Friday, September 23, 2005

Thoughts From Blackpool

Well, that was fun. The Lib Dem conference was really enjoyable, for me at least. I get the feeling that the media rained on Charles Kennedy's parade all week, almost certainly because there wasn't much else for them to write about. Motions about pornography and goldfish were absent, and so persecuting Kennedy must have seemed like their best bet.

Thursday morning was one of near misses for me. I was apparently first reserve for the Civil Liberties debate, but alas didn't get called. I'll try and post the speech I would have given at some point. Less substantially dissapointing was when Kennedy worked the crowd after his speech, he went along my row, stopping after the guy next to me. Oh well.

A list of brief thoughts, hopefully before some more substantial posts:

(1) There's nothing to dissuade you of admiration for the media better than participating in something they're reporting. Every morning I opened my complimentary Independent to read of the gloomy mood of delegates. Good thing they told us, because I wouldn't have known otherwise.

(2) Lib Dems are nice people. It's a flippant point, and one both Lembit and the sketch writers love to labour. But I was really impressed at the general kindliness and friendliness of other delegates. One friend, who defected from Labour, was astounded at the sociability of the MPs and cheeriness of the attendees.

(3) Blackpool needs some major reinvigoration. While I'd probably associate more with the "sad town that's lost its soul" description more than the "chav Beirut" assessment, Blackpool is a really degenerated city. But it will come back for one simple reason: the people who live there. They're great.

(4) Adam Boulton from Sky News is a lightweight fool. Sky's fringe meeting descended into rebellion when he tried to offer simplistic and misleading questions to the audience. "We're not answering that" my neighbour heckled, when Boulton quizzed "is this the party of the public sector?", clearly hoping to portray Liberalism as some unreformed Stalinist statism. The media have such power to stimulate political debate, yet waste it on dumbed-down arguments.

(5) The Post Office motion was not about privitising Royal Mail, and it wasn't defeated, regardless of what you read in the papers. It was proposing a part-privitisation that gave employees a substantial share in the organisation. And it wasn't defeated, it was referred back for re-drafting, because it was considered confused on some key parts of its credit association elements.

(6) Two particularly great speeches this week: one from Mark Oaten on civil liberties, and Charles Kennedy's barnstormer yesterday. Kennedy's commitment to economic liberalism and social liberalism combined was much needed. I think much criticism of him is misguided, but I would be delighted to see him leading from the front more in issues such as that one, where the media wrongly scare activisits that liberal economics means Thatcherism.