Today’s batch of waffle is a bit special, as it’s coming from you on location! Ooooooh! Well, it’s being drafted on location and you’ll get it tomorrow, but the spirit is there nonetheless. I am currently sitting in the reception area at the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham, watching the great and the good go by. It’s kind of like hanging out at the Oscars but the Gucci’s been replaced with fleece.
Nick Clegg is as we speak doing a piece for Channel 4 news about ten feet away to my left, while all around me people councillors, campaigners, MP’s and pressure groups do their bit on the political merry go round. If you’re into this sort of thing, which I clearly am, conference is the place where you feel like a pig in mud.
Now Chris Huhne’s just walked past. No Prada handbag though…
It’s my first time at a national conference and I have to say it’s been a very motivating day. From my arrival onwards, I’ve found the whole thing to be wholly professional and very slick, a sure sign that the Lib Dems are aiming for much greater things in this election and beyond. Let me take you on a tour….
The Conference hall
If you’re right at the back, it’s a very calming place to grab a few z’s, as I found at least one of my elder colleagues doing late in the afternoon session (no names – I’m not that cruel!). If you’re at the front its where the magic happens. Policy debates (we’re one of the only parties that still have them) happen here as well as the key note speeches. So today for example I’ve heard the policies on fair taxation and manufacturing adopted, as well as hearing a speech on Housing from Sarah Teather.
The afternoon session in the hall was given to a Q & A session with the leader and Nick Clegg clearly knows how to handle a room. We’re a friendly crowd but not frightened of asking difficult questions and I quite bravely put my head above the parapet to do so.
Halfway through asking about how the party was going to deal with accountability for head teachers in failing schools, I suddenly realised that a room with all my local colleagues as well as the front bench team (including Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws & Ed Davey) were all listening to this difficult bloke from Bury North. It was only when I sat down that I realised how much my heart was pounding! Good to know that even after years of experience stagefright can still grab you when you least expect it. Keeps me on my toes!
Lunchtime was going to be filled with an event on the fixing the problems in our electoral system but it was full by the time I got there – which goes to show I think the popularity of Chris Huhne in the party. He may have lost the leadership election, but he still pulls a big crowd. I am however off to a shindig at the BBC this evening, which should be an event in itself as its being hosted by Sue Inglish, head of political programmes. I wonder if she read my last post??!!
As well as this there were numerous training events across the conference plaza – some on campaigning, some on electoral law. If you want to get genned up on your political activisim – conference is definitely your place.
Every man and his dog wanted to be my friend today. I’ve missed a few out here but I’ve had a fair old chat with people from the Agents association, the association of Lib Dem councillors, Lib Dem LGB, Christian Lib Dems, Secularist and Humanist Lib Dems, the Education branch, Liberal Youth, the European group… I couldn’t find the Lib Dem Jedi branch but I’m sure they must exist. If not, I’ll have a stall next year.
Best of all (sad, sad, sad…) I went shopping at Lib Dem image. New car sticker, new pin badge, new clipboard. I stopped short of a mug with Vince Cable’s face on, or the “Nick Clegg’s Credit Crunch chocolate” which was ironically quite expensive. There’s only so much yellow you can have in your life. Best buy was clearly the key ring for my car keys – no repeat of the dropping them without realising events of two weeks ago! Ha ha!!
Saw Floella Benjamin. Nuff said.
A good old social
Luncthime I ran in to the Parliamentary candidate (PPC) from Basildon, Geoff Williams - friend of the family and one of the nicest men in politics. (Last time we saw each other I was in short trousers, crossing electors off the list on polling day – you’re forgiven Geoff for not recognising me!) We caught up, reminisced, shared a few ideas. The evening was also great, sharing a burger and a chat with two of my colleagues from Prestwich (Ann and Andrew – the £10 will be winging its back to you soon I promise!) and the Parliamentary candidates for Warrington, Leeds & Walthamstow. It was a lively evening and everyone was very welcoming. A sure sign that politicians can be personable after all.
I am also reliably informed that there is a ‘glee’ club after hours which delegates flock to make absolute fools of themselves by having a good old sing song. Pre-dating the American sugar coated trite that is currently gracing our screens on Sky (it seems this has a 20 year history at least..), this appears much more rough and ready. From the reports I’ve had it seems like a mixture of overworked politicians,song and red wine - a damaging combination I’ve had experience of before. I escaped though – had a long drive home and just caught a hint of what I escaped on the radio. Discord was definitely the name of the game from the clip that Jon Pinaar was subjected to.
The following day and I’m shattered – an awful lot packed into one day – goodness knows what it must be like for those at the top end of the party who also have to fit in a few thousand interviews with the press and the ‘special interest’ groups who I saw floating about trying to woo political support for their respective causes. But a good day nonetheless and everyone’s now suitably perked up for the election to come. Bring it on Gordon – we’re ready to rumble