Countdown to conference

“What are you doing in here? are you bored?” – the words of a friend of mine as he slumped in to the adjacent chair at the back of the conference hall in the Blackpool Winter Gardens in September last year.

My friend had been on one of his annual conference rituals – the exhibition freebie run. The star prize of an Electoral Commission anorak had eluded him, but he was content enough with his Local Government Association biro and mints, and his BBC keyring.

He’d done better than me – my trawl of the exhibition had turned up only a copy of the latest DELGA newsletter and a cold stare from someone I’d chatted up the night before, tempted back to my hotel room (for a stimulating discussion of the General Election manifesto, obviously), and promptly fallen asleep on.

So, happy days are here again! Conference is less than a week away. Six whole days of seaside training, drinking, policy making, drinking, plotting, and drinking.

(It doesn’t seem to have struck the party at large that the heady combination of late nights, alcohol, and policy making means historically I may have been voting on policy while somewhat the worse for wear. When you think about it, that explains some things.)

Anyway, the answer I gave to my conference-hall dodging friend was something pious and worthy – I don’t remember the exact words but it was probably something along the lines of “20 people in my constituency wanted to be a conference rep, only 9 made it. So I’m damn well going to sit here and vote on amedment 4 which amends amendment 1 of the substantive, to substitute the word ‘possibly’ with ‘maybe’.”

However, having recently moved in to a new constituency, I am no longer burdened by the heavy duty of voting at conference. Brighton is my oyster, and I’ve been looking at the fringe programme to pull out the highlights.

These then, are the top five fringe events I commend to you in Brighton:

  • The Bloggers Reception, 9pm Sunday, Gloucester Suite, Hilton Hotel. Free drink, and the chance of being the Lib Dems ‘blogger of the year’. Iain Dale’s “top bloggers” pamphlet should be available, so we’ll see if his assessment of who our top bloggers are matches that of the panel!
  • Lessons from Bromley, 4pm Monday, Chestnut, Quality Hotel. Shaun Roberts, the agent in Bromley & Chislehurst, imparts the lessons from the by-election – I imagine “too many people turned up to help too late” will be in there somewhere.
  • What next: squeezed again?, 1pm Monday, Oxford Room, Hilton Hotel. Simon Hoggart asks whether he’ll be able to squeeze any more magazine publishers now he’s given up presenting the News Quiz.
  • The Liberal Revue (anyone got the day and time of this?). Will certainly include a tribute to the late Harriet Smith, who made a huge impact on so many in the party, and whose absence from conference will be sorely felt.
  • Confronting Cameron: how to tackle the new look Tories, 6.30pm Tuesday, Hall 4, Hilton Hotel. Andrew Rawnsley goes all “Paxman” on “leading members of the Liberal Democrat party” in the annual Observer interview. “Leading members of the Liberal Democrat party” being code for “we forgot to book the guests before the programme went to print.”

So those are my five. What are yours? Will I be roasted alive for not listing the Glee club? Every year I pretend I’m too cool to go, but always slink in for the last 20 minutes when the crowd, stage, pianist, everyone has had just a little bit too much… yep, drink.

See you at conference. Cheers! (hic!)

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  • I think there’s more a risk that we have conference debates whilst hungover, which explains some of the occasional tetchiness / bloody-mindedness ;o)

  • Do you know what? I’m going to rewrite the line to which you allude. I can see it popping up in an opposition leaflet somewhere. And there’s nothing like doing a Hartlepool to get a new web site off to a bad start… 😉

  • Rob Fenwick 11th Sep '06 - 5:22pm

    “Chaired by Lord Roberts of Llandudno” – that has to be a hoot, he’s my hero 🙂

  • Alex- yes, Gareth confirmed earlier that the Revue will be a part of the Glee Club, which seems a bit of a shame. I’ll update the post properly tomorrow…

  • Stephen Glenn 12th Sep '06 - 4:46pm

    I’m just glad they don’t breathalyse us before we reach the platform to speak in debates. I’m sure there have been a number of early morning debates. Why do they always seem to be about by areas of expertise when I would not have been in a fit state to drive a car but was ok in a televised debate.

  • To confirm: the Glee Club will feature an appearance by the Liberal Revue team.

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