The Social Liberal Forum conference 2012

I've not had a chance to write up my experience of the Social Liberal Forum conference from a week and a half ago (Saturday 14 July) until now. But I think it is still worth doing – if only to say how much I enjoyed going.

The event was very well run, provided lots of intellectual stimulation, had some very good speakers and interesting ideas, and it was nice to meet new people and catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for a while. So I’d like to record my thanks to the organisers.

I am not sure how well the theme of “social justice across generations” worked. I didn’t feel that the conference addressed the issue of intergenerational justice in any particularly meaningful way or enabled me to reach any specific conclusions on the topic. That impression may in part be due to my choice of break out sessions. But I think there is a problem with ‘political’ conferences, as opposed to academic or other types, in that there is a pressure on the participants to deal with the issues of the day and address the developing political context – which means that they aren’t very good at ‘problem solving’ on a specific topic.

Also, I am not sure the event will be as memorable as the first SLF conference, which I wrote about here, mostly because it had much less of a fraught atmosphere than that one had. Unlike last time the party was not in the middle of a huge row about the NHS.

However, I don’t want to sound too negative. Holding this type of event is extremely worthwhile and I believe they are valued a great deal by those who participate.

What did I get out of it? Having largely been on sabbatical from political activity for the last year, the main thing I benefited from was an opportunity to gauge the mood of the Party (or at least that part of it that attends these things). It also helped confirm and sharpen some aspects of my thinking about politics that I have been developing over the last few months. All of which, time depending, I intend to write more about. These are:

  • Following his speech to the conference, a confirmation of my view of the nature of Nick Clegg’s leadership (both good and bad) and what it means for the Liberal Democrats.

  • Related to the above, and sparked by some discussion of the government’s health policy, some thoughts about where the party is going wrong in its political communication.

  • A growing greater sympathy for the Social Liberal Forum and its aims and objectives, including being generally impressed by the direction it is heading in.

  • But, despite the above and some significant exceptions, a continuing frustration with the general narrowness and negativity of the policy agenda pursued by the “social liberal” wing of the Party.

More about the Social Liberal Forum conference can be found here:


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