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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Broken promises?

The whole party is looking forward to next weekend when the new Liberal Democrat leader will address the Federal Party Conference at Harrogate for the first time. But will that individual, whoever it is, start his tenure with a broken promise?

At the Cardiff hustings a few weeks ago, Lembit Öpik asked the last question of all three candidates. Would they give an undertaking, he queried, to attend the Welsh Liberal Democrats Conference on 10th to 12th March in Wrexham and all subsequent spring conferences? Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne and Ming Campbell all answered in the affirmative. In fact all of them expressed surprise that they were even being asked such a question and indicated that they would see it as the duty of the Federal Party Leader to attend all National and Regional Conferences.

I now understand that the Welsh Party has been told by either the Leader's Office or Party HQ that whoever the new Leader is, he will not be able to travel to Wrexham on those dates. We therefore look to the victor to make his first leadership decision and to overrule the bureaucrats on this issue. After all they did promise!
In my view it is an unwise promise for any Leader to make. It simply takes up too many weekend days out of any leader's diary for them to attend every national and regional conference, as well as the two federal conferences, each year.

What they could and should do is to commit to attend eacg national and regional conference at least once in a regular cycle of, say, every two or three years.
It did strike me as bizarre that all three seemed so willing to make such a promise without qualifying it in any way, especially as none of them know what is in the Leader's diary for that weekend. Nevertheless, a promise is a promise. They have said it and they are going to have to live by it. I will certainly be reminding the new Leader of it at every opportunity, including FE meetings.
Peter is right. I travelled a long way from mid-Wales to be at the hustings and the candidates did indeed commit. And the point here is that the Welsh conference is one of three State Party conferences: Wales, Scotland and England. Therefore, it is more significant than regional conferences in England. Perhaps the Welsh Executive and Welsh leader will write to the new Federal Leader at the end of this week to give him an offer he can't refuse - or at least one hopes he won't refuse.
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