This time last year, I was focused on ensuring that my motion of diversity and equality passed trial by London Liberal Democrats, and thus I didn't enjoy the Regional Conference as much as perhaps I should.
A year later, I was busy trying to be helpful (presumably a good thing) and so today was rather more enjoyable. The day didn't get off to the greatest of starts. I overslept and, as a result, had to rush through my normal morning routine before dashing to Chalk Farm in Camden, in time to play the role of junior member of Regional Conference Committee, a role which, I feel, I was always destined to play.
We had a lovely opening speech from the Mayor of Camden, Jill Fraser, who talked about her role as Mayor, and about the impact she had been able to have in changing even a few lives for the better. Jill is a real community politician, known in her ward and liked by the voters. Her result in the General Election last year, where she achieved an 11% swing from Labour in Holborn & St Pancras against Frank Dobson and pushed Margot James, now a Tory A-lister, into a distant third place, was one of the more remarkable ones in London, yet she's still the genuinely nice person she was when I first met her two years ago.
There followed reports from Lynne Featherstone on behalf of our MPs, Sarah Ludford, our MEP, and Mike Tuffrey as Leader of our London Assembly Group. Lynne focused on civil liberties in her usual frank, and occasionally offbeat, manner, whilst Sarah made some very strong points about the European dimension on human rights. Mike was enthusiastic and genuinely witty about life with Ken Livingstone and talked about what our team at the London Assembly are up to.
One of the interesting features of the day was the genuine enthusiasm to debate green issues. We had a presentation from Alexis Rowell, one of the new Camden councillors, an emergency motion of green transport policy, and a speech by John Stevens on climate change. Each of those sessions could have been doubled in length without meeting the demand for interventions and questions from the floor, and we may have to seriously consider having an event apart from our normal conference schedule dedicated to environmental and related issues.
Otherwise, my favourite moment of the day was the presentation made by Simon Hughes to the Honorary President of North Southwark and Bermondsey Liberal Democrats, Stan Hardy. Stan is also our Honorary President here in Dulwich & West Norwood, where he lives, and I was delighted to see his efforts recognised. Stan and I have not always seen eye to eye (a very wise move on his part, I suspect) and usually, when he contacts me, it's to note that I might do something in particular. And he's always right... It's for that reason that I value having Stan there, doing what he wants to do (and at 86, he's thoroughly earned that right), but always acting in the best interests of the Party. His sixty years of active membership have seen many changes, triumphs and disasters, but he is still as respected as he ever was. It's fascinating to see him at Federal Conferences, surrounded by people young enough to be his grandchildren (and in some cases, great-grandchildren), and still look perfectly at home.
Of course, from a personal and entirely selfish perspective, the primary interest for me was the elections to the Executive Committee, the Regional Candidates Committee and English Council, all of which saw me defending the seats I won last year. We won't have a result for a few days yet, and I'm hopeful that I might live to fight for good administration and harmonious bureaucracy for another year. Astonishingly, people still seem reasonably happy to tolerate my eccentricities, and with any luck, enough of them will have voted for me to see me squeak in.
Check Liberal Democrat Voice for more news when the results are available...