We’re back from Bournemouth, and all the long reports I’d intended to write will have to wait, possibly for ever.
This was just such a busy conference for me that I was too busy doing to document it. But here is some of what I got up to as part of Islington’s delegation.
On Sunday, I moved the Islington amendment in the globalisation debate, pointing out the crucial role of Europe in providing us with stability in a changing world. The difference between Iceland and Ireland isn’t one letter but two: E and U.
Also on Sunday, I was part of the panel at the End Fuel Poverty Fringe, speaking on how important this issue was to my constituents. The Lib Dem proposals would tackle fuel poverty, unemployment and climate change through a programme of home insulation: but Labour killed off the Bill. Shame on them.
I had meetings with many groups including the National Deaf Children’s Society, who are doing some important work on improving acoustics in schools, Breast Cancer Care, and the British Lung Foundation who are supportive of my campaigns on air quality. I spoke at a lively fringe meeting organised by the Lib Dem Friends of Turkey on Turkey’s future in the EU.
Housing is always a big issue in Islington, and I fitted in a breakfast meeting with Hyde Housing as well as a briefing with Shelter (appropriately enough we were ‘evicted’ from one room when our meeting ran on).
I also took the chance to raise some very local issues. At the candidates’ reception, I buttonholed a senior Tesco exec about their lorries parking at Islington Green – and later in the week raised it with the Freight Transport Association as well. And I quizzed Network Rail bosses about the vexed issue of access to Kings Cross station.
Most debates at conference are foregone conclusions – for example, we all love the NHS – but sometimes there are really distinct positions within the party, which makes for an exciting session. On Saturday we debated air brushing in ads (my PPC buddy Katy Gordon made a fantastic speech) and later in the week it was the turn of energy policy to go to the vote. I spoke in the debate against the pro-nuclear power amendment, and was pleased that I helped win the day for investment in truly renewable energy.
There were many impressive and some contentious speeches. Sarah Ludford proposed Islington’s amendment in the torture debate, reporting on her work exposing illegal rendition flights. Vince Cable controversially refloated his mansion tax idea (not yet party policy, and may never be). I signed up to support campaigns on a whole range of issues, from the Royal British Legion to Vote Cruelty Free.
And I was lucky to be one of the key seat PPCs (presumed future MPs) to be chosen to sit on the platform behind Nick for the leader’s speech.
I say lucky. First there was the briefing on do’s and don’ts. No eating, drinking, yawning – or live blogging. Then the clothes advice. Must not clash with backdrop or each other. Cue panic jacket and blouse buying by anxious female candidates with what’s left in their conference budget…. never say LibDems don’t have practical policies to stimulate the local economy. Then there was the hour-long wait backstage in cold and darkness, before emerging into blazing light on stage. Then we took our seats and were plunged back into near total darkness while Nick spoke. Is this a metaphor for life as an MP?
As ever, the conference reported by the media (anxious divisions over policy) and that experienced by delegates (sunny in every sense) were quite different. Although the new media like Tweetminster were happy to get their reports direct from the twitterer’s mouth.
We had great fun, but in a greatly serious cause. This is our last major party conference before the General Election. As Nick told us,
“Labour is lost. They haven’t the ideas, energy or vision to start again. If you voted for them in the past, you have a choice. You can give away your vote to a fringe party. You can stay at home in despair. Or you can join with the Liberal Democrats and make the difference.
“If you supported Labour in 1997 because you wanted fairness. You wanted young people to flourish. You wanted political reform. You wanted the environment protected. Or you simply believed in a better future. Turn to the Liberal Democrats. We carry the torch of progress now.”
Now back to the campaign trail!