On “not” going to conference
As part of my whole “giving politics a rest for a bit and focusing on other stuff” gig I thought it would be wise to give it a miss. Then there is the current state of my finances. So this years event was going to be the first Liberal Democrat autumn federal conference that I had missed in, oh, at least 10 years.
But then I was asked to do a bit of work for one of the party organisations on the Wednesday. This was then followed by personal invitation to attend a workshop event on the Saturday. Because of the conference rules to go to these I had to register for the whole week. So I ended up with a full conference pass and it seemed a shame to waste it so I also went down on the Tuesday. In the end I was there for, at least part of, three out of the five days of conference.
So much for not going!
This was made possible by the great advantage I have of the Bedford to Brighton line. I was able to take a short walk from my house to the train station, catch the train through London, get off at Brighton station and make a short walk to the conference centre. I rather liked the experience of “commuting” to conference. Although it is something I’m unlikely to be able to manage next year when we are in Glasgow.
Popping in and out rather suited my current mood, I’m not sure I could cope with trying to take in the full week — late nights and all. So it is an approach to conference that I am likely to repeat.
So having been, what did I make of it?
I spend most of Tuesday afternoon listening to the debate in the main conference hall. Looking at the agenda I thought I’d picked the dullest day to be there. But in the end I got to hear what was, by general consensus, the best debate of the week. This was on the issue of secret courts and saw several extremely high-quality speeches ending in a defeat for the leadership. Stephen Tall gives a good summary of this debate here.
I was also impressed by the keynote speech given by Sharon Bowles MEP. In their different ways both were good reminders of the real impact the Liberal Democrats are making in the world.
Given that I’m having a slightly turbulent relationship with my party at the moment, alternatively hopeful and then despairing, this was refreshing. Being amongst fellow members and getting a sense of the party’s mood was also helpful in getting some proper perspective. Both on the true situation that the party is in and on what matters to me personally at the moment.
It was also lovely to catch up with old friends. Apologies to those I only got a chance to talk to briefly or just smiled at as we passed by each other.
Sadly the thing that has stayed with me most from conference over the last few days has been a rather nasty cold….