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East Midlands Regional Conference report: Useful training motherhood and apple pie presidential hustings and inspiring speeches

November 3, 2014 1:55 PM
By Greg Webb in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

I'd thought about going to Liberal Democrat conferences before, but always ended up doing something else on the day. But this time, the East Midlands Regional Conference, which took place on Saturday, was on a date I could do. It seemed worth trying it at least once!

Michael Mullaney at Autumn Conference 2014It's difficult to know quite what to expect when attending an event as a first timer, or whether it's typical, but the Conference definitely had a significant amount on and a healthy turnout. We opened with training sessions on canvassing, fundraising and being a returning officer, with good content from experienced speakers and useful discussion among the group.

The next session was policy debates. Four motions were submitted - on Land Value Tax, reform of National Insurance, housing policy and open access railway operators. Each was supported by well-prepared proposers and with a range of contributions from the floor. While definitely the least debated motion, I personally found Land Value Tax the most interesting; it's a subject I believe in and it was good to hear from well informed speakers. Overall the debates were interesting, but if I'm honest the motions felt quite 'motherhood and apple pie'. While each was substantial, all were carried by overwhelming margins and I felt that was predictable pre-election. It would perhaps have been interesting to have debated something more radical rather than spend a full session proving we almost all agreed.

Before lunch we had an entertaining and inspiring speech from Cllr Michael Mullaney, PPC for Hinckley & Bosworth, outlining the achievements Liberal Democrats have been able to make leading in local government and how to sell these positive stories on the doorstep. I knew Michael loosely from previous campaigns but it was good to hear him tell stories of Liberal Democrat success to motivate us. If he campaigns as well as this he deserves to do really well in May.

With the unseasonable weather - I'm not used to needing sunglasses in November- a number of us headed out over lunch to deliver leaflet rounds for the local party. An impressive bit of lateral thinking, I thought, as so many volunteers were on hand.

John Leech MPAfter lunch we had John Leech MP giving the keynote speech to conference. I confess I didn't know John until today but he gave a good account of the party's work in Westminster, and of what the Manchester Withington constituency had done and were doing to keep Liberal Democrat representation. More interesting still for me was the Question & Answer session that followed, sharing experience that will hopefully prove useful to us all.

Following the business of the local AGM we were lucky enough to be visited by the three candidates for Party President for an in-depth Hustings. Again I'd not experienced such an event before but it was useful to hear all three expand on their vision for the party and see how they interacted with delegates, and it certainly helped me decide who to vote for. I should also thank John and all three Presidential candidates for indulging my local PPC and I while we took photos of them together for our literature.

It was quite noticeable that the bulk of the delegates were in their 50s and above. While I'm happy for anyone to be active in their support it would have been nice to see a wider range represented and perhaps it's worth specifically targeting wider participation for future events. Overall though I found it an interesting and valuable day. I feel more knowledgeable about my Party's work for attending, certainly plan to attend future conferences on the strength of this event and would encourage others to do the same.

Presidential Candidates

Policy Officer Phil Knowles with the Presidential Candidates

* Greg is a freelance software engineer, LibDem activist and voluntary youth worker living in Derby