NEW POLL: what’s the main point of the Lib Dem party conference?

by Stephen Tall on August 26, 2008

Having arrived back at work this morning with a dull judder, I toyed with asking, plaintively, the question: does the UK need more bank holidays? (At 8 annual public holidays, England and Wales enjoy the fewest in Europe, except for the Netherlands: for the record, Scotland gets nine, and Northern Ireland 10). But I thought that might come across a bit grumpy, so instead…

To celebrate the countdown to the Lib Dem party conference – yes, there are just 18 days to go, and, yes, you really should have booked your hotel by now – LDV is asking readers to say what they think is the main point of it in the first bally place. I mean, really, why do a few thousand relatively sane folk fork out a small fortune each year to stay in drab seaside B&Bs and obsess about politics for a few days?

Well, you tell us: what is the main point of the Lib Dem party conference? Here are your options (and here I acknowledge my debt to Alix Mortimer, LDV’s intellectual guru, for the suggestions):

* To allow members to play an active role in formulating party policy
* To socialise and network with like-minded souls
* To remind ourselves of the importance of the principles we all hold in common
* To attend numerous speaker/debate/training fringe events (especially those with the best food)
* None. It’s pointless.

Over to you to continue the discussion…

(And, to cheer you up, let me remind you there are only 86 more working days until the next British public holiday, 25th December).

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A poll on Bank Holidays would have been a good one. We have too few and they are irregularly placed. We have a long hours/consumption model of economic development in Britain. I don’t judge that personal choice for others but we seem to have lost a sense of enjoyment and shared space and time. You’ll always get some moaning CBI spokesperson talking about the cost of bank holidays but there is another side of the balance sheet. They are a huge stimulous to the service sector. The economy didn’t collapse when we had extra bank holidays for the Millennium and the Jubilee.

As a stop gap i definately think we should have two extra bank holidays at the beginning of the Olympics in 2012. it would help with the charge that the games aren’t for the whole country and given enough notice could be used promote community sports days and festivals.

with regards to others. Its difficult to invent “real time mythologies” particularly in an old country like Britain however my top three suggestions would be

1. 23rd of April. St George/the Bard according to taste with the choice evolved to assemblies in Scotland,Wales and NI. I don’t think we are going to be able to avoid the debate about englishness over the next few years and this would allow space for people to define it positively.

2. A mid summer holiday the weekend following the Solstice. Given the astonishing growth in enviromentalism I think the idea of an earth day might coalese around it.

3. A mid october bank holiday to break up the miserable trek from August to Christmas. It would falling during or just after the half term holiday alowing some family time. Mothers and fathers day are to well entrenched but a Grand parents/extended families theme could emerge.

Of course in great liberal tradition most people would just fly to malaga/go to Ikea/get drunk and be thoroughly resistant to any attempt at state imposed bank holiday meta narratives.

but its worth discusing.

by David Morton on August 26, 2008 at 1:57 pm. Reply #

mid-October? Why not co-opt one of the two events a fortnight later that are already mass celebrations?

Both Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes’ are taken very seriously; if they were a day off work as well, then that would ensure a real narrative to the day that, especially for Guy Fawkes’ would not be a simple piss-up.

by Richard on August 26, 2008 at 2:43 pm. Reply #

Some might leave out the words “main” and “conference” from the poll question…

by Malc on August 26, 2008 at 2:59 pm. Reply #

I rather enjoyed Simon Jenkins concept of (JK) Rowlingtide to describe the Hallow’een and Bonfire Night period.

The issue at that time of year is what we do with Rememberence Day as the events (thankfully) slip from living memory. Over the next 30 years we need to find a culturally sustainable way of preserving the memories and lesons when there is no one left to parade at cenotaphs.I don’t know if an early November bank could cover that as well?

I don’t know what party policy is but Monday would be a good time to raise it. the entire country will feel in “back to work” mode, it will be September and the miserable trek to Christmas will start with darkening nights and nothing to look forward to but fuel poverty.

Surely an enterprising Shadow cabinet member could try and spark a debate?

by David Morton on August 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm. Reply #

So long as employers are allowed to count bank holidays towards their employees’ annual leave I will be totally against adding more of them. To those people, my wife amongst them, one more bank holiday just amounts to one day fewer they can take whenever they want.

Personally I would get shot of public holidays altogether, including Christmas. Why the bloody hell should I or anyone else be forced to take time off work at the same time as everyone else on dates that are, to me, as abitrary as they are completely meaningless?

by iainm on August 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm. Reply #

Personally I think there should be a V-Day bank holiday for elections – I always have to take a day off as it is.

by Oranjepan on August 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm. Reply #

This seems to have digressed somewhat from Lib Dem conference, however…

Why the bloody hell should I or anyone else be forced to take time off work at the same time as everyone else on dates that are, to me, as abitrary as they are completely meaningless?

I used to have an employer who just added all the bank holidays (except Christmas) on to our annual leave total and then allowed us to take them when we wanted. This meant that lots of people worked on bank holidays (you got more done as the phone rarely rang) and then you took days off at another time. It also allowed the many Sikhs who worked for the company to take the appropriate religious holidays. Of course now I work for the Lib Dems I don’t get any holidays 🙂

Perhaps legislation needs to be updated to abolish bank holidays but ensure that the minimum entitlement is increased to take account of the number of bank holidays.

by Anders on August 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm. Reply #

I’m open to correction but I’m fairly sure the government is legislating to add the current 8 Bank Holidays onto the current legal minimum of 20 days. If we are in moaning mode as i’m temping at the moment I don’t get any holidays!. A notional proportion of my hourly rate is statutory holiday pay and its upto me to save the money and spend it on lost income if I don’t want to work one week.

I accept the strong libertarian arguement for abolishing Bank Holidays but i think its a bit culturally, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.

Don’t we want any shared social space? Do we want complete atomisation?

by David Morton on August 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm. Reply #

There are lots of reasons, but the most important is to have a debate about what the Liberal Democrats stand for.
Before I joined the party I previously imagined that debating politics was what all political parties did.
I had never seen a Focus before. That soon changed. In truth I was rather disappointed, but I always take the view that your local party is what you make of it, and where ever I have been active I have invited speakers to debate issues.
Conference is a wonderful event with lots of fringe meetings and lots of opinions. Ideal for political animals like myself, but I am sure that those who aren’t can still enjoy it.
Some people accuse the LDs of being political opportunists. Those of us who wish for better hope that events like conference will generally lift people’s horizons.

by Geoffrey Payne on August 26, 2008 at 5:51 pm. Reply #

“Why the bloody hell should I or anyone else be forced to take time off work at the same time as everyone else on dates that are, to me, as abitrary as they are completely meaningless?”

Nice to see some good, liberal sentiment here. We don’t need these collective, imposed holidays. Scrap the lot of ’em and let people choose for themselves.

by Julian H on August 26, 2008 at 6:03 pm. Reply #

To screw around and tell everyone they’re fabulous?

by I've been to Oxford y'know on August 26, 2008 at 7:07 pm. Reply #

Back to the holidays – the Bank Holidays counting is staying, but the minimum is increasing from April 2009.
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/WorkingHoursAndTimeOff/DG_10029788

by Duncan Borrowman on August 27, 2008 at 1:15 am. Reply #

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