Disco. Photo: Getty
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What is the Lib Dem Disco?

The Lib Dem Disco 2014 is the social highlight of the party's conference this autumn. But what is it?

The Lib Dems, much to the excitement and cheerful derision of Westminster insiders, have announced that they are holding disco at their annual party conference. “The Lib Dem Disco 2014 is the social highlight of the Lib Dem Conference 2014” (their italics), is how the website describes it.

There was a bit of worry in the New Statesman office that “disco” was short for “discussion”, and that the event would be little more than men in yellow polyester ties talking about Trident and land value taxation, looking sad. But it looks like it’s actually a party, with lights and dancing and everything. Maybe even dry ice.

The Evening Standard describes it thus: “. . . the Liberal Democrats’ biggest movers and shakers are preparing to throw some of their best shapes at a party fundraising event next month”. And a fantastic sketch in the Guardian follows the night all the way through, from the “promised price of entry on the door” rising to the last song: that catchy auto-tuned Nick Clegg apology, I'm Sorry. Here’s an extract:

Undercover journalists at the event are likely to be found crowding around Vince Cable who, in an effort to impress, will be indiscreetly undermining his impartiality on a range of issues for anyone who cares to watch. Simon Hughes will be found reminding everyone that he actually drives a taxi, and as such is able to give people a ride home. There will be no takers. A remixed dance version of the Stealers Wheel classic Stuck in the Middle with You will be played on repeat.

The line-up of guest DJs, according to the website, is as follows:

DJ Fazza.T a.k.a FatBoy Tim MP

DJ Dizzle Fizzle MP

DJ Ali C MP

DJ Caron Lindsay

To you and me, that’s Lib Dem MPs Tim Farron, Don Foster, Alistair Carmichael and Caron Lindsay. Attendees can place their bets on who will be the “DJ of the Night”. And if that isn’t enticing enough, the description to tempt us to the event goes: “Do you want to get down with Ashdown? Shake a tail feather with Sarah Teather? Or maybe do the hustle with Bob Russell? Well, now is your chance!”

Tickets cost £10 each (or £9k for students, as a few wags on Twitter have suggested), and the disco is to raise funds to fight the Lib Dems’ Cambridge seat, which is currently represented by Julian Huppert. Huppert himself will be the disco's MC, although, according to one well-placed Lib Dem Disco source, “he’ll look like a supply teacher at a drum and bass convention”.

I caught up with DJ Ali C (aka the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael) this afternoon at Lib Dem conference, and he gave me an exclusive insight into what his set will include:

I have a list of three. And let me just say that one of them might possibly involve a band which included a Native America, a construction worker, a leather man, a traffic policeman, and encourage them [attendees], as it will be the Sabbath at that time, it will be after midnight, that they should engage with a particular Christian organisation. And I think knowing Liberal Democrat social functions as I do, I anticipate that that will be a fairly attractive proposition.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.