Oh, how I used to love Liberal Democrat conferences. Many times, back in the 90s, I proudly wore my representative's badge, at Harrogate, at Brighton, in Nottingham and in Cardiff ... By the way, to refer to a 'delegate' at a Liberal Democrat conference is a solecism on a par with calling a narrowboat a barge. Labour have delegates, mandated in advance by their local parties how to vote on the conference motions - when of course it makes no difference anyway. Liberal Democrat local parties send representatives to conference, to listen to the debates and make up their own minds how to vote. Liberal Democrat conference votes are binding on party policy. So of course that makes no difference either. But, hey, it's the principle that counts. You have to have one party without a chance of real power so that it can afford to hang on to a few principles; that way at least we don't all forget what they look like.
The fun(!) part of the debates is the amendments, put down by local parties, which are all seriously considered. These often take the form of changing a word or two, and occasion long, detailed, and impeccably conducted arguments, sometimes ending in the excitement of a card vote. Then after that's over, you realise you still have to debate the substantive motion (possibly as amended). Also, people can call for separate votes on specific lines of a motion. Sometimes it can get quite confusing. After three days of this you emerge reeling into the weak seaside sunlight to discover that real life has, strangely, been going on while you were absorbed in constitutional amendment no. 103.
I am reminded of all this because a former political colleague, with far more staying power than me (he's been a councillor since 1979 ...) has forwarded me details of the Save our Waterways motion to be debated at the forthcoming Spring Conference in Harrogate (oh yes, we love conferences so much we have two a year). The full conference agenda is here; the motion in question is on (paper) pages 7-8. All credit to the party for picking up on the issue, and doing their bit to publicise it (opportunism? Never!) - it surely can't hurt, although I have to say I wasn't previously aware of their rather embarassingly entitled 'Canal Cuts are Nuts' campaign (line 15). I'd love to be there for that debate. Interestingly, I see that the motion was not put forward by a local party, as most are, but independently by a group of conference reps. I think I might have been inclined to move an amendment making more of the economic development aspects - perhaps someone has. I shall be sure to get a full report for you. Line by line.