|The 'Cleggzilla' posters|
1. The demonstrations weren't as disruptive as the media had predicted. When I went into the City Hall entrance on Saturday morning there were some demonstrators outside who were asking delegates what they were going to vote for in the NHS debate. Delegates replied that it wasn't the business of others to know this. I think delegates should have privacy over their vote because it is a private vote. It's not as if delegates who were being asked were MPs who have to declare the way they vote. Delegates are ordinary people exercising their right to vote in the capacity of being a Lib Dem member.
2. The unions who organised the demonstrations ended up ill-benfitting Sheffield because their demonstrations actually put the normal Saturday shoppers off coming into town. I know this because I spoke to a few taxi drivers who said their business had decreased because of this reason. Money spent on the 'Clegzilla' (very funny though these were) posters could have been put to better use. It's a pity that having 3.000 extra people in Sheffield did not profit the businesses as much as it should have done.
3. I found the NHS debate very confusing. I was all over the place and writing furious notes to my mother, who was sitting beside me, about it. Isn't Liberalism about the Government intervening when an institution of the state isn't working? People always complain about the NHS and, yet, weren't keen to see changes being made. Then there was talk about 'profit' and I took this to mean that the NHS wouldn't be free to use anymore. I was wrong. The debate wasn't about charging patients and this confused me further. See what I mean!
4. The debate on 'Strategy, Positioning and Priorities' was one long needed. Have you looked at the party's website? It needs a different and more up to date format. Look at the Conservative's website. It is NOW, it is attractive and makes me envious. I have blogged before about how the party needs to communicate the Lib Dem messages more widely and more positively. If we don't get this right then we risk losing potential members and our policies will be misunderstood if we don't explain them clearly.
5. The Diversity debate rages on. I know we need more ethnic minorities and more women in the party but instead of talking all the time about increasing diversity why doesn't the party take action instead? As an example, my mother is Indian but has never been approached to find out if she's keen to become a PPC. This isn't a hint, by the way, because my mother doesn't want to be a PPC but I use her here to make a point. Take action please.
6. The exhibition area is always packed with freebies. It is my favourite spot at Conference. I helped out at the LDEG (European Executive) stall. The two men called Rakesh and Jason at the Politico Internet stand were extremely friendly and helpful. After what I have said about the party's website above, do check out their offerings at http://www.politicointernet.co.uk/, especially if you are a councillor or PPC.
7. The phrase 'Alarm Clock Britain' makes me shudder because I hate getting up early enough at 7.15am so I can't imagine what it must be like for this group of people who struggle to make a living. The people in this group haven't been looked after enough. A lot of political commentators have said that this means the same group of people that Ed Miliband calls "the squeezed middle". I wonder if 'squeezed middle' refers to the middle classes who will lose out on child benefits and other tax advantages? Nick has positioned our party in the 'Centre Ground' of British politics. Now, let's communicate that message to voters.
8. I made a speech at the debate on 'Taking Responsibility' which was the Youth Justice Policy paper. My main points were: (a) we need to realise that children occupy more spaces than just at home and at school. Government policies need to target the behaviour of children in places like holiday clubs, youth clubs etc so there's a joined up approach to prevention: (b) the whole family approach can't always mean blood ties because people move away from their families to find jobs. We need a new way of finding support within the community or society. I mentioned the report published by ResPublica called 'Befriending'; and (c) children need to be shown the values of hard work and discipline instead of focussing on celebrity culture.
My special moments were when people came up to congratulate me on my speech and gave me lots of encouragement and support. I really appreciated this. I met Alex White from Scotland who was the next youngest speaker at the age of 14 and I look forward to seeing her speak again in the future. John Pienaar interviewed me and there's a photo of this on the right hand side of my blog. Meeting him was a thrill.
I was inspired and motivated by this conference and am proud to be a Liberal Democrat.