Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Conference And Internationalism

For many years, Liberal Democrat conferences have welcomed the diplomatic community. The International Office’s Iain Gill and Peter Lesniak write about the meeting of the diplomatic and party political spheres.


In September 1962, at the height of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy reassured an American public unconvinced of further investment in space exploration, “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard.” What we have learned from this speech, and what resonates today, is that a leader must take bold actions not because they are popular but because they are in the nation’s interest.

During the recent European elections the Liberal Democrats took on our anti-EU opponents from across the political divide – those who champion an inward-looking, introvert nation. We made the case for a prosperous Britain in a prosperous Europe, a country that welcomes diversity, close cultural and economic trade.

Our internationalism is more than easy speeches and fancy rhetoric. It is actions, endeavours and deeds. We are overseas working on the ground with political parties helping them create vibrant, multi-party democracies. We are in Sub Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe creating more political choice for people. Internationalism, fairness, tolerance and openness towards nations – these are the values that we as a party stand for.

We prioritise internationalism on all levels and never more so than in welcoming our UK-based diplomatic colleagues. 2014 marks the 26th year of welcoming the diplomatic community to our party Conference. The number of diplomatic representatives travelling to Autumn party Conferences has been systematically growing over the past 10 years with a record-high number of Ambassadors, High Commissioners and political counsellors travelling to (of all places) Glasgow last year.

In 2013 we hosted over 100 diplomats from 50 embassies. This year we hope to improve on that record high. It begs the question, “Why do so many diplomats come to Liberal Democrat Conference?” The answer is simply: we serve a tailor-made agenda based on the needs of the diplomatic community.

For those of you who have been interested in international affairs, this will come as no surprise, but for hundreds of ordinary members, and to diplomats reading this piece – here is what we have to offer.

Diplomatic briefings

Over the years, the Liberal Democrats International Office has committed itself to providing expert ministerial and professional briefings exclusively for the diplomatic community during Conference. This is a chance for Ambassadors and High Commissioners as well as our international guests to be briefed on a particular theme by our Ministers and party experts, discuss issues of relevance to their missions, engage with Ministers privately and participate in discussions in a closed and friendly environment free from the distraction of press and the media. Last year saw one of the most-attended briefings in our history, with experts and Ministers discussing “European 2014 and General 2015 Elections Strategy”, “A Vision of Scotland, the UK and Europe in 2020” and “State of Affairs – UK Economy”.

This year we will be organising discussion forums with key decision makers on the following topics: “2015 Election Strategy”, “A Lab-Lib Coalition?” and “Return of Con-Lib Government?”

International Fringe Events

Internationally-themed fringe events have only been introduced by the International Office in Glasgow last year and turned out to be a very successful way of involving diplomats in our discussion on timely events on the international stage. Panel discussions bring together experts and specialists in the field, MPs, Peers and, since they are open to the public, many party members and often members of the Press. They offer an interactive environment for discussions and a chance to widen your horizons on many issues of international relevance. Last year, some of the most successful fringes included, “Sharing Perspectives on engaging with the Muslim Community in the UK” and “Engagement with the South African Diaspora in the UK”.

Annual International Reception

As usual, the Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg hosts and International Diplomatic Reception – organised by the International Office exclusively for diplomats, international guests and our MPs, Peers and Ministers. The International Reception is one of the highlights of Conference for the diplomatic community, where they can enjoy the company of other distinguished guests, diplomats and our party members. Each year, the reception is focused on a particular democracy-development theme, which is the cornerstone of the work of the Party’s International Office through our Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Diplomat VIP Lounge

We appreciate that the Conference can get very busy and sometimes overwhelming, given the variety of events and debates. We also understand that, when times are busy, everyone needs a place to rest or work. This is exactly why we offer a private and quiet VIP Lounge with complimentary refreshments and access only for VIP guests and diplomats throughout the Conference. This is an ideal place to work, rest or conduct a business meeting in a calm and professional environment.

International Delegations

Every year, the party’s International Office hosts a number of important delegates and parliamentarians from all over the world. Over the years, we have brought together key decision-makers, MPs and Ministers from countries including: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, Pakistan and many others. Those visits present an ideal opportunity for the diplomatic community to engage with the political class from their respective countries. International Office is always open to assist in organising those meetings.

We take great pride in the fact that we offer the most international programme of events amongst all UK political parties and are very committed to sustain and strengthen our relationship with the Diplomatic community across the UK – from embassies and high commissions in London to consulates in Scotland.

This year only, International Office will be offering assistance to a selected number of diplomats wanting to schedule private bilateral meetings with Minister and key decision-makers in our party. Register before 30 August and emailinternational@libdems.org.uk with your meeting request and we will assess your query and provide all necessary details.

We hope that this year’s Conference will bring even greater numbers of Ambassadors and High Commissioners, and we look forward to seeing everyone in Glasgow.



The Liberal Democrats’ International Office is happy to assist in all queries related to diplomatic and international engagements at Conference. You can contact them atinternational@libdems.org.uk, by phone at 020 7227 1274 or on Twitter@LibDemInternat.