I'm no longer a party conference virgin. Well, not really, anyway. Finding myself unemployed, footloose, and fancy free, I ventured down to Brighton on Tuesday on the advice of one Ryan, blogger extrordinaire, who seems to rather enjoy introducing me as "his intern." As I was, once upon a time. It was lovely to see Ryan and his fiancee Heather again, as well as some of the Brent crowd and to meet some new Lib Dems. Silly me probably should have gone for the whole time, but I haven't been getting my party mail (I've changed the address now) and honestly was too busy with my dissertation to think about it!
One thing that struck me, both while I was at conference (and to be honest the only thing I really sat in on in formal session was Charles' speech) and watching the proceedings on BBC Parliament (yes, dear, I am a sad ass) is how different the whole thing was in tone from conventions in the States. I've obviously gleaned most of my convention knowledge from watching the RNC and DNC ones on tv, but went to an Indiana Democratic convention back in the day as well and have been to my share of campaign speeches and rallies. All in all, the US stuff is very populist and very mean. Saying things about how evil your opponents are gets people worked up and excited and makes them feel like the cool kids in the class, but it doesn't do anything at all for real political progress and dialogue. And, sure, the Lib Dems were nasty at times (and I've seen downright giddy party members figuring out how to stick it to 'em), but they never really seemed to mean it. The speakers were sort of "well, guess I'd better say something about how Labour screwed up in Iraq or how David Cameron's all flash and no substance," but the audience also didn't react with the howls of laughter and self-righteousness that they would have had this been the DNC. All in all, I was touched by how much of the public stuff at conference was about us, our policies (and conference is, after all, technically all about making policy), our vision, what we have to offer the people of Britain, and not so much about how the other guys cocked it all up. I hate negative politicking, although I'm not naive and I recognize it's effectiveness, and it was yet another reminder of why this is my political party. Go Lib Dems!
It was also a nice change to see Brighton in the off-season. Very different than before, that's for sure! Still went for a sit on the pebbles, but it was much colder. Had time for a few fringes, one on refugees (why do questions on statelessness make people stutter?) where I had a chance to chat with the very cool UNHCR representative (from Ghana) in the UK and one on something that was more or less "WTF, 5 Yrs. after 9/11." They were awfully pessimistic, although Paddy Ashdown had some very interesting stuff to say. Ponder the concept of "global space," wouldja? Also ponder the fact that I have met exactly two people from Ghana in my life: the UNHCR rep. and one of my lovely coursemates. Both of them, upon mention of the Peace Corps, have immediately mentioned a volunteer who worked at their school, sometime during their childhoods. That's pretty cool.
And, because I'm an absolute sucker for free stuff, I rather enjoyed the stalls. Best bits: chocolates and a great book of postcards depicting letterboxes from the Royal Mail (yes, I'm planning to send the cards to Indiana, but ate the chocolates) and a Puppy! See, I'm always a bit jealous of Duchie because her parents have this fantastic tradition of giving both girls new stuffed animals on Christmas Eve and they're always ADORABLE. Seriously, I think they spend months looking for the cutest possible puppies and kittens. And, then they're soft and cute and I want one! But, there's something really a bit strange about buying cute stuffed animals for yourself. It's a bit desperate. So, I was absolutely delighted when the prize for taking part in the blind person organization game show was a seeing eye dog-type puppy! Golden retriever! Awwww! Juliana's going to hurl me across the room the next time I mention the puppy, I'm sure! However, I am an idiot and forgot Denmark on the EDLR quiz in which you had to name and label all the EU countries. I could do all of Europe, but I'd forgotten which ones were EU. Boooo. Still, at least it wasn't Poland. Poor Poland!
gratuitous shot of the Gherkin from last weekend's bimble 'round the City. Hee. She said Gherkin.
And, this one's for Juliana and all you government nerds (I know you're out there! Come on, you know/love me and it's probably because we have something in common.
Yes. 'Tis a chocolate Reichstag. Someone knows me very well.