Thursday, September 22, 2005

 

Doing democracy among friends

My final post, being typed on the train on the way home - lack of time and access problems having prevented me doing more, so apologies again. I've borrowed the title for this piece from Party President Simon Hughes, who used it at the stewards' party last night - it's a great way to describe Lib Dem conference, which is always friendly, and marked by a lack of the factionalism you see in the other two.

Not that you'd know that from reading the newspapers or listening to the radio or TV, which seem to have decided almost universally that conference was a disaster - though Charles' rather good speech may have helped turn that round. As I mentioned before, I really don't think that journalists understand the party very well. The votes on Europe and the Post Office were not 'challenges to Charles' leadership' - they would have been exactly the same whoever had been leader. Conference just thought the proposals were wrong, and said so.

Anyway, after a frantic week of meetings, debates, fringes, consultation sessions, looking after the Lib Dem History Group exhibition stand (see www.liberalhistory.org.uk for the only organisation for the study of Liberal history), having dinners with friends, and drinking far too late in the bar, it's time for a lot of sleep - and then listing all the things we could have done better this time. Conference Committee will hold a debrief meeting in a few weeks' time to go over all this, and then we'll start planning for 2006 - the spring conference in Harrogate and the autumn conference in Brighton.

One of the nicest memories of Blackpool, though, will be the very last meeting I had there - an opportunity for first-time reps to come and tell us what they thought. Conference Committee now regularly organises this, as a fresh perception of what we do at conference is really valuable. About twenty or so stayed behind to tell us what they thought, and although there were a few complaints and glitches (and lots of good ideas for improvements), they seem to have had a really good week - friendly company, stimulating discussions, and good fun. The last question I asked them was whether they'd come again next year, and they all said yes. 'Doing democracy among friends' obviously has its attractions!

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