So how was it for you?

Well fellow Lib Dems, Bloggers and Tweeps… what did you make of conference then? Having been granted the honour of being “Guest Editor” (quaking in me boots it has to be said!) I thought, given the timing, it may be an opportunity to reflect on the last week in Liverpool.

What I want to do is to try and get a feel from members across the spectrum of our party, has conference left them feeling uplifted, confused, motivated, anxious, hopeful, proud?
I hope what follows today, especially for those of you who weren’t there, will give you a bit of an insight – will balance the views of the so called expert analysts Nick Robinson, Adam Boulton et al, will begin to give us a hint as to where we are headed – will the troops compliantly follow the Cleggy colours over the hill to victory or to defeat? Or is there a mutiny brewing amongst the NCOs?

So, I hope you will agree we have some interesting contributions – but please add yours too! If you were there, did you start off apprehensive and leave ecstatic? Did you share the mood of euphoria or were you harbouring anxieties about the future of the party and the country?

And if you weren’t there – what did it look like from outside? The Lib Dems, confident, competent, ready to govern, standing up for what they believed in or did it feel like Tory lite? Were you able to get a handle on what distinguished us from our coalition partners?

I have to say that for me conference was a cornucopia or maybe Smörgåsbord of emotions. There were times when I felt really hopeful, yes we are making a difference, yes the undoubted policy vacuums give us a wonderful opportunity to fill the void with Lib Dem policies. And then there were the real lows – hearing Oliver Letwin talk a load of Tory twaddle (I have to confess the word rubbish somehow left my lips without my consent at one point) and then telling us how he and Danny Alexander were like peas in a pod.

Of course I am delighted that this is clearly a more liberal government – that our civil liberties are being restored to us, that we are going to be able to play a part in ensuring a more enlightened approach to the justice system. But I am extremely anxious about the cuts.

What I sensed at conference was an eclectic mix of euphoria tinged with a slightly suppressed disquiet. Nick was our hero – but could we really swallow all the so called “essential cuts”. There was a real sense of anger about Academies and Free Schools but a contrary sense of hope in the Trident debate – could this be just what Nick Harvey needed to strengthen his arm? The excellent Social Liberal Forum motion – Ensuring Fairness in an Age of Austerity generated an important debate, drawing a line in the sand, demonstrating that despite the coalition and the coalition agreement, the heart of our party is truly progressive and we will not stand by and condone cuts that unfairly discriminate against the most vulnerable in our society. The test will be how many of our ministers in general and Danny Alexander in particular, will not only take this policy on board but will argue for it in government.

The loss of the Diversity motion was a personal blow, having had two non members comment on how white our party was during conference, I find it extraordinary that our liberal party is so conservative when it comes to trying to address this issue. The logical conclusion of the meritocracy argument is that women and BME communities must be inferior because otherwise they would be proportionally represented in parliament. Until we recognise just how deep rooted and subliminal our prejudices are, we will never have the equality we as a party claim to espouse.

What follows today I trust will capture the breadth of views and reflect many of the issues raised at and by conference – enjoy – and if not? It’s #Jacksfault!

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  • “What I want to do is to try and get a feel from members across the spectrum of our party, has conference left them feeling uplifted, confused, motivated, anxious, hopeful, proud?”

    There should be a full stop after “our party”, and “has conference…” should be the start of a new sentence.

    “but could we really swallow all the so called “essential cuts”.”

    That sentence should end in a question mark.

    Sorry to be nitpicking – but bad grammar really annoys me and makes me wonder if you’ve put much thought into what you write.

  • Being in Opposition is so much easier than being in Government isn’t it ? I can almost t hear your anguish that our Party is helping to take responsibility for dealing with the desperate financial position the Coalition faces. So much better to be a protest party …

  • Motivated, in a word. Conference was great and I’m fired up and ready to get stuck in. I spent most of my time there in training courses which, it has to be said, were superb. Far better than training I’ve received in industry. The mood at conference seemed to be determined more than anything. Delegates warned the leadership that they’re not entirely happy with some of the compromises of coalition but seemed happy enough to get on with it. In return, the leaders pointed out what we’d achieved so far in coalition, what we’re aiming to do in the next few years and where we’re headed to next. There was little mood of celebration merely at being on the government benches of Westminster. Achievements in office were what speakers played on – and rightly, I have to agree. I’m very much looking forward to the next one.

