LibDem Conference accreditation: The monster that refuses to die

Just announced tonight is the news that the controversial accreditation arrangements – put in place for last autumn’s Liberal Democrat conference – will also be going ahead for this year’s gathering in Brighton.

This seems a bit premature. For starters, no process has yet been announced for those whose identities require sensitive handling. (Any trans folk for example, or victims of domestic violence) Although I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information request to the police, I fear it will just confirm what I already expect: they have not yet bothered with any equalities impact assessment.

But most worrying is the tone of the announcement, stating that the “possibility of serious harm” to people, including party and venue staff, was a concern. This is the usual campaigning tactic of a totalitarian regime and we should not permit it here, lest it be used in parliament too. The increased risk has not been demonstrated in any meaningful way and certainly has not been shown to be any more substantial than the risk to individuals caused by personal details being leaked.

For some, that risk of details being leaked may just be inconvenience.

For others, it is to risk harassment and physical violence. Other campaigning I am currently involved in revolves around a group whose members will think nothing of using underhand tactics to “out” people, write to their employers to try to get them fired and even make death threats.

Do not underestimate the very real fear with which many people end up living their lives. We should be representing vulnerable people, not making them choose between their safety and being able to speak up at a political conference to make a case for their human rights.

If the current legal and political environment is causing us problems, we need to change things. Some of you may have noticed that we’re a party of government now. We do not need to bow to the powers that be, thinking that it’s all inevitable. It isn’t.

I predict a very interesting set of elections for Federal Conference Committee at the end of his year.

9 comments

  1. As I’ve said elsewhere, those taking this decision fail the Benjamin Franklin test: they who compromise liberty for security deserve neither.

    It’s not FCC who appear to have taken this decision (reading Jeremy Hargreaves’ thoughts) but a decision taken by the (not directly elected – at least for now) FFAC and the supine FE, though.

    1. It’s still not clear how the FE/FFAC managed to take the decision without involving the FCC either, unless the FCC just gave in and decided nit to take any decision at all.

  2. Why would a liberal fighting for Liberal values work with a group trying to get people fired or make death threats?
    That deserves a post of its own.

  3. I don’t get this. The LibDems are in government and with that comes massive security risks. Surely it’s better to have the irritation of proper police checks than be blown up by some nutter or have the conference cancelled entirely? Make no mistake – party conferences are a major terrorist target.

    1. We already have metal detectors and X-Ray machines like at airports and people are OK with that. It’s the security pre-vetting, letting the police have a say over who can come in, that’s the issue. So far nobody has made a case for accreditation that’s any more robust than “ZOMG, TERRORiSTS!”. It wouldn’t stop them anyway as the Brighton bomb showed – the person who planted it was not a conferencegoer,

  4. You don’t think there’s a possibility that the police may know what they’re doing? I don’t know of anyone who has been denied entry to either the Labour or Conservative conferences by the police (though they have been stuck in queues for days on end on occasion) but I know of several who have been excluded by the party HQs.

    The argument is that if the police checks did not happen, it opens the door for a terrorist or, more likely, an unhinged individual to enter the conference. Also, knowing what LibDems are like, if someone fails a security check and is denied entry by the police, you’d all be all over it!

    The worst argument that can be made is “the police are keeping secret records on us all” – it makes you look like a bunch of conspiracy theorists.

    1. In 2010, 24 people were excluded from the Labour conference by the police and 6 from the Tory conference. So it happens.

      You can make a case for almost any security arrangement you want with “this might possibly stop a terrorist, perhaps”. Without justifiction though, it’s just another random claim.

      And on being pressed, the police have said they are keeping a database of known troublemakers as that’s what they’re checking against – i.e. it’s not a CRB check.

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