So it was to Liverpool for this year’s Liberal Democrat spring conference.
I am writing this while travelling back on the train, so I haven’t caught up yet with the media coverage. But I bet they are all writing about how Conference was dominated by the fall out from last weeks rebellion on Europe. “All the talk in the conference hotel bars was about this challenge to Nick Clegg’s authority.” they are probably saying.
Well, take it from someone who was there, this is not true. An accurate depiction of the talk in the hotel bar would run something like this;
“All the talk in the conference hotel bars was about the prospects of the Liberal Democrats taking control of Somewhere in the Midlands District Council, the Arsenal Ladies Football Team, Wales winning the Triple Crown and England losing to Scotland in the Calcutta Cup, and the state of the catering in the conference venue. Oh and a group of three large men were in a corner discussing something called a Risograph.”
The whole Europe thing didn’t feature very prominently at all during the weekend. Firstly because, like the rest of the population, we aren’t really that interested in the issue. Secondly, there was a conscious effort from all those involved to dissmiss it and move on. This ranged from Nick Clegg’s remarks at the rally on Friday night to the joke that I heard Tim Farron make which featured Fidel Castro.
In fact I reckon the most controversial issue at conference was the vote on establising seperately elected health boards to run the NHS instead of keeping our existing policy of passing responsibility to local councils. Conference voted to support this change in policy. Which I didn’t agree with. We all accept that the health service needs to be made more localised and accountable but I was annoyed with some of the attitutudes to local government and councillors that came across from some of the speakers in the debate.
Highlights for me from conference included Vince Cable’s well received key note speech, the launch of two excellent reports written by two of my colleagues from the Next Generation course (I will try to give them a proper plug sometime in the future), Liverpool’s architecture, and the extreme geekiness of using ACC Liverpool’s wi-fi to browse the web while sitting in the conference hall.
Talking of geekiness, I also, following up on the issues I had raised in my article on Liberal Democrat Voice, was called to speak in the debate against the constitutional amendment removing the requirement for the President of the Party to chair the Federal Executive. I was reasonably pleased with my speech, although I stuffed up the middle passage a bit, and the delegates in the conference hall did laugh at my joke, which is always a good sign. While the movers of the amendment did win the vote they didn’t get the two thirds majority they needed to change the constitution so the amendement failed. I will try to put together a fuller response to this issue.
Nick Clegg gave a very good leader’s speech. There were some good jokes, some strong passages, the trailing of a couple of themes which I expect him to build on in the coming months, and the hint of something new on tax. It was a kind of “this is who I am and this is what I believe” speech. Given that it was only his first one as leader we should, as he improves, have great things to come. It meant that conference ended in a highly satisfactory manner.
(This would have been posted yesterday, but I came home to a dodgy broadband connection. Very frustrating.)
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.