From selfies with Clegg to the Glee Club stage – my first Liberal Democrat conference

I am currently in my first year at the University of Leeds, studying Politics and Parliamentary Studies. I officially became a party member in November 2016, but I have always been a Liberal Democrat at heart!

Last weekend was my first time at a party conference and I can honestly say it was one of the best weekends of my life. I did not really know what to expect, but I certainly did not expect to get to meet Nick Clegg on the first day! This was a pretty momentous occasion for me as you could call Nick my ‘Lib Dem hero’ given that he was the main reason I first became interested in the party.

My experience of conference undoubtedly proves that I joined the right party. What other party would have the unique event that is Glee Club? Slightly bizarre at first, but after a couple of G&T’s my (not so) secret love for karaoke shone through. Anyone who witnessed my attempted parody of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse can vouch for this (along with the fact that I am a terrible singer). 

But what really made my time at Conference so enjoyable was my fellow party members who were all so welcoming. The weekend was marked by a friendly atmosphere, a strong sense of unity, solidarity and, despite Brexit, a positive and pro-active attitude towards the future. You can’t imagine the Tory or Labour conferences being as friendly or united.

Furthermore, being able to vote on policy motions was really engaging and made me feel like my opinions mattered. This is especially important at a time when democracy is under threat from nationalism and many people’s voices are being ignored by the government. Although there are sometimes disagreements over policy motions, it is our shared liberal values of tolerance and patriotism that unites us and make me proud to say that I am a Liberal Democrat.

I cannot wait till the Autumn party conference in Bournemouth and, as it is a longer conference, I hope to take part in some training sessions, which I was sadly not able to do this conference due to clashes.

Tim Farron’s final speech had me in tears in the end and was the highlight of a hugely inspiring weekend. I promise the tears were not just a result of having only had 3 hours sleep the night before, but because I have finally found a party that I wholeheartedly support and gives me hope for a better future. Hence, my renewed determination to get involved in the party and help in whatever way I can, starting with the Manchester Gorton by- election!

* Rebecca Yates is a new member of the Liberal Democrats and is studying Politics and Parliamentary Studies in Leeds

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16 Comments

  • Oh that was YOU! I thought the photo looked familiar! As the Glee Club host who wrote that Amy Winehouse parody, and a fellow yorkshire Lib Dem, if you want to do a bit of rehearsal before autumn so we don’t cock the verses up so badly next time I’m up for that 🙂 Rehearsal is usually anathema to Glee, but in this case I think it’s warranted. I’m @miss_s_b on twitter, that’s probably the best way to hit me up 🙂

    So, so glad you enjoyed your first conference.

    And actually, as a general point, I have been very impressed by the newbies in general. In just over a year we’ve doubled membership, and (like some others) I was worried that many of them had joined what they thought was a Soggy Centrist But Fond of Europe Party. The number of newly minted Proper Liberals I met at the weekend was exhilarating 🙂

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Mar '17 - 1:19pm

    Rebecca

    The piece you have just written is abut as delightful and positive as it gets !

    Welcome to our party ! Not that you need it as a now seasoned veteran of the conference circuit !

    If you regularly contribute thus, every so often, and not least obviously on this site, naysayers shall antagonise you accidently on purpose and some, regarding your views and their extolling of the virtues of one ex Depty PM ! Ignore them! Despite his mistakes, and they were definite, he is a Liberal Democrat of quality and conviction.

    We need more intellectually moderate and emotionally intelligent people in our party .

    You are one of the very ones I mean and I am glad you are with us !

  • Andy Coleby 23rd Mar '17 - 7:51am

    What a wonderful piece,Rebecca.
    I have been a Liberal/Liberal Democrat supporter since I was 15 when I learnt about the 1906-1908 Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman in history lessons. He was perhaps the greatest Liberal ever.
    I first joined the party when I was 18 in 1974.I realised that the authoritarian Tory and Labour parties were truly dire back then.Somehow they have got worse since!!
    The country is now divided into pro and anti European not Tory and Labour.
    I am as proud to be British as anyone living,but just as proud to be European.

