Bournemouth day 1: heaven and hell

The first of my conference week e-postcards.

I’ve finally made it to Bournemouth, venue for this year’s Lib Dem conference, and my temporary home for the next few days. Bit of a panic yesterday morning when my official website went down. A flurry of phonecalls, and we were back up at within a couple of hours, but it wasn’t the best start to conference.

Then this morning, all packed, and leaving Rich in large of the pets, I headed off to the train. Aha, but the Northern line wasn’t stopping at Waterloo and the Victoria line wasn’t running at all. Kings Cross was chaotic and soon I was heated before getting anywhere near the debates.

I made it to Waterloo on the Jubilee line in the end, and caught the train with 2 minutes to spare – and things began to get better. I found myself sitting across the aisle from two Islington friends also heading for conference. The chap next to me turned out to have lived for a few years in Amwell Street. Tea, fruit cake, gossip, newspapers, and in no time, Bournemouth.

My hotel is on the Eastcliff so you stroll along coastal path to the conference centre. The weather was perfect, although the art gallery I passed said it was closed til Tuesday because of storm damage from Friday’s rain. It’s all very charming; the railings have metal emblems of the seaside, from ice cream cones to starfish. The view down to the pier and on round the bay is breath-taking, although breath-giving might be more accurate. Lots of deep breaths of warm, pine-scented air.

I arrived at the conference centre just in time for a photo op outside with the Votes at 16 campaign. Young people in various outfits – brides, uniforms, etc – were symbolising the things you can already do at 16, even though you can’t vote. It’s outrageous that at 16 you can get married or join the army, but can’t have a say in who represents you for the next 4 years.

Then it was time for tea and diaries with the Islington team, before I headed off for an election briefing and a launch photo for the Million Dollar Question Million Door Challenge. Or, as one of my team optimistically called it, the Million Seat Challenge.

The big afternoon debate was on direct democracy, something I’ve blogged about before. The proposal for people’s bills was passed. The people’s veto got vetoed…

By early evening I was busy catching up with friends, including other women candidates. By definition, there’s only one candidate per seat, so it’s good to meet up when we can. That made me late for the Rally. Text message from one of the team “The dancers have started”. Dancers? Was it the wrong hall?

It can happen. Another Islington rep told me he was finding the fringe meeting on ‘Campaigning for the iPod generation’ disappointingly dull: until he realised he was in the training session on accounts for local party treasurers instead…

A quick drink with fellow blogger and old friend Andy Strange aka Process Guy. I handed out some ‘I’m 4 Ros’ leaflets. Then on to an excellent Italian restaurant ‘Ciao‘ for the Islington dinner.

Afterwards we headed back to our hotels through groups of happy hen and stag parties – yet more brides and uniforms.

I’m sure the weather helps set the tone for conference. So far, the Lib Dems are in a sunny mood.


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