Welcome to my day: 20 March 2023 – how was it for you?

Train journeys back from Conference tend to offer a chance to reflect on the events of the past few days, especially for someone who likes to travel in a bubble of isolation (nothing personal, fellow Liberal Democrats, but sometimes I just like to be alone). And this Conference has been no different.

Was their journey really necessary?

Sadly, the culture wars that have poisoned our national body politic have come to the Liberal Democrats and, unlike our more authoritarian opposite numbers, we’re curiously more vulnerable in some ways. Many of us find confrontation enervating rather than enjoyable, and we have a tendency to wish away conflict rather than address it head-on. And I do get that – we’re (mostly) nice people who want to be welcoming. And that means that not so lovely people can get quite far into the Party’s core before anyone necessarily notices.

However, at some point, unless you draw lines in the sand in terms of behaviour and values, you find that what you had is gone forever, and that the liberal party you thought you were part of is no more. And it does happen, for example in Hungary, where it is now hard to believe we were once a sister party to FIDESZ, the conservative nationalist party which forms the most unpleasant administration in the European Union.

It is at times like this, therefore, that those who believe in the liberal values of tolerance and mutual respect have to step up as Conference did on Saturday.

The Leader speaks…

I’m not always an enthusiast for Leaders’ speeches – I’m never sure whether or not I’m the target audience and in truth, whether or not I should be. But I found Ed Davey’s speech to be heartfelt and sincere, and whilst it wasn’t a barnstormer, the content was that of a human in politics rather than a politician “talking human”.

The reference to our future relationship with our European neighbours got a lot of us out of our chairs, especially as Labour have increasingly soft-pedalled what they might actually do to move things forward. Whilst I acknowledge concerns that we haven’t been much better recently, we’ll have to see if his words are manifested in a more overtly pro-European Party message going forward. If the British public are beginning to lean heavily towards, if not rejoin then a much more collaborative arrangement, we should be taking a campaigning stance that accords with our internationalist values.

A pair of random reflections

I attended the International Security Working Group’s consultative session and n Friday afternoon, and found it to be a reassuring event. The direction of travel may not be entirely to the liking of some of our activists, and the fact that food security is being addressed by a different working group means that it may feel a bit incomplete, but it does feel joined up and coherent. We’ll see what it looks like when the final document comes before Conference in September.

But, my final thought is to reflect upon the importance of relationships in politics, something that the Internet can’t entirely replicate. It was nice to catch up with people that I hadn’t seen for too long, to have those casual yet valuable conversations that lead to opportunities to learn, to help or support, that don’t necessarily happen on Teams or Zoom. It is, I guess, the human connection that buttresses our innate liberalism…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice. He finds it curious that so many of you are so much taller in real life…

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Was very good to see you <3

  • Ruth Bright 20th Mar '23 - 9:34am

    Great piece Mark. It is possible, as you have shown here, to have absolute Liberal clarity on the Conference issue of the hour without the horrible “collectivization of the kulaks” tone that is appearing elsewhere.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Mar '23 - 12:27pm

    I communicate in various forms with my Lib Dem friends often every day. But nothing compares to actually being with you all in person. I managed only a tiny bit of Conference but loved it! There really is nothing like it.

  • Martin Eggleston 21st Mar '23 - 8:02am

    “not so lovely people can get quite far into the Party’s core before anyone necessarily notices.”

    Absolutely! Hear hear

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Mick Taylor
    @PeterMartin. Uncritical support of the EU??? Not at all. Liberals all over the EU are very critical of the EU and want to make a lot of changes. I'm sure they'...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Peter Martin: No-one was saying that at all, except maybe @Adam who is relying on BtL comments on news articles which cannot be taken as representative of anyt...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Chris, Adam and David, So can we all agree (except perhaps Alex ) that being in favour of the EU does require uncritical support? This is a big problem...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Adam: I rarely read BtL comments in newspaper articles as they tend not to be representative of public opinion. All I can say is that such opinions as you have...
  • Adam
    "Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it’s scarcely surprising t...