20 Sep 2010

Arriving at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool

Out of the house 6.30 am and lash the bike to the excellent new cycle racks at Euston. I figure I have less chance of getting it nicked if I get it onto one of the upper racks. Buy porridge and honey and a croissant, which I shouldn’t have.

Standard class to Liverpool all but empty. Virgin hate tables in standard class – two per carriage. I find one with an electric plug and one other man at it. He’s a French telecoms guy working for BT – he’s high powered and interesting company, not least about bilingualism and bringing up children in two languages.

So here I am bound for a Liberal Democrat conference, a conference of a party in power.I check the first class section for politicians, aides etc. There are a few classy looking women who look if they may be representing corporates. No sandals.

Sunny all the way to Liverpool, where it is strangely raining and gray. A city I lived in as a student, much changed and yet still with an underbelly of poverty.

First half hour in the city spent trying to retrieve my fluorescent yellow cycle jacket which I left in the rack in coach H whilst another passenger was diluting my concentration, discussing my tie with me.

Uggh, my bike keys are in the pocket. Phoning Virgin takes only seven minutes to get through. The cleaners didn’t find the jacket, so it’s gone back to Euston. Another number – engaged.

Better get on with the day. Life tells you, somehow the bike, the jacket will all resolve, somehow!

The conference hall is gentle. There’s no great rebellion going on here. In fact there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between power, and a Lib Dem conference discussing home insulation. Clegg and Vince are doing the rounds.

Nothing here persuades me that the coalition will last less than a full Parliament and maybe beyond. It all feels rather comfortable.

There is no mood here for fisty-cuffs. John Curtis, the seasoned election guru from Strathclyde University said last week that the UK electoral system may not deliver another clear party winner again.

It confirms a sense I have had since the election, that there is very little appetite after the expenses scandal to see any party in absolute power ever again.

I have never had to broadcast from a Lib Dem conference before – so this is a first, perhaps of many!

Now where’s that damned jacket!

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