Worth Reading 67: Baseball in Montreal

Take a number – Outside magazine reports on some of the deaths to have occurred amongst people climbing Everest this year. (via)
Policing The Land – in honour of #ldconf – Sarah Brown rewrites The Land to make it fit the brave new world of accreditation and security theatre.
Clegg and coalition six months on – James Graham looks at what’s happened in the Lib Dems six months after he left. Long, but well worth reading.
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – A couple of months old, but I’ve only just seen it. Some figures and projections in there that will keep you up at night.
One big rule if you’re writing about politics – Andrew Hickey has a simple rule to work out who’s worth reading and who’s not.

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I was reading various blogs and other things last night on the subject of police accreditation for Liberal Democrat Conference, and I was struck by the fact that several people I saw on the other side of the debate to me were using the ‘why get upset about it, there are more important things to worry about’ argument. I was reminded of that today, when Jennie Rigg wrote this after receiving a similar response from someone else:

Yesterday, someone I care about a lot told me that while this decision was deplorable, the other stuff I was posting about yesterday, the economic stuff, was more important, and I should “get a sense of perspective”. The fact that the adoption of this process means that people I care about will literally be risking their lives if they want to come to conference apparently needs to be put in perspective with the fact that Vince Cable said a thing…

Of course, the use of ‘there are more important things’ isn’t just limited to Lib Dem bloggers arguing about Conference. We’ve seen it being deployed recently by the Tory backbenches as though it’s a compelling argument against House of Lords reform, equal marriage or whatever else they’re in outrage about at the moment.

I’m quite sure I’ve probably used the same argument myself at some point, but I do find it a very weak argument, so I hope my uses of it have been light-hearted rather than as a sole objection. In and of itself, though, it’s a very weak argument. The main problem with it is that it’s presupposing that there’s some grand mutually-agreed list of Stuff In Order Of Importance that will prove that the person deploying the argument is right, and the person supposedly wasting their time on the things that aren’t as important will agree that they’ve been focusing their attention on the wrong subject.

Human beings really don’t work like that, and what’s high on one person’s list may rank pretty low on someone else’s. There’s also the question of the effect an individual can have. Yes, the economy’s a mess and we need to do more to create jobs, but how much effect on the economy are me, Jennie or anyone else going to have writing about it on the internet? On the other hand, as party members and activists, we can have a direct influence on the accreditation at Conference issue, so isn’t it better to quickly nod and say ‘well done Vince’ then divert your attention to something where you as an individual really can make a difference?

It also forgets that human beings are capable of paying attention to more than one issue, and that when you get a large group of them together – say, into a Government – they’re capable of doing more than one thing at the same time. It’s why the Tory backbenchers arguing against Lords reform or equal marriage just seemed rather silly to me in their belief that this would occupy all the Government’s time. I can’t quite see why anyone in the Treasury, BIS or Transport (to pick three departments that have an effect on the economy) would find themselves distracted from their job because of an entirely different part of the Government putting forward proposals that don’t affect them.

In the same manner, when one joins a political party, part of the reason for that is to spread the effort involved amongst a number of people. The fact that some of us want to use our position in the Liberal Democrats to stand up for some actual liberalism doesn’t stop anyone else from getting on with doing whatever they want to do in the party, and it’s only their urge to sneer ‘don’t you have something better to do with your time?’ that helps to reveal those who’d like to use their time to get rid of those pesky liberals who keep messing up their plans.

And I’m sure you had better things to do with your time than read this post – didn’t you know that there are people starving elsewhere in the world? That climate change could render huge swathes of land uninhabitable? That the sun will expand and destroy the entire planet in a few billion years? What are you doing about any of those, eh? – but thanks for doing it, anyway.


Your papers please, citizen

So, despite Federal Conference – supposedly the decision-making body of the party – deciding it wanted nothing to do with it, you’ll now have to get the approval of the police to be able to attend Liberal Democrat Conference. Apparently, it’s all well and good for Conference to decide it wants to be liberal, but when it comes down to it, the alphabet soup of party committees will always be happy to trade liberty for a bit of security theatre.

(See also these posts by Caron Lindsay and Gareth Epps on the issue) (Update: Also see Zoe O’Connell’s post on it)

Still, conference representatives do still have some powers they can exercise without having to have them cleared by the police, and even if we’re not at Conference, we can still vote in the elections for the Federal Executive and Federal Conference Committee, amongst others, and also ensure that there are candidates for those committees who will fight for the liberal position.

I made this pledge earlier on Twitter, and I’ll make it here again – as an elected Conference representative of my local party, I’ll happily nominate any anti-accreditation candidate for these committees. Checking the rules in the party constitution, I see candidates only need two nominators each, so I expect most would be able to find them locally. However, I think it’s important to make this stand – and I’d encourage others to do it – as even if I can’t stand myself for the federal committees (I don’t have the time for it), it shows how many people are willing to stand up for an important principle of the party. That’s especially important, given the absurdity of the election rules that make it almost impossible to campaign for candidates on blogs, Twitter etc when the campaign is actually running. So who else is willing to stand up and be counted?

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