Friday, October 13, 2006

Regional conference tomorrow

Am I a stickler for punishment? I jump on a train at 10pm at Kings Cross to head for Newcastle after a slightly hurried meal in an Indian restaurant at Victoria. The big event this weekend is Northern Regional conference. If I haven't had my fill of conferences this year, then there must be something seriously wrong with me!

This is the regional AGM so most of the motions are party business. There is one policy motion whining about super casinos and the "moral" implications. Not exactly liberal, or logical. I may find myself speaking against it.

The real highlight is the regional campaign awards. I spent a mini fortune posting off 6 entries for 4 categories. I did not put in an entry for the fifth category - best local party. So I am hoping (especially given the time I put into the entries) that Gateshead wins something. It is useful for a focus story and a news release and for boosting my ego. But the prize is simply a certificate. Nice photo op if I were to receive one though. I'll be there tomorrow taking photos. I just need someone to arrange to take mine! (Should I win something of course!)

News from the home front is good and not so good. Dad is out of high dependency after his appendicitis operation and according to my sister Esther (via Mother then David and then me - why am I at the end of the information chain?) he is in the recovery ward talking and eating. He may even be home tomorrow no doubt to the relief of his brother John who has for the past few weeks been over here from Canada.

The not so good news is that David has come down with a heavy cold. The fact this is on the eve of our going on holiday is probably not a coincidence.

Anyway back to conferences and another Wallace gripe about the way we do things in the Lib Dems. Local parties are rightly invited to submit motions to spring and autumn conference. Fewer and fewer do so each year. And there is a tendency for just a handful of parties to submit large numbers of motions and amendments. I wonder how representative of the views of the local members those submissions are. I can't for a moment imagine that all of Canterbury Local Party's members are raving trots from the party's revolutionary sandals wing. But glancing at the submissions to the Brighton conference Canterbury did strike you as being on a Leninist day trip to the planet Mars.

I haven't any answer to this but how do we encourage local parties to put in more and better motions and amendments than some of what comes in now? One solution is to have themed days worked out in advance. My gripe about the Brighton conference is that in some respects, the daily themes were decided after the motions had been submitted and tabled. That meant the process was much more accidental. If for example Sunday at spring conference was decided in advance as having crime and policing as the theme, this may stimulate some more focused interest by local parties. And such an approach could link in more closely with campaigns that were being run by the party nationally. It would of course mean better coordination between FCC, media centre, campaigns, policy etc. But they have achieved this with the Green Switch campaign and I'm sure it could be a model accepted as the standard rather than the exception. Well, here's hoping anyway.

Train is now approaching York. Should be home by 2am. I need a holiday!

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