Lib Dem Coalition IRL

Since the election it has seemed to me that the Liberal Democrats have been somewhat flagging. The exhaustion of the general election and Clegg Mania, the immediate return of Labour Squeeze in mainstream media and the relentless coalition debate have collectively reduced the Lib Dem enthusiasts.

However, there is nothing like a good Conference to cheer us all up.

This was the first conference I attended alone, but with much awaited enthusiasm due to growing Twitter feeds and Facebook friends.

The conference alone is a daunting and tremendous undertaking to the uninitiated. You are catapulted into fleeting and incredibly intimate friendships with people you may never contact again. Collecting business cards, advising, persuading, debating and challenging on every level.

Flipping from policy motion to speech, from fringe to training, it is a whirlwind of faces you may or may not recognise from those squares of modernity who tweet or chat or debate with alarming ease.

I reeled from training to debate within the furious pace, one moment discussing Pensions with Ministers and the next reforming the House of Lords with diagrams in the Jury’s Inn.

The ultimate highlight for me was the combination of generations of Liberal Democrats with the most amazing and inspiring stories to tell.

One Lib Dem Youth member explained how he had identified where he stood with social and government issues, and it was not Labour or Conservative. And then, as he began to uncover Lib Dem policy, he began to find like-minded people who he not only agreed with, but began to campaign with.

A councillor in my hostel assisted me in early morning debates with the hostel staff to encourage them to vote, full stop, and then to vote for AV. We shared taxis in, bleary eyed, to make our voices known on policy motions, then returned in the evenings to catch up on Twitter, ward member emails and more persuasion tactics on Hostel Staff!

Following a fringe on Girl Guides, a digressive argument on choice in childbirth and Maslow’s basic needs scale ensued in the lady’s bathroom, resulting in us missing the entire next training session and speech.

An older man told me about his genuine dedication to the party, his years of volunteering to deliver a million focus leaflets with one thing in common: Liberalism and Democracy. He related experiences of changing times, from David Steel to Nick Clegg and how he had fared in different constituencies with different techniques.

I sat with one woman for Nick’s rally at the start of the conference and persuaded her to stand as councillor, and at the end we shared coffee while she filled out PPC application forms.

A slightly inebriated teenager informed me in my hostel about his inspiration since Clegg Mania and how he was volunteering as a conference rep and had not yet met a bad person.

The collective force of like-minded people with enthusiasm and passion for policy, democracy and debate is indeed one to be reckoned with. Whether we are flowing freely amongst police officers and airport scanners, or singing exuberantly, if badly, in our own Glee Club.

But to be revitalised by five days of debate is not enough. We are a party of enthusiasts who have been blunted by the last few months. Yet with Clegg’s enthusiasm, Cable’s impassioned challenge to the business sector or Huhne’s dedication to policy implementation within the coalition, we must seek to plan and push forward as a party and not be obliterated by media.

A million stories provide the very foundations of Liberal Democrat campaigning. The collecting these stories is not enough. We have to motivate and encourage the storytellers to continue telling their stories and assist, advise and encourage others.

Ultimately, I want to try and maintain “IRL”* contact with those I met a conference and develop further “IRL” links that help us circulate and perpetuate the good and learn from the bad.

*IRL = In Real Life

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Indeed. Didn’t meet a person I didn’t like at conference, a great social as well as political event.

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