2% (Labour Party Conference 2010, 24 rejections of 11,988) This presumably includes non-party members, such as exhibitors.

My understanding is that usual attendance for the Liberal Democrat conference is around the 6,000 mark, which means we could expect between 2 and 12 people to be flagged up by the police. So far, I’m aware of four people that have been refused outright, including Gareth Epps, plus one more who was advised she’d fail vetting anyway, so it looks like we’re “worse” than the Tories but perhaps not as bad as Labour?

(Update: The figures suggesting that four people have been refused turned out to be premature – as of 10th September, only one person has been refused outright so far, although a significant number of other applications are still pending due to problems.)

I assume there will be more rejections, I’m just aware of those who are “connected” to the mainstream online LibDem community. Not everyone has had their approval through yet, with some not due until a week before conference starts.

We had previously been reassured that the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) had the final say on who was allowed in. However, Gareth’s failure was down to a problem with his photograph which he’s attempted to resolve with a new photograph, rather than due to any security concerns. As a result, it seems that although the power may still technically rest with the FCC, in reality they are unable or unwilling to ignore police “advice”.

Also interestingly, no equalities impact assessment was completed by the police prior to putting these new procedures in place. They have recognised the need for one and were due to complete it in July, and I have, naturally, asked for a copy. This may well prove more important for those with disabilities rather than other marginalised groups, as there were reports of security-related problems at last year’s conference.

  1. #1 by John Brace on 2 September 2011 - 09:22

    I’ve been refused too, was not issued with a joint registration code or allowed to go through accreditation (which I presume I would’ve passed).

    The reasons given were that I wear glasses, am male, have in the past criticised a Liberal Democrat councillor, am from an ethnic minority and have a disability.

    That’s enough to get you barred from conference these days.

    Obviously the party doesn’t want people at conference who may be critical of a party member, but at the same time I’m an elected conference representative for the local party it’s a little odd!

    I understand your points, however have pity on us party members denied the chance to go to conference because of administrative errors by the party! In this particular case I’ve been mixed up with someone else (who isn’t even a party member!).

    As this person also criticised the same Liberal Democrat councillor I criticised I’m getting blamed for what they did. The Chief Executive says the party is right to institute disciplinary measures against me and suspend me from the party for something I haven’t done (and can prove I didn’t do too!) However the local party states they have to suspend me for 14 weeks whilst it’s investigated.

    Because Cowley Street was told the wrong date for the start of the suspension (June 15th instead of June 3rd) they think the suspension covers conference which it doesn’t.

    It’s sad the Liberal Democrats can’t correct the records of a party member when they make a mistake, but it’ll take a court order (which’ll probably happen too late) in order to get them to change things..

    meanwhile they won’t refund my conference fee stating it’s my fault I had disciplinary procedures instituted against me in June when the local party chair herself told me I had “no right to speak” because she was afraid she’d lose the vote. She maintains she was strongarmed into it by the region and Cowley Street. However the advice she was given I’m told I can’t have as it’s covered by legal professional privelege. I’m also not been given a copy of the complaint either…

  2. #2 by John Brace on 2 September 2011 - 09:25

    “This may well prove more important for those with disabilities rather than other marginalised groups, as there were reports of security-related problems at last year’s conference.”

    It was myself who raised the question about security-related problems with disabled conference goers last year. It was to do with walking sticks setting the metal detectors off, diabetics not allowed to bring in sugary drinks in case they throw them etc… there are many, many issues…

(will not be published)


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