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