Liberal Democrat Voice hosted a very stimulating conference fringe meeting yesterday evening. Our editor, Caron Lindsay chaired the session discussing how we forge a liberal foreign policy in these challenging times. The panel consisted of Hannah Bettsworth, Julie Smith, William Wallace and Nick Tyrone. My photo above shows the panel while Hannah was speaking.
Thank you to the panel for each providing extraordinaryly thought-provoking inputs. Thank you also to the representatives who came along and asked excellent questions or made superb points.
I also attended a debate hosted by the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel before this event. (And I would stress that the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine were hosting an event in a different room at the same time, so I couldn’t attend both.)
To use an American phrase, my “key take-aways” from this evening of foreign affairs, apart from a delicious handful of roasted nuts, were as follows:
- The policy of “liberal intervention” has failed spectacularly in a whole list of places: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya etc. We really must realise that it is just utterly stupid – S-T-U-P-I-D – to go round the world bombing places and then expecting democracy to pop up in the craters. We must reconcile ourselves to helping through humanitarian actions.
- Like it or not (and I don’t) a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine will not move forward until there is stable Palestinian leadership which can guarantee security in the aftermath of a deal. Mahmoud Abbas is 80 years old and it is highly questionable that he can guarantee that a deal would lead to security for Palestine and Israel.
- If we want to know what troubled and poor countries need we can do worse than ask people from those countries in the UK – the “diasporas”.
As an aside, I do enjoy sussing out the modus operandi of bodyguards. Nick Clegg had six bodyguards when he came to Newbury at the height of the 2011 riots. They insisted on keeping open the fire exit door of the hall (where Nick was speaking) with their Jag just outside, driver at the wheel, ready for a quick getaway. The Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the UK was at the Friends of Israel event last night. I noticed his bodyguard straight away. I mean, Liberal Democrats are obvious. So you just look for the man who looks as though he has a passing knowledge of dumb bells, in a highly neat suit, who obviously couldn’t give a “flying bat’s fart” (a Nick Clegg phrase – not mine) about politics. Then you see the curly-wurly see-through tube behind his ear, which confirms it. And, Lo and Behold, the fire exit door of the ground floor hotel room was kept open with a large black BMW right outside, driver at the wheel, ready for a quick getaway.
My photo below shows the packed room for the Liberal Democrat Voice fringe. (The empty chair is the one I vacated temporarily to take the photo.) We offered some very nice free wine to attendees. That may have ensured a “standing room only” situation. There were also very nice nutty and crispy things. Running a fringe meeting at conference can be an expensive business. Providing “food” in the shape of modest canapés can cost up to £20 a head! Indeed, in the discussions about our event I suggested we just hand out tenners to people for attending and forget any food.