  • Actually I thought it was rather dull. There was little debate in the Policy motions which were mostly motherhood stuff that everyone could agree with. Unfortunately if you look at the radical stuff the Coalition Government is doing it all comes from the Tories whether you agree or not with things like free schools and welfare reform they are at least trying to come up with new ways of solving intractable problems.
    Most of our contribution has been about undoing some of Labour’s atttacks on civil liberties ( good) and making the cuts more fair.
    I saw no signs at the Conference that we are willing to think in new ways or be truly radical.
    And we did not ‘lose’ the Diversity motion. We lost the bits that would have committed us to (illegal) discrimination against white people.

  • Jon Aston
    So here am I worried sick about my job, my teenagers prospects and care provision for my disabled sons looking for a bit of shame or repentance for your partys proping up of this brutal regime what do I find.You winging about grammer and spelling if the rest of your party have their finger on the pulce of the nation like you they deserve nothing but the contempt most who voted for you now have.
    Some message boards forbid criticsm of speling grammer on the reasonable and compassionate grounds that it is no measure of value or intelect except to the petty and snobbish.

  • Ps remember dislexics and the sloppily educated are not automaticly stupid and have the vote.

  • Hi, Linda.

    In answer to your questions there are a number of things that stick in my mind about this conference.

    Firstly, the marquee, metal detectors and X-ray scanning offended my liberal principles; so did the confiscating by said security of journalist’s equipment and searching of disabled people just for having metal inside them or walking aids.

    Some other things stick in my mind.

    My wife has hearing problems (so do I), as well as English being her second language however there were some issues regarding her recent candidate selection that were best brought up with Women Liberal Democrats; however being a “women only” meeting; we were both asked to leave.

    Protests were banned outside and those people handing out leaflets threatened with arrest if they moved and became a moving protest.

    I agree with you the diversity motion should’ve passed, plus my view is the Chair should’ve reminded delegates to stand if they wanted a counted vote. However I later heard that this was rushed; in order to get Vince’s speech on the news.

    Getting diversity right within our party would’ve had far better long term impacts for us at the ballot box than something that most members of the public will have forgotten by next week (although his speech was very good!).

    Clearly as was stated at the conference; the press coverage didn’t reflect the conference; it concentrated too much on Labour/union spokespeople and others and very little of Lib Dem members.

    All in all, compared to the Liverpool 2008 Spring conference (at the same venue); I found it a very strange affair.

    Yes, there were more people; there were many more security people, exhibitors, observers etc; however conference still seemed to be just geared towards set-piece speeches by politicians for the BBC news.

    On the last day of conference, the delegate next to me pointed out that all the people Lorely had called to ask questions of the Lib Dem Ministers were female (although I realise the male Chair of the Federal Conference Committee declined to ask his question).

    Certainly the conference gave me an insight into how cliquey the party has become; with Chairs of sessions having too much control over selecting who speaks (rather than a more fair and random lottery).

    However I will finish with stating that I have serious qualms at the lack of leadership and vision in some areas of the party; but I’m impressed with it in others.

  • @john Brace
    You are completely right. Security checks are totally illiberal, and should have no place at a Lib Dem Conference.
    We should take our chances with terrorism. would you apply the same principle to air travel?

    You are clearly someone who will complain about anything.

  • Watching from the outside I thought we looked serious & determined. I was happily surprised at the level of self-confidence.
    PS Im fairly literate 7 didnt notice anything wrong with the article.

  • @SMcG

    “You are completely right. Security checks are totally illiberal, and should have no place at a Lib Dem Conference.
    We should take our chances with terrorism. would you apply the same principle to air travel?

    You are clearly someone who will complain about anything.”

    I’ve seen less security checks on entering the military bases in this country. Was spending £1.6 million on police at a time when we wring our hands over budget cutbacks worth it?

    Do we want police time to be spent stop-searching foreigners for “speaking a foreign language”, persecuting the disabled and damaging our international reputation?

    Air travel is different; although I will give an example.

