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Federal Conference - Agenda 2020: The final stage

September 15, 2016 12:35 PM
By Duncan Brack in Liberal Democrat Voice

Sunday morning at Brighton will see one of the most important debates at conference. It probably won't be terribly controversial (though one never knows …), but it is party members' chance to say what they think - not about specific policies the party should adopt, but about what the party stands for: its basic philosophy.

This is the final stage in the Federal Policy Committee's 'Agenda 2020' process, which has featured many times before in the pages of Lib Dem Voice. Over the past year we have published two consultation papers, organised two consultative sessions at federal conferences, commissioned a set of essays and organised an essay competition within the party (all available here at

The outcome of all this is the policy paper The Opportunity to Succeed, the Power to Change. Its first purpose is to explain the basic underlying beliefs of the party and what, in broad terms, is the point of us. So the first main chapter sets out the case for the Liberal Democrats - the essence of what we are trying to do and why it matters. We've phrased this round two objectives: giving people the opportunity to succeed, and enabling them to take the power to grasp those opportunities. Too many people in today's Britain lack the opportunity to live their lives as they want, and too many people feel powerless in the face of change.

This basic approach is underpinned by the last chapter, which describes the Liberal Democrats' underlying philosophy - our core beliefs and values - in more detail. Readers of the previous Agenda 2020 consultation papers will be familiar with this, as we've reprinted it from them, modified to reflect the responses we received during the consultation process.

The rest of the paper then describes the agenda for policy development which the FPC will follow in the next few years, in the run-up to the 2020 general election: finding Britain's place in the world, in the wake of the EU referendum; modernising the economy; enlarging liberty; building a fair and cohesive society; and promoting communities. Each chapter identifies a number of topics where our existing policy is out of date or no longer fit for purpose and where the FPC will be submitting policy papers to conference to debate.

They don't cover every possible policy area - there is a limit to how many policy papers we can produce and conference can debate! - but of course party policy is not solely our preserve. We want to see party spokespeople, local parties and ordinary party members develop new ideas, discuss them within the party and submit them to conference for debate.

I hope people will take the chance to read the paper; particularly for those new to the party, it offers a concise description of what the party they've joined is all about. And I hope those of you in Brighton will take the chance to speak in the debate on the paper (it starts at 9.45am on Sunday). It'll be a bit different from other debates during the week, because it won't be about particular policy proposals. It'll be about what is in some ways more important: what ties our policy proposals together into a coherent whole.

* Duncan Brack is the Editor of the Journal of Liberal History and Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee.