The conference is taking place between 16th and 19th August, and is the first one since the party increased its seat tally from nine to twelve in June’s general election.
According to the party’s conference agenda, the present membership will be voting on a range of motions and hearing from key party figures such as Vince Cable, former leader Tim Farron, newly elected Layla Moran and Wales’ Kirsty Williams.
The conference will begin with an opening statement from Baroness Sal Brinton, the party’s president and will close with a speech from Vince Cable.
A minimum of thirteen motions are being voted upon over the weekend, with slots left open for emergency motions over the four days of conference.
Following a speech by Layla Moran MP and lunch on Saturday, one policy motion due to be voted on is the “Impact of Brexit on Public Services” motion, which notes a range of benefits the EU brings, as well as recognising that the recent Labour and Tory manifestos committed Britain's two main parties to a “hard Brexit”. The motion calls on the government to end “ongoing uncertainty” by guaranteeing EU nationals living in the UK their rights. It also calls for UK institutions and universities to be able to benefit from pan-European programmes such as Erasmus+.
Another important policy motion takes place on Sunday following a speech by one-time leadership contender Norman Lamb. The motion notes the rising knife and gun crime in the UK, and calls on extra funding for local police forces, as well as the “establishment of mentoring schemes”.
The future of the Liberal Democrats
June’s election was a mediocre performance for the party. They increased their House of Commons representation by a third, but their share of the vote dipped slightly, as did the number of popular votes the party received.
Although they made headway, much of the pre-election discussion of the Lib Dems concerned then leader Tim Farron and his views on sin and gay sex, something which could have distracted from the party’s key liberal, anti-Brexit message.
With a new leader, and fresh faces in the Commons, the party has an opportunity to cut through to the people. Although, the fact that Vince Cable served in the coalition could be a turnoff for many who left the party due to its deal with the Conservatives. Then again, Cable is a passionate politician, with strong views and an ability to articulate well. He could end up building on Tim Farron’s progress and being the saviour the party well and truly needs.
Time will tell.