    You can get from the UK to Ireland by air or sea without showing a passport. Travelling by sea there are often no searches or scans of hand luggage whatsover. At a previous Lib Dem conference the police were asked to rate it at a security threat level from 1-10; they rated it a zero. The argument given was we were in government, however we were in government at the time of the Birmingham conference. Can you actually explain the nature of a threat against the Lib Dem conference; other than delegates getting their feet trodden on by Nick Clegg’s security entourage when they go to shake his hand?

    Yes, in the proudest traditions of freedom of speech, I will complain. However you’ll find that a lot of politics is about complaining; then sorting things out.

    P.S. Was happy with the security checks at the Spring 2008 conference (same venue) as they were evenly applied, made sense and didn’t lead to long queues. How much profit did private companies like G4S make from the conference? What items did get confiscated?

    As it points out here – these illiberal measures (in a marquee constructed without the required planning permission), were agreed by the party.

    However when questioned the Chair of the Conference Committee said that issues such as banning protests etc were “operational matters” for the police.

    Maybe I do complain; but at least it highlights these issues.

    I have seen how other countries whisk people away on the streets, making them political prisoners and subjecting them to extraordinary rendition. I do not want this country to go down the lines of a police state; with the resultant loss of human rights.

  • Linda Jack,

    “The logical conclusion of the meritocracy argument is that women and BME communities must be inferior because otherwise they would be proportionally represented in parliament. ”

    Codswallop squared. It may be that the culture of politics is not particularly attractive to women, and that many members of ethnic minorities feel inhibited about stepping outside their own communities. It is also the case, as Mark Valladares has pointed out, that many of our MPs represent constituencies where very few ethnic minority members live. However, Montgomgery selected Lembit Opik, even though there are very few Estonians there, and Sheffield Hallam selected Nick Clegg, though people of Dutch and Ukrainian descent are thin on the ground there. Once we actually examine the facts, we see that the party has a pretty good record on diversity.

  • @Andrew Tennanf

    The answer is my own personal opinion; perhaps some could ask someone on the federal conference committee?

    I’ll try and answer that as best I can though; the fringe events were open to anyone, except in practice no-one without a pass could’ve got to the ones in the conference centre. For example I showed at least one Labour councillor the way to go to a fringe event at the Jury’s Inn. The training events were open to those with a conference pass or party members showing their membership card.

    The police presence covered the conference centre, Jury’s Inn and Hilton Hotel (as well as inbetween). However the main conference in the conference hall itself was televised (live) and therefore subject to more stringent security (police sniffer dogs checking the seats for anything suspicious before people went in etc).

    Any disruption to the conference here; would’ve been broadcast on TV; hence the ban on placards, banners, whistles, etc etc…

    In addition to the local police and special branch, there were some people there also that fall into the “diplomat” category with their own security, private companies providing security and the ACC security staff.

    I have the utmost respect for the police, but just feel they shouldn’t be shoved out of the way by private security firms that are merely in it to make money. It’s for similar reasons I’m against prisons being run by private companies; partly surrounding accountability and the profit motive. Police are subject to all sorts of laws, procedures and accountable to the politicians and community. Private companies are often using people less well trained.

    I agree with you it was an excellent conference and yes it did get quieter. At one point there were only about 20 conference delegates voting on constitutional amendments. As I live locally and travelled from home each day; I couldn’t really comment on security measures at places that party members were staying.

    I was also a little concerned at the large number of fire exits blocked during the conference in the ACC. It didn’t help getting from A to B when you realised the route you usually take is not allowed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Sep '10 - 12:14pm

    The logical conclusion of the meritocracy argument is that women and BME communities must be inferior because otherwise they would be proportionally represented in parliament.

    And the “logical” conclusion (if we use the same logic) of the fact that our last leadership contest was between two people who went to a posh public school, is that people who went to posh public schools are ever so much superior to the rest of us. Still, I guess it’s not as bad as the Labour party which now seems to be returning to the hereditary principle.

    Until we recognise just how deep rooted and subliminal our prejudices are, we will never have the equality we as a party claim to espouse.

    Cuts both ways, Linda, cuts both ways. Just maybe our deep and subliminal prejudices lead us to think far more of light-weights and their leadership abilities because they have the accents and demeanour and contacts that going to a posh public school gets you.

