Saturday, 21 September 2013

Belated #ldconf reflections

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted that my posts from Lib Dem Conference petered out after day two. There were two reasons for that - general busy-ness, and alcohol/late nights. Following conference, I spent a couple of days at home with my folks and seeing my nephew.

And now I'm home. Enthused, upbeat and ready for a fight.

So, what did I make of it? All in all, I had a great conference, mixing time in the hall with training, some very good fringes and various social events and receptions. I learnt new things and re-visited old issues. And I got a lot of photos of the back of Nick Clegg's head. Here a few random observations from my week.

Nick was fantastically relaxed: I saw him on five occasions, not counting all the times he ended up two rows in front of me in the hall, and every time he seemed to be relaxed and comfortable. Whether it was acting as Paddy's glamorous assistant at the Lib Dem Voice Awards, engaging in banter at the ALDC reception, summating in the Economy debate, conducting a Q&A in a packed auditorium, or in his keynote speech; he was a man at ease in his own skin, and at ease with spending time with his party.

Twitter can be a blessing: I got a tweet towards the end of conference heralding my position (then 4th) in this chart of "influencers leading the conversation at Lib Dem Conference". Very flattering, even if it didn't mean very much in the grander scheme of things.

...and a curse: Whatever the merits of my tweeting, however, any pompousity it may have prompted was pricked by a friend spotting that the BBC had chosen to report a tweet (on this page, at 10.33am)relating how I had skipped a couple of hours of conference to get a bit more kip!

The SECC may not be the best conference venue: Whilst the Clyde Auditorium (or Armadillo) is a lovely hall, with nice comfy seats, the decision to use it (together with a suite of rooms within the old SECC and the Crowne Plazza) rather than the main conference centre led to delegates having to negotiate a bewildering labyrinth of corridors. In addition, the SECC is slightly from local attractions when compared with centres by conferences elsewhere.

There was an obvious (and welcome) Scottish dimension: Being in Scotland must have enabled more Scottish delegates than normal (witness the stage invasion for "Flower of Scotland" at Glee club) and this was reflected on the floor of conference. Next year's referendum cast a long shadow on many of the debates.

...and the Rally was truly Federal: It was good to see Kirsty Williams and Katy Gordon giving the Welsh and Scottish perspectives rather than just the Westminster/England/UK view.

Even the key "leadership v the party" debates weren't acrimonious: This must have really annoyed the press who, undoubtedly, written lots of advance copy on how the party had torn itself apart in the key debates. In the end this hasn't happened - even if not everyone is necessarily happy with the results. Additionally, as far as I can tell only two members (Matthew Oakeshott and Mathew Hulbert*) have publicly called on Clegg to go.

Clegg's speech was a good 'un: At least it was from my perspective, setting out the basis of our election pitch for 2015. As ever with leaders' speeches, there are those who would like to see more substance - and I do hope that follows in the months ahead. For now, though, I think it hugely better than at spring conference and stronger than the previous approach to the "Stronger Economy, Fairer Society" slogan.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals need some serious examination: Our conference lanyards were sponsored by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling - and I had a good conversation with the organisers at their exhibition stand. The concentration of betting shops in, predominantly, impoverished areas (along with pawn brokers and pay-day lenders) is largely down to FOBTs. It is worth noting that conference backed a policy to put betting shops in their own licensing class.


* Mathew Hulbert has now retracted this call: here.

1 comment:

Stephen Glenn said...

Lesson learnt never, ever tweet you have slept in at conference. Always make first tweet been too busy this morning to tweet, even if you were merely busy checking your eyelids for holes.