Random conference observations from a (new) old grouch

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I used to lap up all the conference speeches with unalloyed joy and naive belief.

But, returning to conference after a bit of a break, something has happened to me.

I think I may have seen and heard a lot more these days.

It takes a lot to please me.

So far, here’s some of my random observations.

David Laws – Saturday

He made a very sincere speech which hit all the right buttons. He doesn’t half talk slowly, though. This imbues even the most technical statement about the pupil premium with all the gravitas of a Declaration of War.

The dust-up

A lot of people seemed to have missed it, but there was a good old fashioned Liberal Democrat shouting match in the main hall on Saturday in the schools debate. I kid you not. There were motions to suspend standing orders and proposals to reference back flying everywhere. …Something about the E Bacc, but I wasn’t sure which E Bacc they were referring to – the current one or the proposed new one? Anyway, even after the motion to suspend standing orders was defeated, during the final vote there was sustained shouting from the floor. …Something about an amendment rejected by the conference committee. Chaos. Anger. Shouting. And everyone I spoke to afterwards seemed to have missed it. Well chaired, Arnie Gibbons, by the way. The dilemma was resolved elegantly. As always. The standing orders cover all eventualities.

The Rally – Saturday

I only saw some of the rehearsals. Tim Farron was very polished and passionate as usual.

Tim Farron – Sunday

Over-rehearsed. Yes, as passionate as ever. Perhaps I have heard most of it before. But it just slipped by. Sorry, Tim.

Brighton and Hove became a city in 2000

I thought I would pass this on, because it appears that the news has not got to Tim Farron, Party President, and Andrew Wiseman, Conference Committee chair. Both referred to it as a town within the first 15 minutes of conference. Not good. We’re using millions of Brighton and Hove residents’ money to fund our security. The least we could do is look up the name of the local council for a second or two.

Afternoon starts at 12 noon

The clue is in the title. I thought I would pass this on, because this news does not seem to have got to an eminent speaker who started the conference at 2pm with the words “Good morning Liberal Democrats”. Now, I know, I am being over picky, but I am just saying.. He was probably nervous, bless him.

Sunday’s speech of the day

This was from Councillor Duwayne Brooks of Lewisham, opening the debate on the IPCC. There is just something totally inspiring about that guy.

George Potter

He asked a very spiky question of Nick Clegg on the Draft Data Communications bill. Then he opened the debate on disabilities. This is a young man with a great future ahead of him.

Sal Brinton

Sal has been up and down to the microphone frequently. Sal is a shining example of the many confident and thoughtful women speakers at LD conference.

Jo Swinson

Jo made an excellent speech on Saturday, I think it was.

House of Lords debate

Duncan Hames was excellent. Alastair Carmichael was also superb.

Nick Clegg Q&A

Nick has been doing that schtick about tuition fees for two years now. I am sure he is even more bored rigid of saying it than I am of hearing it. I found him quite weak on the early answers – in that – we’ve heard it all before. Those little jokes. After you’ve heard them a few times they start to get a bit weak. However, he warmed up in his answer on press freedom/Leveson and, my goodness me, he saved the best til last. His answer on the deficit reduction blew my socks off. Facts and figures, passion – it had it all, brilliantly marshalled. Well done, Nick.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Wednesday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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