    This is one reason why I’m sceptical on rigging the system to favour BAME and female potential candidates. So often it just means rigging the system in favour of posh and pushy people who happen also to be BAME or female. And, sorry, but when some posh and pushy person denounces our party and threatens to storm off to another because we don’t instantly give that person a winnable PPC place merely on account s/he’s also female or BAME, I tend to think “here’s a posh and pushy person being pushy” rather than “oh dear, what discrimination s/he’s suffering”. Personally, I think bad-mouthing our party and threatening to storm off to another one is enough to indicate a person is totally unsuitable to be a PPC for it.

  • Grammar Police 24th Sep '10 - 1:23pm

    @ R Patey

    I’m sorry to disagree, but most of the people I’ve spoken to who voted for us are either happy with, or at least willing to give the benefit of the doubt to, the Coalition.

    There’s nothing liberal about leaving future generations to try to pick up the pieces of the economy – and spending money on interest payments is not ‘progressive’. These things are a judgment, and we’ll see what happens. The Lib Dem position was always that the timing of cuts was dependent on economic factors not dogma (and also, Labour planned 20% cuts over 8 years, compared with 25% over 5 years under the coalition).

    As for welfare reform – both my mother and sister are disabled (one through chronic illness). I welcome the promise to look again at welfare from first principles, to break the benefits trap.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 24th Sep '10 - 2:18pm

    “The Lib Dem position was always that the timing of cuts was dependent on economic factors not dogma …”

    So what? Whoever claimed otherwise?

    The point is that Nick Clegg told us right up until election day that it was obvious that those economic factors dictated delaying cuts – that to do otherwise would be “completely irrational” – and then within hours of the polls closing he completely reversed his position, eventually claiming he hadn’t actually believed in the policy he advocated during the campaign.

    It’s depressing that people defend such behaviour, but I suppose that’s party politics for you. “Nick is our hero,” indeed!

  • @John Brace what long queues? Most people seemed very pleasantly surprised b y how quick the security checks were. I probably went through 15- 20 times and the longest i waited was 5 minutes.

  • David Allen 24th Sep '10 - 6:03pm

    “What did it look like from outside”? Well, while everybody watched Nick speaking, the TV watched the audience watching. A lot of very pensive expressions. Vince’s revivalist finale then cheered everyone up. Whether that boost in confidence will survive the budget, I rather doubt!

  • Grammer police
    Bless your naieve charm social services in my borough are already slashing services in anticipation of boy George’s bonfire of the services.One of your fellow posters once told me to live in the real world perhaps you lot should spend a little less time conference navel gazing and whining about grammer and spend some time in the real world of fear and worry inhabited by working people.

  • @Linda Jack

    Have to say Linda, your opening question to Nick in the Q&A was my highlight. A crackle of excitement went through the room when you asked ‘can I still trust you with my party’? While Nick gave a satisfactory answer, I thought the question itself reassured conference that this was the same old Liberal Democrats, feisty and not-too-deferential to our leaders. Cheers.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    I think Nick’s conduct over cuts during and after the election is Nick’s big weak point. I think it a very fair conclusion that he did change his mind during the election, but he choose not to articulate that change of mind to the electorate. I can understand why he did, but its still deceptive, no matter how you look at it. And people have a right to feel hoodwinked. ‘Cause in a way, they where.

  • @ Grammar Police
    Sorrie 2 dis agreee wiv u butt thier is a hole lot of peeps. infact half of em ho voted 4 us siad thay wouldn’t ov dun so if thay new we would join the tories

    But I suppose it all depends on where you live, both you and r patey may well be correct in your experiences, r patey is also correct in that there is a great deal of worry out in the real world and that is something we should be addressing and not being pedantic those who really couldn’t care less about grammar but do care whether they or their family have a job next year


  • Lovley post Nige however you are deluded if you think your Tory chums will give a monkeys about adressing the concerns of the likes of me.You were told that whoever is in power will be out for a generation after implementing the cuts he and the Torys deem necssary.The Torys are using this as an opportunity to dismantle what little remains of the post war settlement and take us back to the 30s before they are punished. What your motivation in joining them in this vandelism only to be rewarded by oblivion is however escapes me.

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