Running rather against the modern trend of reorganising events to suit the media, this autumn’s Liberal Democrat conference is starting and finishing a day earlier. With a Saturday start and a Wednesday finish, that means one weekday (better for media coverage) has been sacrificed for one extra weekend day (worse for media coverage, but more convenient for party members to attend).
What to expect on this Saturday of conference then?
Highlights are likely to include:
- The Real Women policy paper debate in the afternoon, which includes proposals related to the airbrushing of women in magazine photos and the like. That particular aspect of the paper has already generated a large volume of media coverage and much debate, such as the excellent thread of comments on Lib Dem Voice, so this will be one of the votes to watch out for.
- The Conference Rally in the evening, featuring Nick Clegg, Charles Kennedy, Sarah Teather, Floella Benjamin (yes, that Floella Benjamin) and Karen Hamilton from Birmingham Perry Barr. I’ve only heard Karen speak the once – but my, it was an impressive and impassioned speech. Well worth listening to her if you can make it.
- At the last party conference, the Lib Dem Voice fringe meeting was so popular we had to dismantle a wall in order to let more people in. It’s unlikely any walls will be threatened again, but we’re hopefully of a good turnout for our fringe meeting – Campaigning after Rennard – at 8pm in the Connect 2 room at the Premier Inn Bournemouth Central.
If you are on Twitter, the hashtag for conference is #ldconf and the party’s official Twitter account for conference news is @libdemconf. The party’s website is also being updated regularly with news from conference.
Finally, watch out for a round of blog posts following Nick Clegg’s interview with Liberal Democrat bloggers in the morning.
UPDATE: John Curtice departs from his frequent pessimism in recent years about the party’s prospects with this piece in The Independent:
The Liberal Democrats kick off the party conference season this weekend with reasons to be cheerful. The party’s rating in The Independent’s monthly “poll of polls” has now held steady at 19 per cent for five months, its best continuous run since Charles Kennedy was deposed as leader. Unlike both its principal opponents, the party escaped the electoral fallout from the MPs’ expenses scandal. Indeed in June it registered its best local election performance since 2005.
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg has begun to make a favourable impact on the electorate. His leadership ratings rose significantly following his prominent role in the Gurkhas campaign in the spring and he has not looked back since. The leadership question that has dogged the party for much of this parliament seems finally to have been put to rest.
You can read the full piece here.