Sunday, March 05, 2006

W***y waving and WMDs

The last time I blogged was early Saturday morning when I arrived at the conference centre. My next stop was the tail end of debate on the Post Office motion. The motion was passed after various speakers had reassured everyone that the occasional omission didn't mean we should throw the motion out, that the parliamentary team being in favour of the motion was not a sufficient reason to throw the motion out, and that including the words 'Royal Mail' and 'Privatisation' together in the same policy was not an instant cause for panic. The best quote of the debate goes to a very witty lady speaking against the motion who said that the media "were more concerned where people put their w****s than their weapons of mass destruction".

I remained in the hall for Vince Cable's speech which I found very drily amusing. Definitely worth a read since it was full of quotable jokes. After the speech, I headed towards the exhibition where a chance encounter set me off on 'suit watch'. Sandra Gidley was in front of us on the escalator and was wearing this incredible suit. It was exactly the sort of 1950s style suit that I'm into, beautifully cut and in a lovely brown tweed. I've been looking for a suit like that for job interviews since black doesn't suit me (pun! ha!) at all. It was perfect! Unfortunately, Sandra was in a hurry and she didn't come back through the exhibition. So I spent the rest of the day on 'suit watch' - hoping to collar her to try to find out where she got the suit from.

I popped into Harrogate before the lunchtime fringe and would like to take this opportunity to make a huge plug for the hot chocolate at Cafe Latino (Cambridge Street - opposite side of the road from Caffe Nero). It's definitely worth trying if you visit Harrogate. Unlike most hot chocolate it was viscous enough to stand a spoon in, no frothed milk or cream and very rich (I left most of it) - more like a dessert than a drink.

We went to the Age Concern/Rowntree Foundation lunchtime fringe on long-term care for the elderly. Not much to say about it really - it wasn't terribly memorable and I never really felt it grappled with the whole aging population issue. Just tended to the 'we're raising these issues with all the three major parties and talking to everyone. Free long-term care isn't as expensive as people think but we're also looking at alternatives like encouraging home-caring. Watch this space.'

I was next in the hall for the urgent issue discussion on free speech. I've blogged about a huge amount on F&M about this subject. LibertyCat and I had both put in speaker cards and I got called. I hadn't prepared a speech so it was completely off the cuff. Result: I felt it bombed. Out on the podium I was petrified I was going to sound like I condoned bigotry or that offending people was a good thing, and went out of my way to explain how terrible genocide was. LibertyCat tells me that it was better than average, and one or two people approached me today to say that it was a good speech which I guess meant it was at least memorable.

I returned to the hall for the minimum age constitutional amendment. This was aimed at curbing various forms of electoral malpractice by allowing state parties to set the minimum age for voting in council and PPC selections, with that for Wales set to 10 years, and minimum membership length to 15 months. It was mildly controversial but not as much as I'd have expected.

After the debate, we went to dinner and I would heartedly recommend Est! Est! Est! as an excellent Italian (it's just up the road from the conference centre). The hot chocolate was slightly above average. I ate there on both Saturday and Friday evening. If I were writing for a restaurant review I would be duty-bound to whitter on about how the marinated archichokes exploded in my mouth like a silk grenade whilst the goat's cheese teased the senses like the warm caress of a lover. I would also have to give my dinner companion a nickname like 'The Blonde' (he isn't). But I'm not employed by a broadsheet so will say the food was nice, edible and didn't give me salmonella (touch wood), the staff were attentive (although we were eating early so it was pretty quiet) and the restaurant had pleasant, minimalist decor. There were loads of screaming kids in on Saturday evening - this seems to happen a lot when I eat out.

I attended an evening fringe on affordable housing. It should have really been billed as 'providing housing for low-paid locals in Devon and Cornwall: a local government love-in'. I haven't got any experience of local government so I felt a bit of a fish out of water. It finished early so I easily got into the next fringe on Cameron. This was by CentreForum and featured Nick Clegg, Susan Kramer and a professor with alarmingly excited white hair and black eyebrows. The Professor (he was introduced this way and sounded decidedly like a dodgy bad-guy in a graphic novel) showed us a variety of graphs demonstrating that the more people saw of Michael Howard, the more they didn't like him... and that campaigning works. Susan Kramer discussed new campaigning techniques such as computer programs that identify types of voter who may agree with us but we haven't talked to before. Nick Clegg made lots of jokes about posh boys and wins the coverted Femme-de-R prize for 'best-looking announced speaker at a Spring Conference 2006 fringe' (when 'Dave' won 92nd sexiest guy - Nick was robbed). Nick argued that David Cameron had an informal pact with the Tory party that he would talk about subjects not close to their hearts like micro-generation in exchange for getting them into power. I finally got to speak to Sandra Gidley in the bar afterwards about her suit - sadly the suit was from last season but some may still be around. I didn't have time to go to the shop in Harrogate which stocked the same clothing range, but am going to try a spot of internet sleuthing.

We concluded the evening by attending 'Glee Club' - a shadowy event that drops off the media radar during which a lot of drunken (mostly middle-aged) men get together in a room and sing political songs tunelessly whilst punching the air. Most occasions I've attempted to go - I've felt this crawling need to rush out screaming. I've recently found that singing rousing political songs is quite fun when hiking and have reassessed my passionate dislike. After all, singing crude songs about country gardens accompanied by John Hemming MP on piano is a unique life experience. This is how I came to make a empassioned musical debut.

[NB: Photo is some icicles hanging from a railway bridge taken early Saturday morning]


  • At 9:57 pm , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    "After all, singing crude songs about country gardens accompanied by John Hemming MP on piano is a unique life experience."

    My God I bet it is!


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