So the first day of the Lib Dem conference is now over in Liverpool. Some Lib Dems disagreed with each other! Some Lib Dems disagreed with the ‘Leadership’ on some issues. That’s all so terribly, terribly different from any other Lib Dem Conference I have been to in the past 43 years!
It was fascinating watching journalists and media types scurry from person to person desperately trying to find splits, anger and plots. They failed in practice although whether that is reflected in today’s newspapers I have yet to see.
It was great to hear Ministers talking honestly and openly both of what they wanted to do and the challenges that they faced in doing them.
I spent 2.5 hours in the morning at a consultative meeting with Health Minister Paul Burstow. We challenged him on whether Government proposals were creeping privatisation, on safeguards needed to protect disadvantaged areas; on how to explain and deal with post code lottery. He dealt with a lot of the myths that have already grown up about the consultation process, listened to concerns and, I have no doubt, will genuinely try to respond. He made it clear however that Lib Dems wouldn’t get everything we wanted out the legislation but most of us were left pretty damn pleased about what we got. We all welcomed the move of public health back into local councils.
Loads of people came to the Mersey Partnership reception where they had taken the great view NOT to have speakers. Instead a group of hosts mingled with people with a back drop of screens displaying strong images of our city. Generally people are bowled over by the reception they are getting. Liverpool is such a great place is something I was told again and again. One of the lobbyists was saying how he had been to a conference in Glasgow last week and how our conference area and associated facilities were far, far better than those in that city.
Lots of people even came to a fringe meeting that I spoke at about local government finance which was also joined by our indefatigable local journo David Bartlett.
But the real disappointment we all felt was with the Labour Party and TUC. They have e-mailed everyone in sight to try and get them to lobby the conference yesterday and today. The most I saw was 30 people. So much for a mass uprising against the government. I do so hope that they get a few more here today.
So now to set off from home for a lunch (it isn’t all work you know!) and three fringe meetings ending with a Shelter meeting with Campbell Robb and Tory Minister Grant Shapps.
Lib Dem Members can still attend. Why not come along to (sadly damp) Liverpool and join in the fun.