  • All I can say is welcome to the Lib Dem family. Glad you enjoyed Conference and I hope it inspires you onto other things within the Party.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '17 - 2:32pm

    Andy

    I share the birthday of Sir Henry and often share his virtues in writing or any media or discussion, how marvellous to read your comments !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Mar '17 - 2:35pm

    P.S.

    One and all, do share greater knowledge of the man who led the Liberals to victory in 1906 and was therefore , as a result of the election , the most successful of all Liberals , as well as a wonderful man ! Hooray Henry!!

  • @ Lorenzo, You might be interested to know I’ve got a C.B. autographed letter (and two copies of Spender’s biography of him) – a £ 1 million donation to party funds guarantees a sale !!!!

    You might know CB – apart from opposing methods of barbarism – wanted Home Rule in Scotland as well as in Wales & Ireland CB. He also thought London society was bad for Radical politics. I agree with that.

    He also had a talking pet parrot for over forty years….. I don’t know whether it sang happy birthday or was called Lorenz..

  • Andy Coleby 23rd Mar '17 - 5:20pm

    Regarding Sir Henry Campbell,
    I urge all Liberals to get hold of a copy of the 1973 biography “CB” by John Wilson.
    For years it was a Liberal bible for me.
    If only he had lived 10 more years he may well have prevented the disastrous Liberal Party split.
    Asquith (PM 1908-1916)was a flawed, but great man.Alas he was up against the devious and self obsessed Lloyd George.
    Lloyd George destroyed the Liberal Party.
    Like Roy Jenkins I have total hatred for him.

  • I do not know how we have got from Rebecca’s very pleasing article (congrats to her) to a discussion of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, but Andy Coleby is quite right to draw attention to the merits of John Wilson’s biography of him, which all good Liberal Democrats should read. It was a big disappointment that when John Wilson inherited his father’s title and got to the House of Lords as 2nd Baron Moran (he is now dead), he turned out to be a rather right-wing cross bencher and not a Liberal or Liberal Democrat.

  • Rebecca – Welcome home.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Mar '17 - 12:43am

    David
    Lovely comments, if I was a rich man I think I would admit any Marilyn Monroe items, herself in American parlance , a Liberal, Democrat, would beat CB in the bidding !

    My interpretation is CB was in favour , like Gladstone, of home rule , but not the break up in any sense , of the UK, ie for more or less what we call devomax !

    Andy

    I think David above has a very interestingly anti Loyd George view .

    Asquith was a good politician and Liberal, but only this side of Loyd George in the , for want of an appropriate word, shall we say, of the libertine tendency !

  • Andy Coleby 24th Mar '17 - 6:44am

    I am quite aware of what the rampant Lloyd George known as “The Goat” back then and Mr Asquith got up to in their private lives.
    I dearly wish Lloyd George had become a full time libertine and left the politics to Mr Asquith.
    About 15 years ago I visited Mr Asquith’s grave at Sutton Courtenay near Oxford (where George Orwell is also interred).
    I then sat in the church and was told I was sitting where Mr Asquith sat when he worshipped there.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Mar '17 - 12:24am

    Dear Rebecca, As I was a Politics student and Union of Liberal Students member at Leeds University in 1966 I read your article with delight, and am happy to tell you that the flag has been worth continuing to fly these 50 years! Haven’t been to quite all those conferences, but am enjoying the last ones as much as the first. Welcome aboard, and surely our democratic party with the excellent double act of leaders Tim Farron and Nick Clegg will continue to inspire you as much as Sir Henry C-B did our predecessors long ago.

  • I perhaps was over zealous in saying I felt total hatred for Lloyd George.
    Utter contempt for his self righteous posturing and arrogance is a better way to describe my feelings.
    In the 1930’s he met and admired Hitler and was a notorious appeaser – this shows that he was not even a Liberal.
    While Churchill was warning of the Nazi threat, Lloyd George was lapping it up.
    So he helped Britain win the First World War.Sorry not impressed.
    A million allied military personnel died helping him.

  • Ruth Bright 25th Mar '17 - 8:33pm

    Anyone who sings “Rehab” at their first Glee Club has got to have star quality.

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