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GUEST POST: My 1st LibDem conference – libertarianism, late nights and luscious Lynne

September 24th, 2009 Posted in UK Politics by

lynne-featherstone1I am on the National Executive of Freedom2Choose, a pro choice smoking group was a guest of Liberal Vision at this year’s Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth. Last year I had gone to the Conservative Party conference for the Free Society fringe meeting but needed a pair of binoculars to see the podium. I assumed this was the norm.

So, it was with a certain amount of incredulity that stumbling back from dinner I walked into Paddy Ashdown and Nick Clegg sharing a beer and having a chat on the steps of the conference hotel. I can’t imagine bumping into Gordon Brown or David Cameron in the same informal way. This set a pleasant tone of informal approachability for my two days in Bournemouth.

Another positive was that I don’t think many Lib Dems have heard of Sir Liam Donaldson (or perhaps they just don’t listen to him). The bar at the Highcliffe Marriott was packed until 5.00 am, and there were plenty of people smoking (shock, horror) on the terrace.

An early start at 9.30 on Tuesday, meant I had five hours to hand out leaflets outside the conference hall, promoting that evening’s Liberal Vision fringe.

I am sure the MPs and delegates get harangued all day long with people thrusting flyers into their hands – but most who declined were polite and many received them enthusiastically. The most hostile cpmment of the day was “the last thing we need is libertarians”, but I never feared that I was in danger of being hurled over a wall by an itinerant Liberal backbencher.

An audience of over sixty at the LV fringe seemed to indicate that lifestyle freedom is high up the agenda for many Liberal Democrats.

An outstanding and stimulating panel had been assembled including Tom Clougherty of the Adam Smith Institute, Simon Clark of Forest/Free Society, Lib Dem blogger Charlotte Gore, Colin Eldridge a Lib Dem councillor and PPC for Liverpool Wavertree and Dr. Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Psychologist and Lib Dem Councillor. The event was chaired expertly by Liberal Vision Director, Mark Littlewood. In the audience were the libertarian blogger Dick “no breakfast” Puddlecote and author Chris “call me at 5.00 am” Snowdon. It was refreshing to hear so many Lib Dems support liberalisation in a wide range of arenas – from drugs to the sex industry.

The exception to the general libertarian love-in on the panel was Colin Eldridge who defended proposals to restrict the depiction of smoking in films watchable by under-18s. He was articulate and had a vaguely coherent case but the room was not on his side. Colin however more than saved himself when he mentioned that Liverpool council had introduced tolerance zones for sex workers and that he would personally like to see an amendment to the smoking ban. He was also great company in the bar afterwards.

I also got the chance to meet two Lib Dem MPs, Lembit Opik and Greg Mullholland. Not only were they engaging to talk to, they listened intently to others’ views and were also open to possible amendments to the smoking ban. Although Freedom2Choose are not party political affiliated, I wish them both well in the next general election.

It appears that many Liberal Democrats identify with the rising tide of resentment against the nanny state. If the party leadership followed suit, they could be on to a vote winner.

I came away with a pretty positive view of the Liberal Democrats – and enjoyed many great conversations and lively debates. A final delight was seeing Lynne Featherstone in the flesh (so, to speak) looking gorgeous.

Dave Atherton is on the National Executive of Freedom 2 Choose

5 Responses to “GUEST POST: My 1st LibDem conference – libertarianism, late nights and luscious Lynne”

  1. Helen Says:

    Any party that has the bottle to rise against the ‘nanny state’ and the ‘puritanical health regime’ will be rewarded with votes.

    The problem is that leaders of certain political parties are too weak to take it on and speak up for the majority.

    I can understand when we have a country that has a vast machine of political correct nannies who are able to rig consultations and control our media with tax-payer’s money.

    The problem is, the country’s got wise to it. They don’t stand a chance unless they cater for everyone

  2. John H Baker (F2C) Says:

    You would have thought, wouldn’t you, that there would be nothing to sell to a party that preaches liberalism yet the Lib Dems seem to fight the very thought of it.

    Fight illiberal laws like the smoking ban for instance and maybe you have a fighting chance of getting somewhere in next years General Election.

    Nicely observed fringe meeting Dave, and you got to meet Dick Puddlecote AND Chris Snowdon…I am impressed (jealous even.)


    Some of us in the brutal North find it very difficult
    to equate FREEDOM with the Liberal Democrats.
    We know to well, the limited extent of their so called
    Liberal ideals. Limited to concern for criminals,terrorists,perverts,paedophiles,illegal immigrants
    muggers ,drugs and pornographers. Little or no compassion
    for the ordinary ,the hard working ,the honest man,the
    ones who produce the wealth.
    Chattering baboons for whom lying is par for the course

    Nietsczhes mountain guide

  4. Anon Says:

    Labour’s smoking ban and their bully state tactics in effect persecutes a law abiding minority. It forces those of us that wish to smoke to stand outside pubs in the bad weather. Ruining peoples social lives(Mintel reported this year that at least two million people stay in each evening that would have otherwise visited pubs because of it) the ban is in some cases preventing the elderly from socialising at all.

    With the closure of fifty plus pubs a week, bingo halls,cafes and working mens clubs the ban has so far caused at least 100,000 job losses in UK hospitality. Surely The Liberal Democrats can see the sense in providing people with an element of choice so that everyone can socialize comfortably?

    A party that commits to amending the unpopular smoking ban restoring an element of choice, will get my vote.

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