OK, so I'm just back from Liberal Democrat conference (with a nasty cold - so much for the alleged properties of seaside air!). Did we have a good conference? Yes we did! It was great to see so much consensus about who we were, where we were going and what we wanted to do when we get there.
But did the media coverage reflect that? No it didn't. Time after time the interviewers were picking and poking, trying to turn any small disagreement into a full blown row, any mild comment into an attack on the leadership. Granted, there were one or two things said and done which could have been handled better (deliberately not going into details here!), but on the whole we made the media work for their crumbs.
Highlight of the conference for me? Sitting in the front row of a hugely overcrowded fringe meeting for the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign - I was less than 10 feet from Simon Singh! Further down the top table was Ben Goldacre! Two of my heroes in one meeting - I thought things couldn't get much better... and then I went into the conference hall to hear the amendment on the same subject proposed by guest speaker Richard Dawkins - well, that was a really impressive clutch of sightings for me.
What also struck me was how much Liberal Youth have come on in the last year. Their speakers were persuasive and confident and their amendments were spot on. They exuded a true sense of purpose, whether clustering round their stall (or the bar of course!) or striding off confidently hither and thither, and even dressed in suits from time to time (which reminded me of some of the Young Liberals of the 1980s, "in fitted suits and briefcases" as Bill Pitt the former MP remarked of the then chair Janice Turner- but I digress.... ). Their new web site is also a joy to behold, after the headache-inducing colour scheme of the previous manifestation, and looks to have the potential of a great campaigning tool. The future of our party is going to be in safe hands - and if you're reading, guys and gals, I'm going to increase my Friends standing order as soon as I unpack the paperwork, and I urge everyone else to do likewise. Just send them money, OK?
Downsides? Well, we didn't vote in favour of thinking about considering renationalising the railways. (Commuters everywhere, our day WILL come!) And I thought the session chair could have sounded a bit more excited when she introduced our very excellent president, Ros Scott, to speak to conference - if ypu could very easily have thought she was reading out her shopping list, not introducing one of our best and most respected speakers to her adoring public. We wanted sparkle and fizz not flat lemonade!
That's enough for a first post. There was some more I wanted to say but it'll come back to me later I'm sure. Anyway, these are my opinions - if you don't like them I have others, which no doubt I will share with you soon.