I’ve been to the vast majority of both spring and autumn party conferences since I joined the Lib Dems back in March 2010 and I can honestly say I enjoyed the one that ended in Bournemouth, on Tuesday, the best.
I think I’m finally starting to work out the ebbs and flows of conference; when best to put in a speaker’s card with a chance of actually being called; when to take time out with friends and not fill your whole rota with yet another fringe meeting (as good as they almost always are); how to network with like-minded fellow travellers to push a cause/campaign, and so on.
Like many of us, when I first went to Conference (Birmingham, Autumn 2011) I was overawed by seeing MPs (we had more of them then) and Ministers (yes, we had them too) I’d only previously seen on TV…and you could actually go up and talk to them (and the nicer ones would even reply.)
I was pleased, in Bournemouth, to grab a few words with Tim Farron in the Conference bar on one of the evenings.
I told him how sorry I was that he’s no longer our leader and that he’s a good man with much more to contribute to our cause.
His ex-leader’s platform speech reminded me (though I didn’t need to be) just what a talented orator he is
And, yes, as ever with a Tim Farron speech, I shed some tears whilst in the hall listening to it.
Tim has the ability, when speaking, to touch people’s hearts…that talent must continue to be put to the good of the party.
Vince Cable’s speech didn’t make me cry, but it was statesmanlike, full of vision and direction, but also with a clear economic message which-unique among our current Commons team-Vince is perfectly placed to provide.
There is always a danger, especially for us, that our Conference sees us talking to ourselves but getting little to no coverage beyond the Conference walls.
I hope Vince’s speech, at least, got and gets a wide airing.
It is a message that will inspire liberals and social democrats across party lines and those with, currently, no party affiliation.
The road back, for us, is a long one…but, with Vince at the wheel, we have steady hands and a sensible head to take us along the next part of the journey.
And, the bad news…<
After such a great party conference, it was disappointing to see our latest Party Political Broadcast.
I know some members like it…and it may play well in hipster London, but in vast swathes of the country, I venture, people will be left untouched
The whole appeal of Vince Cable is that he’s a serious man for serious times.
We should be redoubling on that message at every opportunity, not seeking ways to ‘promote’ what he’s not.
He’s not (particularly) hip or ‘down with the kids.’
He’s serious, he’s statesmanlike, he’s an ideas man.
I’m all for ensuring voters know about the rounded personality of leaders…such as Vince enjoying dancing and skiing, but basing a whole PPB around the hat that Vince wears, I personally think is just a bit naff.
That we (I assume) spend not inconsiderable amounts of money for ‘professionals’ to come up with such guff, really does make you wonder.
The new PPB is like a clique which most people don’t belong to and end up just feeling alienated against.
I repeat, it may go down well in London…but not in formerly industrial heartlands such as the North and the East and West Midlands.
I give it one out of five.
We can and must do better
Light-ing up down under
So, you’re a social liberal party in New Zealand
You’ve been in government (as part of succeeding Coalitions of both centre-left and centre-right) since 2002…but with only one Member of Parliament.
That MP, Peter Dunne, has decided to step down at the next election (being held today) and you stand next to no chance of retaining his previous electorate or gaining the required 5% needed to get some list MPs into Parliament under New Zealand’s MMP electoral system.
What do you do? Give up, right?
No, not if you’re Damian Light, the new and young (he’s in his thirties) and very enthusiastic leader of ‘United Future.’
He knows what an uphill struggle he and his party faces, but he’s thrown himself into the recent election campaign with gusto and made a name for himself in a very short space of time.
He’s been christened the Ryan Gosling of New Zealand politics.
The likelihood is still that our friends in United Future won’t return an MP this time, but I’m sure that Damian Light will continue to ensure his party’s flame continues to flicker.
Whether in our out of Parliament, New Zealand needs its social liberals to talk, as Damian has done so well, about drug law reform, the need to tackle climate change, to have a focus on future generations, and so much more.
Damian stepped up to the plate, when others might have run for the hills.
That is true leadership.
* Mathew Hulbert is Vice Chair of Bosworth Constituency Lib Dems and a former Councillor.