Friday, 28 September 2012

Conference Notes - 2

More notes from my experience at the 2012 Lib Dem Conference in Brighton.

The Meedja

There was a sense, at the start of the week, that the media had a pre-written narrative. Party activists would be unhappy with Clegg, a leadership challenge was in the offing and conference would be in a rebellious mood.

None of the above was particularly evident. Whilst it would be foolish to suggest that there aren't those with concerns - after all, if you get 2,000 politically active people together they are going to be a wide variety of views on how to deal with any given issue - there was not a groundswell of opinion against Nick Clegg who was warmly received at all his appearances on the floor of conference.

On the last day I got accosted by a cameraman and reporter who were clearly on a fishing exercise for party members unhappy with the current direction - particularly in regard to taxation policy and the pace of progress towards greater wealth taxes. Some sort of inner filter kicked in and I'm pretty sure all my answers will have ended up on a cutting room floor - whatever my own views were, I'd be damned if I were giving the press more fodder.

[As it happens, of course, my views on the subject and the awareness of the realities of coalition government meant that it wasn't too difficult to be a loyalist in this regard. I merely said that I was confident that the issues were being raised within Government, the extent to which Nick raised the issues in public was a matter for his judgement. On whether greater Wealth taxes would be delivered by 2015 and if Nick would have failed if not, I was (again) confident that the case was being argued by him.]

Random Ministers

Conference exists within a bubble, with most events taking place in the either the conference centre or the conference hotel. You're surrounded by other Liberal Democrats and a security cordon. And you never know who you'll see next with government ministers, party grandees and parliamentarians rushing around.

Those who are more enthusiastic (by which I mean Liberal Youth) are liable to buttonhole ministers and insist on photos. I merely contented myself with a photo of Nick in the exhibition centre, some on the floor of conference and a few conversations with the Bristol West MP Stephen Williams whom I already knew.

Twitter Friends

One of the best thing about conference was meeting lots and lots of people I've previously only known through Twitter. Many hugs were had.

Like Mindedness

I mentioned this above - but it is fantastic to be around lots of people with whom you share a political outlook and philosophy  Whilst you may still disagree on some issues, they are people  who share your instincts, beliefs and values. People who are (broadly) all pulling in the same direction.

Stand-out Moments

There were so many of these - but here are a couple.

The Medically Assisted Dying debate - it's a difficult and emotive issue but one that will not go away, particularly as medical science advances. The amendment proposed in this debate would have called for a Royal Commission to explore the issue further but conference voted for the party to be in favour of allowing it.

The round of applause that greeted Nick when he said during his Q&A session on the floor of conference:
"Were we right or not, in that agonising moment after that last General Election, to enter into Government at all, in a coalition; which by definition includes compromise. To my dying day, I firmly believe that we did the right thing by going into coalition."
Whilst there may be differences between the activists and the parliamentary party and leadership - the vast majority of conference-goers believe that coalition was the right thing to do in 2010. That's something the media should get their heads around.


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1 comment:

Raybeard said...

Anyone with half a brain would know that the Clegg was right to go into coalition at the time - even though most of us would have preferred it to have been with Labour. (Though, as we remember, the arithmetic didn't fit for that scenario).
So what was the alternative? - another election with the same or a very similar result? Then what?

Now it's all so predictable - Labour shouting that the Lib Dems are at least semi-responsible for the current economic state, while simultaneously crowing that their influence is minimal.
And anti-coalition Tories moaning that the government isn't 'true' Conservative (as though they'd won the election in their own right) - yet knowing full well that an exclusively Tory minority government would be short-lived and inevitably end in their Parliamentary representation being castrated.

No, unsatisfactory as things are, I, as a 'floating voter' (within reason, of course), think that the status quo is still the current best option we have. Maybe this time next year the preference will be for a General Election - but we're not quite at that stage yet.