When the Leader crashes Not the Leader’s Speech

In a tradition dating from the Coalition years, certain members of the Awkward Squad gather in a local hostelry as the Liberal Democrat Leader gives his keynote speech to Conference, watch the event on Twitter and determine the point at which they would have walked out had they been in the hall.

These days, the potential for walkout has significantly reduced, but no self-respecting Awkward Squad would ever say that it had ebbed away entirely. Leaders must be kept on their toes at all times, after all.

And so, yesterday, they gathered in the best real ale pub in the Bournemouth, the Goat and Tricycle, which had been the venue for my Golden Jubilee drinks on Friday night.

Being liberals, they don’t mind if those of us who love the occasion of The Speech turn up afterwards to discuss it and everything else in the entire universe afterwards.

What they don’t usually get is the leader turning up too. 

Daisy Cooper and Kelly-Marie Blundell had successfully put forward a motion calling for special measures to alleviate the effect of massive business rates rises on small businesses like pubs and had arranged for a photo-opp with Vince in, you guessed it, the best real ale pub in Bournemouth.

When the Awkward Squad found out about this, there was some good-humoured muttering about the leader not respecting their boundaries and how he could alleviate this by buying a round.

He didn’t do that. “Is this the boycott?” he asked with a smile as certain of the Awkward Squad appeared to take photos of the occasion.

It was all very friendly and fun.

One thing we did find out, though. Vince might ski in the alps, have a brain the size of Everest, brighten up the dance floor and understand every aspect of how the economy works but he can’t pull a pint to save his life. His effort was almost equal head and beer. I’m sure that if he asked nicely, it is a skill Jennie Rigg would be delighted to teach him.



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

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  • I dunno. It takes genuine genius to get a point with that much head on it from a southern-style sparkler-free pump. I think the entertainment value is better his way. I certainly laughed.

    Still say he should have got a round in, though.

  • Is it really a great idea to give publicity to this, even if with a humorous intention?

    Thankfully they are small in number (even if they shout a lot).

  • These days, the potential for walkout has significantly reduced.

    [Citation needed]


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Sep '17 - 4:53pm

    @TCO: The people who are in the Awkward Squad are some of the finest liberals I have ever come across in my life. They give a huge amount to this party and when they do make a fuss about stuff, they generally have good reason. Any leader needs this lot to keep them on their toes.

    And, actually, these little traditions are quite amusing and they help to make this party what it is. So, yes, I do think it’s worth writing about them.

  • James Brough 20th Sep '17 - 8:01pm

    @Caron. Is it really a great idea to give publicity to TCO? There’s only one of them, whether likely to shout or not.

  • William: I was told there were a few walk outs when he mentioned tuition fees, but then the person who said it said “mind you, that was really near the end, so they could have just been trying to beat the rush to the train station”.

    TCO, bless you, you were just trying to prove me right there, weren’t you? Thank you!

    Caron: *blush*

  • I have no idea what this is all about. Awkward Squad?

  • Yeovil Yokel 21st Sep '17 - 10:52am

    Tom Harney – agree, you & I are obviously not part of the In-Crowd.

  • The Awkward Squad was born in Birmingham, when FCC had (mandated by government) introduced police accreditation for attendance at conference. This caused a lot of difficulties for (particularly) trans members and anyone else who had ever had a name change. When the lovely and long suffering FCC member Geoff Payne got up on stage and announced that it really hadn’t stopped people attending – which was TECHNICALLY true, given that many of the people it had affected (one of whom is now a member of FCC) were picketing outside – the Awkward Squad were those of us who quite spontaneously shouted [expletive referring to round spherical objects by moderator deleted]! and stopped him in his tracks.

    Membership is quite fluid, to the point that if someone declares themselves an Awkward Squadder I doubt that anyone would be able to confirm or deny it. But mostly it involves making inconvenient speeches in debates and lobbying the leadership. And pub lunches. Worryingly, at the end-of-conference Awkward Squad dinner we worked out that more of the attendees were on federal committees than not these days…

    At some point I really must set up the T-shirt website. I’ve had the designs done for two years…

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