Confessions of a ‘Newbie’

I went to the one-day Lib Dem policy conference at the London School of Economics at the weekend. As a fairly new member of the Lib Dems (I joined a few months ago) I was curious to see what happens at these sort of events and was also looking forward to it. I attended with Darren, a fellow member of my local constituency branch in Bracknell, who has been a member for a while longer than myself.

The first thing that struck me was how open everything was. The 300 or so people who were there, who included councillors, general activists, MPs and front-bench spokespeople, all intermingled with each other and there was plenty of opportunity in the breaks to speak to people. Everybody was very friendly, and when I mentioned I was new-ish I got lots of “welcome to the party” type comments. I managed to speak to Lynne Featherstone for a few minutes about the Technology Board. She was very friendly and enthusiastic about my comments.

The main theatre sessions were very good in my opinion. To start with there was a keynote speech by Nick Clegg. He came across well and made some interesting announcements. The best one, I thought, was the idea of increasing total parental leave to 18 months per child and allowing the man to take up to 12 months of the time. (I run my own business so I am pretty familiar with the status quo and I have certainly found it odd that in this age of supposed equality, the man gets only two weeks whilst the woman gets up to a year.)

There was then a session chaired by Sarah Teather where Steve Richards of the Independent, Danny Alexander and others debated topics such as how we can get better press coverage. This was a good session although I did duck out half-way through to get my photo taken with Nick Clegg (which might come in handy in the future!).

The afternoon session focused on Social Mobility, and was excellent in my view. Vince Cable was on the panel for this and he demonstrated why his political star is so high at the moment. He seems to be an effortless performer who was simultaneously funny, self-deprecating but also intensely passionate and engaged with the issues, and of course has a total grasp of the figures involved.

There were two optional sessions during the day I attended: by the Health and Home Affairs Team, and “Environmentally Sustainable Living”. The first one was excellent and the topics were debated openly and robustly with views from all ranges of the spectrum represented. The second one was a slightly different format where we were split into groups to discuss various issues relating to the session. The chap leading this had been left on his own due to illness of two colleagues and I thought he did a commendable job of coordinating the discussions all by himself. There was some lively debate on our table where I also got to meet some more members.

Overall it was a very interesting and worthwhile day. My final thought as I was leaving the conference was that I am sure I have joined the right political party for me.

* Mark Thompson is a Liberal Democrat member, and blogs at

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters.


  • Alix Mortimer 21st Jan '09 - 4:04pm

    *notes down possible “volunteer” for LDV coverage duties at future conferences*

    There is no escape…

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