I OBJECT to the tone and content of Monday’s leader column on the subject of the Lib Dem conference.
Firstly, its patronising title - who are you asking not to ruin the opportunity? I’m sure that the vast majority of Sheffield folk have no intention of visiting the city centre during the conference, let alone joining any demonstration.
Secondly, your assertion that the conference will place Sheffield in the ‘national spotlight’ (sic). Political parties’ Spring conferences are small beer compared to their Autumn conferences, which receive comprehensive coverage on TV and in the papers. Last weekend’s Tory Spring conference will have hardly registered with the public. How many can say where it took place?
Sheffield will only attract media attention if the demonstrations turn nasty. Is that the kind of publicity we want for our city?
You go on to claim that this is a ‘mouthwatering opportunity for local businesses’. According to the council, businesses will benefit to the tune of £2.5 million (although the Lib Dems’ own website cliams that it will be worth only £1miilion).
As the cost of policing the event is estimated at £2.5 million, this means council tax payers, not just in Sheffield but the whole of South Yorkshire, who will effectively subsidise the owners of hotels, bars and restaurants.
What your leader doesn’t mention is the amount of disruption the conference will cause. Roads around the City Hall will be closed for a week, not just for the duration of the conference, and there is a threat that John Lewis may be required to shut its doors. Overall, the security measures - including the presence of armed police - must be unique for any event of this kind.
The Lib Dem’s candidate in Barnsley Central made clear what he feels about people from this area. Apart from yourself, Paul Scriven and John Mothersole, does anyone think that hosting this conference is worth all the trouble?