Getting ready for party conference

Off to constituency HQ for an interview with Radio 4 who are doing profiles on six new MPs – two from each party. Don’t know how much longer I will be a ‘new’ girl – but it obviously has its advantages!

It’s a very long interview but all very enjoyable. Then back up to office to do some work. Now set up, with computers networked and staff in place – at last feel that normal service has been resumed. It is quite a change from having done everything virtually myself for the last eight years to having a team of staff – but very necessary given all the extra work being an MP involves. They are doing a great job – but inevitably setting up two offices (constituency and in Parliament) takes some time.

My mother gave me three pieces of advice before she died: firstly from her experience running her own successful business – the customer is always right. It’s an old-fashioned concept but one I personally think still holds good. Secondly, the person in charge must know about any complaint against the company. If you don’t know what is going wrong you cannot correct it! The other piece of advice – well that was personal.

Lib Dem conference in Blackpool is zooming towards me – and finally getting hold of my diary I discover that I have around twelve speeches to write before I leave on Saturday – a smattering as examples are “Can the Liberal Democrats be part of a progressive consensus?”, “What is Britishness?” (the in debate of the moment), “Is the Lords the last bastion of freedom?”, and lots, lots more.

Topped by the party’s Head of Policy phoning me to ask if I would summate on an urgent debate in the main hall: “What future for multiculturalism post 7/7?” I am also chairing two sessions in the main hall – Graham Watson MEP and Mark Oaten MP. The fun never stops! So in between other engagements this week I am desperately trying to write these speeches.

In the evening I go to a big public meeting about the proposals for a concrete factory right in the middle of a residential area. About 2-300 people in attendance and an array of Labour (council leader, his deputy, Tottenham MP and a couple of local councillors).

Myself and Laura Edge (Lib Dem councillor for Stroud Green) and several other Lib Dems also there. Labour have called this meeting at short notice, and not told anyone much it was happening. So I had to try and let people know about it at short notice. Laura and her colleagues were great at helping me let as many people know as possible. Plus the glories of email for sending information round quickly! (If you live in my constituency and would like to get similar emails in future, just let email with your name and postcode –

Am much amused that Labour have suddenly taken enough fright – possible because they fear losing the local elections next May and have realised that we Lib Dems have been campaigning and working with local residents and their campaign group, Green N8, for the last year.

Consultants representing London Concrete (who want to build the plant) are there – but no show from any of the directors etc from the actual company. Bad form! They give pretty feeble answers to the many, many questions raised by the audience who are worried sick about the level of noise, pollution and congestion that will be caused by this application.

We (elected reps) from both east and west of the borough unite to fight off the application. Political pressure is a wonderful thing – but lets hope it is reflected in the rejection of the new proposals going to Planning Committee on October 10.

I exhort everyone to write individually to the planning department and to the Planning Inspector (there is a coterminous appeal on a first application that was rejected). I also suggest they write to Ken Livingston who is misguidedly supporting the application because of the factory being able to bring aggregates in by rail. Firstly – there are no guarantees of capacity on the line. Secondly – the couple of trains a day benefit does not stand against the disadvantage caused by the articulated lorry movements etc.