Three things we learnt at Liberal Democrat conference
Over the next month, the Crisis policy team will be heading to Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative and SNP conferences, meeting politicians, going to fringe events and listening to debates. We will be blogging about our experiences at each.
I spent the start of this week in sunny Bournemouth with the Lib Dems and this is what I learnt.
Housing was talked about everywhere
There’s no doubt that housing was the biggest issue at Lib Dem conference. A major policy motion was passed by members adopting new plans to increase house building and the new leader Tim Farron pledged that housing would be the top priority for the party. In his speech, he promised to ‘talk about it, campaign on it, go on and on and on about it, and make a difference to the millions who have been ignored’.
It’s clear that, though the influence the Lib Dems have may be somewhat diminished, they will use that influence to shout about housing.
We know a lot more about Tim Farron’s youth
Tim Farron spoke about his love of 80s music, the Morrissey style quiff he ‘may or may not have had’ in his younger years and even how he proposed to his wife.
But particularly important was when he talked about watching a repeat of Cathy Come Home as a teenager and being inspired to get involved in politics He said it ‘lit a spark in me – it made me angry, it energised me, it made me want to get up and get involved.’
Ken Loach’s ground breaking film about a young family spiralling into homelessness shocked politicians from across the spectrum into campaigning for a better deal for homeless people when it was released in the 60s. At Crisis, we hope that Tim too will be moved to fight for new laws so no-one is forced to sleep on our streets.
The Lib Dem peers aren’t going anywhere
Although the party is down to just 8 MPs, they still have over 100 members in the House of Lords – enough to join together with other parties to create real problems for government legislation. Yesterday, the party pledged to break with arcane parliamentary procedure to vote down plans to extend Right to Buy to housing association homes.
The party now has its main power base in the House of Lords and this is where they will be able to really push Lib Dem policy positions and stand up for the views of members. As campaigners, we will keep working with Lib Dem peers to influence the government on housing, homelessness and welfare reform.
Overall, it’s fantastic that housing and homelessness are so high up on the party’s agenda. What we need now is for Tim and his colleagues to turn that undoubted passion into concrete action to achieve change for homeless people.