Technology Advisory Board news: Howard Dean done, meetup to come

It was really good to see lots of people come to hear Howard Dean on Saturday at the special event for coding volunteers at our Harrogate conference this weekend. Lots of words of wisdom from him – and lots of enthusiasm to do even more and better things from everyone!

For those who volunteered to help fill the gap in some of our coding and technical resources by filling in my survey a few weeks ago – the next event is a meetup in London later this month. If you filled in the survey, you (should!) have got an invite by email last week to this.

Although we’re having this first meeting to kick things off in London, I’m keen that we involve people right across the country – whether that’s with regional groupings, meetings round the country, online discussions or whatever. As we’re a grassroots party – in part that’s up to you to decide!

As for the rest of the board’s work – keep your eyes peeled for more news!

Harrogate party conference

Didn’t really blog from Lib Dem conference over the weekend – reckoning that the world wouldn’t end – I just carried out my duties and enjoyed the debates. I did tweet! But not a lot.

Ironic really – that one of the highlights was Howard Dean’s speech to Conference – and even more – his private session with me and my burgeoning army of coders et al – who will develop (I hope) into a problem busting, tool improving, development force for the Lib Dems.

What was so interesting about Howard Dean’s description of the birth of real political net campaigning, was that the key message was that it was a communication tool to form relationships and that the net was about communities AND that none of it was a substitute for going out door knocking! That said – net political campaigning is key to any modern campaign!

The substance of the debates this conference was children and families – particularly education. Brand new and visionary is our policy of giving parents the choice of parental leave between them up to 19 months – followed by filling in the black hole of child care by extending the right to free early years education to 20 hours a week from the age of 18 months – if the parents want it. Particularly for disadvantaged children – this will give them far better life chances – as according to current thinking it is basically all over by the time you are six! Well – what I mean is that studies show that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are already a year behind by the age of three. Such children are exposed typically to about 400 words a day – whereas their better off contemporaries are exposed to 3-4,000 words per day. You can see my point!

When your child then gets to school – they will find all class sizes halved – bringing that infant school education into line with the sort of numbers in private schools. That ratio is critical to what comes next.

And next – as a child progresses into secondary education – Liberal Democrats propose a ‘pupil premium’ which is basically a sum of money that goes with the child so that schools have the resources to deal with challenges and therefore don’t suffer when they have an inclusive policy.

Going on into further education – Liberal Democrats continue their commitment to scrap tuition fees. Hurrah! And this is now extended to part-time courses as well. Basically – everyone will have five years of post-16 education free – and they can choose where and when they take it up. Flexible and suited to the person -not regimented and forced down your throat by central command!

And of course – there was Nick Clegg’s speech. The content was brilliant – but I will let you read the speech for yourselves. It was strong, radical – and basically the proposition was if you vote Labour or Tory you will get the same old same old that led us to this current destruction. Liberal Democrats are genuinely different. So – if you believe we need change (and personally I can’t see how anyone can think that changing to a Tory Government or keeping the defunct Labour one will deliver anything decent or different or new) then bring in the Liberal Democrats.

Howard Dean to meet Technology Advisory Board volunteers on Saturday

Looking forward to heading off to Harrogate this weekend for the spring Liberal Democrat conference – though not quite sure when I’ll have time to finish preparing!

We’ve got a special meeting with Howard Dean on the Saturday for everyone who responded for my call for volunteers to help with software coding etc. If you haven’t had an invite by email and think you should have, drop a line to

Is Howard Dean having second thoughts on Iraq?

Howard Why is the anti-war Howard Dean now backing George W Bush's greatest fans on Iraq?Dean (former would-be Democrat candidate for US president) has rather surprised me this week – for the news came out that he will be helping the Labour party here in the UK.

But for most people he’s know for two things: (a) being against the Iraq war, and (b) crashing to dramatic defeat. (a) isn’t exactly the Labour party, and (b) isn’t exactly what the Labour party wants I’m sure!

So – what’s going on? Dean seemed to me to make great play of sticking to his principles on Iraq and speaking up against the war – yet now he wants to help Tony Blair’s party, the great international cheerleader for George W Bush?

All very rum…