With the Liberal Democrat (federal party) autumn conference starting up in Birmingham this weekend, here is my selection of five of the best fringe meetings being held. These meetings may not have the power to decide in the way that conference debates can, but they do often give a great chance to hear issues discussed in greater and more expert detail than the rather staccato main hall style of 3-5 minute speeches back to to back.
So here are my top five (aside from the campaigning one already mentioned):
Conference Rally, Saturday, 6:30pm
Come and laugh at the Chief Whip. Yes, the rally will have the usual mix of other speakers but if you’ve not had the joy of laughing at Alistair Carmichael’s jokes (he does a particularly wicked line in Facebook status updates) here’s your chance to enjoy one of the sharpest and funniest minds in the Parliamentary Party.
Phone hacking, Sunday, 1pm
The Social Liberal Forum has got Alan Rusbridger, Hugh Grant and others for this fringe. People will of course be attending for the serious political discussion and no other reason.
Liberal Democrats: forwards, backwards, sideways, left, right, up or down? Monday, 1pm
Variations on how the party must face the challenging future whilst moving to make the change are legion on the fringe circuit. But Monday’s Guardian debate has a particularly good line-up: Paddy Ashdown, Vince Cable, Tim Farron and Lynne Featherstone.
Peace, Reform and Liberation, Monday, 8pm
Launch of the new history of British Liberal politics from the Liberal Democrat History Group, featuring Paddy, again, and Shirley Williams. (Declaration of interest: I’ve co-written one of the chapters in the book. If that risks putting you off, remember: Paddy! Shirley!).
Liberty, Tuesday, 6:15pm
I’ve picked this one because it features Shami Chakrabarti. She’s always eloquent and interesting, but hearing at some length her outside friendly perspective on how well the government’s civil liberties record lives up to the pre-election rhetoric will be fascinating.
These are of course only five of the best fringe meetings in my own view – yours may be wildly different and I’ve deliberately excluded the Liberal Democrat Voice events.
(In fact, if your own view is different from mine, I’d be delighted as two of my picks clash with fringe meetings at which I’m appearing. Bugger.)
So do check the full list of fringe meetings including in the Birmingham Conference Directory:Liberal-Democrat-Conference-2011-Directory