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Memories of a successful weekend school, 2008

February 19, 2008 1:18 PM

Stephen Williams MPThe annual weekend school for 2008, held at the Commodore Hotel, Llandrindod Wells was attended by more than 50 people even though some regular participants were unable to come this year because of a clash of events.

David ButlerThose attending the school heard some stimulating presentations from the likes of Professor David Butler of Oxford University and author of the British general election series who addressed the school on the current state of British politics and the prospects for a hung Parliament after the next general election.

Lord MorganThe school also heard from Welsh historian and Labour peer, Lord Morgan, who gave a paper on Lloyd George and his relations with France and Germany. It was the classical liberal in Lloyd George which attracted him to the France of the revolution and the rights of man and the New Liberal or social liberal which drew him to the modern, efficient German state being created in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Lord Morgan also explored what motivated Lloyd George to make his ill-judged visit to Germany to see Hitler in 1936.

Other sessions on the agenda included a survey of the amalgamation of rural schools in Wales. The author of a report for the government on this issue, Professor David Reynolds of Exeter University was prevented from attending the weekend school by a family matter but the main points of the report were fed back by Ms Pearl Baudette, a former head teacher in south Wales, who was obliged to step in at short notice. We also heard from Welsh veterinary surgeon John Campbell on the question of Who Owns Britain? which harked back to the land taxation campaigns of the Lloyd George Liberal party.

Mick Bates AMMick Bates, Lib Dem Assembly member for Montgomeryshire, spoke passionately about the energy crisis and the impact of climate change. He reported on the proposal to build a barrage across the River Severn between Cardiff and Weston-Super-Mare with an analysis of the pros and cons.

Stephen Williams (MP for Bristol West) gave an entertaining speech after dinner on Saturday with recollections of how his family background drew him into political activity and how Lloyd George was one of his political heroes.

The usual conclusion to the weekend school is an open forum session with a panel of Liberal Democrat parliamentarians to discuss topical political and cultural questions. The panel this year, chaired by Society President Roger Pincham, consisted of MPs Lembit Opik and Stephen Williams, who had kindly agreed to stay on and take part and peers Celia Thomas and Geoff Tordoff. A theme running through the discussion this year was the role of the press in shaping public opinion and the often stultifying effect the press can have in inhibiting public figures from speaking out on controversial subjects and of the growing trivialisation of issues.

Participants said goodbye already looking forward to next year's school.

The text of talks given at this year's school will be placed on the site later in the year.