What’s your favourite thing about Liberal Democrat Conference?

In just over 9 weeks’ time, thousands of Lib Dems will be packing up and heading to Brighton for four days of serious debate, fun and thought-provoking fringe meetings.

This Saturday, Federal Conference Committee will have a very loooooong meeting to decide how they will fill up four days by the sea.

We’ve had a couple of posts about some of the motions submitted by members. Only a small fraction will make it on to the agenda. If you want to make a pitch for yours, there’s still time – just send 300-500 words on it to Liberal Democrat Voice.

We know some of the agenda items – obviously Vince’s speech and Q and A. We know that there will be policy papers coming forward on immigration, which will cause some lively debate, and tuition fees, which, of course won’t be controversial at all and power for people and communities, which should be incredibly radical but I worry might be a bit Motherhood and Apple Pie.

I am determined that for this Conference, I will be fully prepared. I will have read all the papers, written all my speeches and done all my preparation well in advance of setting off.

You should be aware, dear reader, that I have been saying that about Conference for decades and have never actually managed to pull it off. I’m an optimist, though. So long as anyone doesn’t call an election or anything….

One of the barriers that will stand in my way is the fact that Scottish Conference will be taking place, unusually, the week before Federal Conference. We’ll be meeting in Dunfermline on Saturday 8th September. We hope to have something to celebrate. There’s a Council by-election taking place in Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay on Thursday 6th, so if you happen to be in the area at any time in the next few weeks, let me know and I’ll make sure you have some beautiful coastal walks to take with some leaflets.

For me, Conference is the most fun you can have as a Liberal Democrat. Ok, so maybe winning elections comes close, but those few days by the seaside are so good for the liberal soul. I love the fact that we can have a passionate debate about a contentious issue and then go to the pub afterwards. I love the variety of the fringe where there are always at least three things you want to go to in any given time slot. I love being with my Lib Dem family – particularly as it has been expanding in the last few years. It’s refreshing and restorative to be around people who share goals, values and ambitions. And I love the bonkers last night of Conference Glee Club.

I’ll be honest, Brighton isn’t my favourite venue. I was going to say that the Blackbird Tea Rooms had started to make my resistance crumble, but it seems to have disappeared off the internet. I’ll need to find somewhere to replace it.

Conference can be an expensive business, although there are ways to reduce the cost. One of them is to apply to the Conference Access Fund  which can help with the costs.

If you’ve never been to Conference before, why not give it a try? You can register here.

If you wanted to persuade someone to give Conference a go, what would you say? What is your favourite thing about it?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Best thing about conference is the people.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Jul '18 - 4:10pm

    Meeting old friends and making new ones

  • Martin Land 12th Jul '18 - 6:03pm

    Best thing? Not going. A record I’ve kept up since 1976.

  • Jenny and Mick are both right – and constitute two Conference attractions for starters!

  • John Marriott 12th Jul '18 - 9:18pm

    I’m afraid I agree with Martin Land. I’ve only attended one national Lib Dem conference and that was at Brighton in 1996 (?) the year before I stood for Parliament. The highlight? I managed to get a photo of myself with Paddy Ashdown (it’s still on my ‘office aka bedroom wall), which was useful in my electionaddress. God, we both look SO YOUNG!

    I also nearly got on Newsnight with Richard Denton White (?). He and I had spoken at a fringe meeting or something and must have impressed the BBC’s Mark Mardell, who filmed a series of interviews, only to have the whole thing scrapped as something more important turned up that night.

    Otherwise, the only things I remember were the endless buffet sandwiches and, as a PPC, waiting to be interviewed. What a waste of three (or was it four?) days of my life, I thought. I did manage to drive down the coast to Durrington to see my aunt, whom I hadn’t seen for nearly twenty years, which turned out to be our last meeting.

    Now, I know that for many party members the conference is their ‘raison d ‘être’; but it never was for me. The febrile atmosphere at many conferences (and I’ve attended a few for various organisations over the years) often produces decisions which, in the cold light of day, turn out to be either unworkable, misguided or just plain daft. However, I’m sure that you conference junkies will have a great time. Enjoy!

  • Richard Fagence 13th Jul '18 - 11:21am

    I’ve been to every Autumn conference since 1997 and most of the Spring conferences, too. I’m now debating whether or not to register this year, not least because of the ever-increasing costs. Brighton is one of the most expensive towns in the country – even more so than Bournemouth – and this will be the second time in three years. Even using my own car as transport, I estimate four nights will cost in excess of £600 once registration, food and refreshments are included. A week in Italy, Spain or Greece would be cheaper. It’s a lot to find on a pension. What happened to the scheme we used to have where, if you registered in advance, you got a discount on fees?

  • Daniel Walker 13th Jul '18 - 12:36pm

    @Richard Fagence “What happened to the scheme we used to have where, if you registered in advance, you got a discount on fees?

    That still happens, but it ended at midnight on June 8th.

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