LDV post-conference members’ survey (1): why you did – and didn’t – attend the Lib Dem conference

by Stephen Tall on September 23, 2008

Over the weekend, Lib Dem Voice emailed the members of our private forum (open to all Lib Dem members) inviting them to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions arising from last week’s party conference in Bournemouth. Many thanks to the 187 of you who completed it; we’ll be publishing the results this week on LDV.

First up, we asked how many of you had actually attended conference. LDV forum members are more likely than most, of course, to be party activists – so it was little surprise that 60% of those responding to the survey were in Bournemouth last week (compared with just under 10% of party members nationally).

Of those who didn’t attend, we asked what the main reason was for not going to conference. Here’s what you told us:

It is too expensive – 20%
It was too far away – 12%
I couldn’t take time off work – 31%
I don’t feel the need to be actively involved in national party policy-making – 8%
I think party conferences are pointless – 1%
Other – 28%

Of those who selected ‘Other’ the most recurring issues were family commitments, poor health, or holiday/work taking you abroad. Those who considered expense the main deterrent did not mention the cost of registering as a delegate; rather it was the cost of accommodation in a B&B/hotel for up to five nights.

Of those who did attend, we asked what your main motivation for going to Bournemouth was. Here’s what you told us:

To participate and vote in the party’s policy debates – 34%
To attend training and/or fringe events – 26%
To meet up socially with other party members – 16%
Other – 24%

Those who selected ‘Other’ were, on the whole, stressing the importance of two or all three of these options in motivating them to attend conference. There were a handful of folk who answered their main reason for attending was that they worked for the party, or were running a stall, or involved in stewarding at conference.

Finally for today, we asked the same question to both groups: From all that you have watched and read over the past week, how successful do you think the Lib Dem conference was in terms of showing the party in a positive light?

Here’s what those who didn’t attend (and so were more reliant on media reporting) said:

Very successful – 19%
Quite successful – 44%
Okay – 24%
Quite unsuccessful – 11%
Very unsuccessful – 3%

And here’s what those who did attend, and so witnessed conference for themselves, thought:

Very successful – 30%
Quite successful – 55%
Okay – 12%
Quite unsuccessful – 3%
Very unsuccessful – 0%

The difference is significant: 85% of those who attended thought the conference was successful or very successful at showing the Lib Dems in a positive light, compared with 63% of those who didn’t attend. Some might argue this shows the danger of conferences in promoting a distorted group-think. More positively, we can see it as fairly convincing evidence of the morale-boosting fillip which surrounding yourself with thousands of other like-minded souls has on party activists.

The overwhelming impression from these findings, though, is that the vast majority of you believe the party conference was, to one degree or another, pretty good for the party as a whole (and the weekend opinion polls would tend to back up that view).

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Is it possible to break this down by region / State party? It would be interesting to see, for example, the reasons why Scottish delegates do or don’t go to the conference (and I think the overwhelming majority don’t!)

I know for me that it’s really to do with time off work, the distance and the total cost of it – the only federal conferences I’ve attended are Brighton in about 93 or 94 (the one with the cannabis debate,) Glasgow and Edinburgh – Bournemouth is simply too far away. Also, many of the policy discussions at federal conference are simply irrelevant from a Scottish perspective – although not nearly as bad as a few years back – so there’s really a lack of interest.

by KL on September 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm. Reply #

This is a good point. Somewhere like Birmingham might be better, although it is always great to be by the sea – as long as we NEVER go back to Blackpool.

What about Newcastle for a future conference?

by wit and wisdom on September 23, 2008 at 1:23 pm. Reply #

You don’t have to live in Scotland for Bournemouth to be difficult to travel to, and it’s definately over priced – out of season accomodation at any coastal resort will be about the same price or cheaper.

What about Bristol – lots of accomodation in and around the area, lots to see and do if you take your family (vs Dorset, *yawn*), on the M4 and M5, well connected by train, has an airport, and probably even easier to get to for the Londoners than Bournemouth.

It’s an ideal location, quite why anybody would choose a 2nd rate resort like Bournemouth is beyond me.

by Aaron Trevena on September 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm. Reply #

Bournemouth accommodation was expensive and not always good value. The hills appeared steeper than the last time we were there ! What we need is a seaside resort where you don’t need to climb hills, which has a brand new conference venue and has first class inexpensive accommodation (half the price of Bournemouth)…..the very place… Llandudno in north Wales where the most historic Assemblies/Conferences took place – 1955 when Jo Grimond emerged as the future leader, David Steel’s Assembly where we went “back to our constituences to prepare for government”, the great Alliance Assembly bringing together the Liberals and Social Democrats. Llandudno – the place of landmark
conferences !!!

by The other Pier/Peer ! on September 23, 2008 at 6:26 pm. Reply #

Wherever we go the prices will go up because of supply and demand. It is hard to get a hotel booking when we arrive in town.
The question was conference successful is vague. Those of us who went had a wonderful time, so in that sense it was successful. But we know that the media will put their own sceptical spin on this.
As someone who prefers us to be “Left of Centre” it was a contradictory affair. I felt rotten after the vote on taxation. But at least I was there and I noticed that in other respects the party is now developing a critique of free market capitalism, something that was missing for some time. Before regulation was consider to be illiberal, but now it has become what was sorely lacking, and when what was referred to before as ambition-to-be-rewarded has become greed-to-be-punished (although I accept this is a small window on a complicated debate).
I think this is a start of a shift, and I hope this will be the new direction of the party.
It will depend a lot on the result of the next general election.

by Geoffrey Payne on September 23, 2008 at 7:28 pm. Reply #

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