Libby Local, Episode 13: “Brighton Secrets”

My arrival at Brighton was a something of a financial shock. A huge £3.90 for a coffee in the Metropole. You can buy a coffee and a pint of beer for less than four pounds in Demsbury. A good slug of Pinot Grigio is only a few pence more!

The Liberal Democrat Spring Conference was not at all as I expected. I’m an avid conference goer in my professional life, but this conference proved totally different. Okay. I have never encountered so many bad taste yellow ties before. But what struck me most was the diverse group of people, disabled, young, even plentiful women! One day maybe Libbyshire Council will be like that.

I was so struck in the consultative sessions by how carefully the panels listened. How they went through motions step by step. Contributions from the floor weren’t just listened to, they were discussed. It was about issues, not personality. If only that happened in Libbyshire meetings where people just tend to bandy rhetoric and throw insults.

At the rally, Nick Clegg addressed the Rennard issues head on. Fortunately, these have been forgotten about on the campaign trail back home, as has the scandal over Huhne. I didn’t get to shake hands with Nick or Tim Farron at the freshers’ reception. If I had, I would have pleaded for them to keep the national scene quiet for a while so that it doesn’t get in the way of us winning locally.

Both men came across as charming, funny, relevant and human. The wine at the reception was free and quite quaffable. But I so busy meeting people that I didn’t even notice whether or not it was Pinot Grigio!

The conference was quite hard work, particularly as I carried the vote for Demsbury. It was a huge learning curve, but so worth attending.

I felt so good about the people I had met. I felt warmed by their spirit and friendship. I was impressed by the way that MPs and party leaders listened. Having originally planned to stand for Libbyshire Council as an independent, I was now so very glad I had joined the Lib Dems.

That at least was my feeling as I grabbed a quick breakfast on the Sunday morning. A few hours later I left the Metropole in a conflicted state. I was dazed, even angry.

The secret courts session had left me with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was the friendship, the collegiate discussion, and the willingness to listen I had experienced the day before nothing other than a mirage? How can a part survive when its Leader and its MPs betray the basic principles of liberalism? Being in coalition might mean compromises, but surely it does have to mean that fundamental principles are abandoned?

I got back to Demsbury trying to rediscover the elation I had found about the Liberal Democrats as a party at the beginning of weekend. It’s proving pretty hard to do.

But I doubt that the secret courts issue will ever be mentioned on the streets of Demsbury. It’s back to campaigning on local issues. Election day is getting too close for comfort.

* Libby Local is based on real events. Details have been changed to protect the innocent and disguise the guilty. Libby’s passion and determination, along with her angst and frustration, are set to be a regular feature of Lib Dem Voice as the May 2013 elections approach. You can catch up with all Libby Local's episodes to date by clicking here.

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This entry was posted in Local government and Op-eds.
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6 Comments

  • jennie Coggles 18th Mar '13 - 9:12am

    Coffee for £3.90 at the Metropole?… I wanna be where you we’re. They we’re charging us £4.20 a cup

  • To be fair, as a Brighton resident I can assure you that you can buy things like that a lot cheaper elewhere and still get decent quality and a reasonable deal………

  • Peter Chivall 18th Mar '13 - 9:30pm

    Having undertaken the booking of both Green LibeDem fringes with the Hilton Metropole (including ‘refreshments’) and self-catering accommodation for some of the Green LibDems Executive with a local Holiday Homes company I know how expensive Brighton is for representatives and Associated Organisations alike. It may be some comfort that I’ve just spent a weekend in Glasgow on family business and checked out the self-catering accomodation scene there. I seems that for a superior standard of accommodation Glasgow charges approximately half what Brighton did. I don’t yet know what the SECC (the ‘Armadillo’) will charge for coffee.
    As for the Hilton Metropole, as representatives we all got a very cheap deal on our Registration, but costs to Associated Organisations running fringes were much higher than at Gateshead a year before and the catering outlets took full advantage of their monopoly situation. £4 for a very ordinary sandwich served in a plastic/paper wrapper is profiteering pure and simple.
    To add insult to injury, our Treasurer reported over the weekend to me (as GLD Conference Coordinator) that the Hilton Metropole had made an unauthorised withdrawal from her personal account for wine etc. which at one meeting arrived nearly 1/2hour late (and only after we had complained) and at the other was not according to our written order. They had overcharged us by over £50 on the agreed price for both meetings! Shoddy, slovenly and downright dishonest. Even if they offered me a free room I would never enter their shabby doors again.

  • personally, I think we need to rethink the party approach to its internal democracy. conference is ideal for folk with time on their hands, or who are zealous enough to prioritise going – nice for them of course, but, representative?
    we are in the digital age!

  • PINOT GRIGIO PINOT GRIOGIO PINOT GRIGIO

    There we go, I just wrote the next million posts of ‘Libby Local.’

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