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Last year, the Liberal Democrat conference made clear its displeasure at party members having to go through police accreditation to attend.
Despite this clear decision, this year the Federal Conference Committee took it upon itself to consult again on the subject (and got a 2:1 ‘no’ response), then – by a majority of one vote – wavered onto the anti-accreditation side of the argument, then announced to entirely predictable howls of outrage that there would be accreditation after all.
The idea that this will stop some sort of attack at the conference seems absurd. The comparable incidents cited by the police – the Brighton bombing and the last summer’s massacre near Oslo – would not have been affected by accreditation since the former was carried out by someone infiltrating the hotel concerned weeks earlier, while the latter took place in the open air.
No-one is objecting to the airport style security at conference, which should stop anyone bringing any weapon inside, so what exactly is achieved by accreditation except to allow the police to add to the copious amount of information they hold on everyone?
There is also a particular issue for transgender people, who fear the consequences of revealing their previous identities.
Yet the party has again given in, the stated reason being the financial risk of going against police advice.
Several people have raised the question of how large this financial risk really is, yet they have received no straight answer. And for a good reason; the party does not actually know.
FCC asked the Federal Finance and Administration Committee for its view, and here things get murky. FCC says it thought it was seeking advice, but instead FFAC took the decision out of its hands on financial grounds.
Thus when FCC members face re-election, they can say that FFAC tied their hands. Since FFAC members don’t face any direct election, they can tell malcontents to sod off, a situation that doubtless suits all concerned.
FFAC has put it about that the party would get neither insurance nor a venue if it refused to accept accreditation. But Liberator is aware of at least one party activist who works in insurance (and for one of the country’s largest projects), who is adamant that the party could get cover without accreditation in place. And given the cut-throat competition between venues, it seems unlikely that any would be prepared to turn away the sort of business it brings, whether or not there is accreditation.
The problem is that somebody asked the conference’s current insurers whether, in the absence of accreditation, they would still pay out were there a claim. No insurance company when asked a hypothetical question would respond, “Yes, of course”, as they like to decide claims on their individual merits. So the company duly responded that it didn’t know. However, it did not say that it would definitely not meet any claim. That was enough for FFAC to opt for accreditation.
It was argued by FFAC that party staff and venue employees might be victims of an attack by some unaccredited person. But if a party staff member suffered an injury at conference or anywhere else, it is always possible that an insurer might decline to pay, on the circumstances of the event, and the party could be open to costly legal action.
As one observer noted: “You would think that if we cared about the people who work for us that we’d never put them in situations where they worked 24+ hours and then had to drive home, wouldn’t you? We take more of a risk with our staff’s health every day than we ever would with failing to implement accreditation.”
An exemption of sorts has now been agreed for transgendered people but, since they effectively have to ‘out’ themselves to use it, it is questionable what advantage it offers.
Also in Radical Bulletin 354:
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