Cllr Julie Smith Speaks in Favour of More Spin and Media Management at Lib Dem Conference


Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009. 11:56am


Cllr Julie Smith Speaks in Favour of More Spin and Media Management at Lib Dem Conference

I have just watched Cambridge Liberal Democrat Councillor Julie Smith’s few seconds on the stage at the Liberal Democrat party conference.

Only at a Liberal Democrat conference could someone give such a muddled and internally inconsistent speech and receive rapturous applause.

Cllr Smith told the conference that she is a member of the party’s “Federal Policy Committee”. According to the party’s webpage on the committee it is the group which develops new policy proposals for approval by the party’s conferences. She expressed her frustration that despite her committee having clear policies which they were putting to the conference the media is reporting that the Liberal Democrats do not have consistent views on subjects such as tuition fees. Coverage has focused quite heavily on reporting that Nick Clegg has weakened the party’s stance on opposing university tuition fees. Cllr Smith said:

“What the media do pick up on is where we are divided”

Personally I think that is the role of the media; and with the Liberal Democrats they have a particularly easy job as the party is so inherently divided. Party members hold a wide range dramatically differing and often conflicting views. When watching or reading reports of a conference I would have thought people would expect there to be debates to be reported on, and for different views to be heard. Cllr Smith appeared to be promoting greater control, more stage management and spin – things which I believe have been detrimental to the public view of politicians in the UK. Cllr Smith urged her Liberal Democrat party colleagues to toe the party line: “so the media here are speaking with one voice and one voice only”. As everything gets applauded at party conferences perhaps too much should not be read into the apparent degree of support for Cllr Smith in the hall, but her view did appear to have significant support.

Speaking about the party leader Nick Clegg she said: “we might like him to give policy, but tomorrow is the leader’s speech”. This appeared to contradict her previous statements. How can she be both be supporting the leader “giving policy” on one hand and on the other be saying policies ought arise from the party. How can policies arise from the party if she is urging the conference to speak with one voice instead of having a debate?

Cllr Smith had been speaking on a motion which the BBC summarised as saying: “the economy is in a mess and the political system is rotten”; this was passed overwhelmingly by the conference.

8 comments/updates on “Cllr Julie Smith Speaks in Favour of More Spin and Media Management at Lib Dem Conference

  1. Richard Article author

    Rosalind Scott, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, the Lib Dem president is speaking now.

    She started by joking about how she ended up being a Lib Dem. She said she mentioned to a canvasser she was a Lib Dem voter; and the next thing she knew they came round and signed her up as a member. She says she agreed due to “embarrassment” and the fact it was “only a fiver”, a few weeks later she was a Lib Dem candidate and shortly afterwards a councillor.

    This highlights a big problem with the Lib Dems; there’s clearly no real vetting of their candidates by the party. Electors really need to do that research for themselves and not read anything into the fact that someone is standing on a Lib Dem ticket.

  2. Richard Article author

    Julie Smith is one of eighteen members of the Liberal Democrat “Federal Policy Committee” who has signed a letter to the Guardian published on Wednesday the 23rd of September.

    The letter states that the committee expects to include a commitment to scrap tuition fees in its next manifesto.

    The divide between the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and the party’s internal decision making process (Cllr Smith’s Committee) is becoming the key event of the conference.

    Eleven members of the Federal Policy Committee, presumably Nick Clegg supporters, did not sign the letter.

    With the exception of Evan Harris MP, all those elected to the Federal Policy Committee by MPs did not sign the letter.

  3. Neale Upstone

    “all those elected to the Federal Policy Committee by MPs” ????

    It’s not the Tory party you know. All elections in the LibDems are one-member-one-vote.

    The Federal Policy Committee (who have just backed retaining a commitment to scrap tuition fees, coincidentally), are elected by the members using an STV election. The next LibDem candidate for parliament in Cambridge will be elected in the same way.

  4. Neale Upstone

    Good point. Yes. There are some who are elected, effectively as ‘reps’.

    On re-reading the comment, I think you’re onto a fair point in that there was a divide in who did and didn’t sign. The word “party whip” springs to mind!!

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