Regular readers of my blog (both of you!) will know that I usually write a blog like this at the end of a Party Conference. Because I never feel that I have been to the same conference as the journalists. I have always felt that they have come to conference with the story already written. They then spend conferences looking for isolated examples of people or circumstances which support their case.
This has been absolutely true at this conference. We have heard how this is a small conference where gallows humour abounds and where we are all asking whether we will even be here next year. Well funnily enough I have been hearing such stories for the past 48 years but we are still here and I am still fighting. We have been told that our policies don’t hold water and that we are moving to the political fringes. But we have discussed sensibly a wide range of issues where Lib Dems brought not only their political knowledge but their everyday knowledge of the world. As an example I was at a meeting with a number of the Royal Medical Colleges yesterday. They all had a confence badge but it was only as we left that I noticed that badges for two of them were voting badges. These top medical professionals therefore are members and bringing that tremendous expertise to our counsels.
So what has this conference really been like. Well I am sitting in on a debate about the BBC. The chair has pointed out that three speakers in a row were new members making their first conference speech. And cracking speeches they were too. In fact this place has abounded with people of all ages. Many of them young challenging the ways and thoughts of old gits like me. They want to do things differently, they want to bring us even more into the social media era and talk to people in different ways. they want to stand for the council and stand for Parliament. Some of them of course will not stay the course and will disappear like froth on a beer. But I just feel that many of them will stay and will be the Leaders of the future. Indeed one person who joined the Party in May is already a councillor! They have brought a great enthusiasm to our Party which consequently made our conference exciting and enjoyable.
We have had some cracking debates. I refer first to the one from Liverpool shout Trident. This was heavily amended but the fact that we could discuss it and discuss it sensibly means that we will become the first Party to have a policy in 18 months time which will enable us to shape our fighting forces to meet the demands of a Syrian/ISIS type situation. In other words we will be the first to define our defence activity by what we need and not by what we have always done.
We have discussed the BBC, social care, green taxation, benefits, fracking, housing, the environment. Of course our depleted band will not be able to force these ideas through Parliament. Of course neither can the 200+ Labour MPs. What we can do is change the debate and then join with others of a like mind to campaign for those changes. This was exemplified by me in the health discussions that I have been engaged in for most of my time here. Our views strike a tremendous resonance with a range of people from all health backgrounds and sectors. We can and will work them to change the way that our National Illness Service works. We will work them to create both a conversation and a debate how we deal with the appalling health pressures we face as our country gets steadily older.
Three other things really strike me about the conference.
The first is a sense of unity. There may only be 60,000 of us compared to the 300,0000 members of the Labour Party but we are of a mind with each other. We like each other. We share the same idea and the sae. Polices. There is no back stabbing and we can and will work together to take the Party forward.
The second is a sense that we have got out Party back. This was the conference with the biggest number of delegates ever. Sometimes it feels a bit empty. That’s great it is emptier because the leeches and lizards of the professional lobbying industry have left for other places. Of course we had lots of people here from outside bodies lobbying for their view point. But these were people who actually worked for the organisations for which they lobbied. They were there because they believed and not because someone had hired them to put a view forward.
Lastly it was abundantly clear how much the Party already loves our new Leader Tim Farron. Of course they already knew him. He was well known to us because for 4 years he had been our President. He’s been in politics for most of his life but he does not come over as a professional politician. He comes over as what he is. A good man, a good liberal who his passionate about his beliefs, passionate about the disadvantaged and passionate about our Country. He will lead us well.
I am not stupid about the challenges that we face to claw our way back to a position of power and influence in both Parliamnt and councils. But I do believe that we have laid a solid basis for a recovery. Let’s face it from where we are onwards and upwards is just about the only way to go!