Opinion: I always love Conference

Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

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I always love conference, in fact I love all three Party conferences. Because inspite of the fact that I am most comfortable with my LibDem tribe I am on the whole comfortable with people with a genuine interest in politics. Let’s face it all of us are such a small proportion of the population.

As I walked through Liverpool in the evening I strongly suspect that those girls dressed up to the nines, well kind of in nothing actually, had no idea they were hosting a party of Government in their hometown.

That is what is so great about conference, we are all in our own warm cosy bubble – where politics matters. We can have really intense discussions, too often ‘til the early hours. We often don’t get to see any news bulletins until our return. At which point we are normally horrified to discover that the media went to another conference altogether.

This time it was different, the endless searches for angry people bore little fruit. The conference had a deeply familiar friendly feel. Nothing like the slightly over pompous grandeur I remember at Labour’s conference in ’97. On the whole the coverage was fair. I thought it was nicely captured by Decca Aitkenhead in the Guardian describing the Party as “pragmatic, patient and optimistic”, with “a striking absence of political ego”.

Ironically as someone in PR I felt that some of the Ministers over obsessed with the media. They are in Government now and in my view should grow a thicker skin and just get on with it, and leave the media analysis to people like me. Easier said than done I appreciate but still.

Scenes that I thoroughly enjoyed were seeing the Special Advisers up late chatting with and enjoying talking to Party members. We do all tend to still know each other. For instance Jonny Oates, Clegg’s Chief of Staff has greater activist credentials than many in the Party. This Party is under his skin, not just his day job.

It was striking watching fringe meetings where ministers are obviously thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to get something done. There are some who are clearly not and that was deeply disappointing.

Coalition is the consequence of pluralism. Andrew Sparrow nicely summed it up admitting that we as a party got it, unlike the media. David Rendel who voted against the coalition put it well “we are in it now and have to make it work”. I think that sums up the approach of those who were most worried.

Finally there was a marvelous cringe making blog by Alex Barker from the FT, listing all LibDem disasters at conferences past. The funniest of which is someone once saying the eyes of the world were upon us in 1958. Well now they are. Great isn’t it.

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