Have breakfast with the Kingston mob at Lib Dem conference in Southport. Includes Jenny Tonge who was to be speaking in a fringe that evening on Palestine. Since her outspoken statements on the plight of the Palestinians she has rarely been out of the headlines. We have a discussion around the issues – and I get the impression that she is bullish but defensive about her position on the issue and definitely not keen on Charles K since he sacked her from the front benches.
Dash over to Conference Hall to listen to debates. Vince Cable (shadow chancellor) gives excellent finance speech. Then I chair Navnit’s speech. Lord Navnit Dholakia is the President of the Liberal Democrats and (in the three times I have chaired for him) has never, ever run to time. I guess that is why he always gets the spot before lunch – so that if there is an overrun on his speech it runs into the lunch break rather than the scheduled program of debates!
Waiting to go on in the wings I have a chance to chat to Charles K. The Leader is always on stage for the Presidents’ speech. He congratulates me on our tremendous victory in the Stroud Green ward by-election (30% swing Labour to LibDem – LibDem gain). Not unnaturally, I ask after his health. He assures me he is fine now, but you can still see the after effects of the nasty stomach bug. Can’t stand the vultures gathering to see if will be able to get through his speech tomorrow.
Needless to say – Navnit’s ten minute slot extends to 25 minutes – 15 minutes over the session end. On finishing, I remind the audience that the map in their programs is wrong. It shows the Conference Hotel (where the lunchtime fringe meetings will take place) in entirely the wrong location. And no – it wasn’t the LibDems reproducing it wrongly – it was supplied by the Southport Tourist Office!
Duncan Brack (Chair of the Conference Committee and a good mate) comes up onto the stage at the end to have a chat and make arrangements to meet for dinner and comments on Navnit’s overrun – and I say, “yes – but I couldn’t stop him – you can’t stop the bloody president…’ at which point Duncan points out to me that I’ve left the microphone on and have just broadcast to not only the auditorium – but the exhibition halls too!
No doubt that cheers everyone up.
I run back to the hotel to speak at a fringe meeting on Young People and Transport and then drift back to the Conference hall for afternoon debates. The debate on euthanasia was one of the best I have ever heard. Stunning speeches, powerful emotions – on both sides. Although a supporter of euthanasia with living wills – I found myself swayed from one side to the other with the force of the debate. Fabulous. Had to leave before the vote to rush back to speak in another fringe.
This fringe was for the geek brigade. No offence – but if you are not into techno campaigning, you would not have understood a word of the second half of the meeting. Happily for me – I was there as the light entertainment part of the proceedings. Since coming runner-up in the Guardian Political Blog of the Year my fame has spread far and wide and
I have been invited to address LibDems Online about my blogging.
So I give the low down on blogging, my blog, the pitfalls (i.e. people now read what I have said about them and get offended) and encourage them all to engage with the populace. And as I said – the rest of the meeting was for advanced geeks in techno terms. I didn’t understand any of it – but they all seemed to enjoy themselves greatly.