Day One of my first ever Liberal Democrat Conference! Since I'm crashing in Michael's spare room he offered to come into Birmingham City Centre with me and show me where everything is (and by everything I mean the ICC) so I would be able to find my way round alone in the dark. We tried to go for lunch in Wetherspoons but they'd had a power cut so couldn't cook any food but did kindly recommend a pub down the round where I was amused to discover every single person was either wearing a Lib Dem lanyard or an Aston Villa shirt because the football was on!
I left Michael in the pub and headed off to the ICC. Got into a lovely chat with an old man in the queue for the security checks; we chatted away about which areas we were from, what I was studying at university and what he used to teach and then he said I must go to the First Timer's Drinks in the evening because he was giving a small speech about his first conference. I got into the conference hall much quicker than expected however so I had a lot of time to kill. Mooched about the exhibitors and yet somehow failed to find the DELGA stand which was a minor irritation but I'm here all week so I'm sure I'll find in eventually!
The opening speech was dealt with, as were the Reports from the FCC and FPC, which was the first point in the day I felt like it would have been better if i had attended my first conference with someone who had been before because I had very little idea what was going on. The Lords Reform debate however I did understand (even if I did forget to pick up the Conference Daily so I had to guess what the amendments were) and found rather interesting. I've always been quite conflicted because, as a Liberal, the idea of entrenched privilege and unaccountable decision making unsettle me but a tiny part of my brain finds the idea of the lofty and posh House of Lords quite pleasing (I blame Jane Austen novels) but now I am committed to an at least majority elected second chamber :D
Lynne Featherstone's speech though was a highlight. She is clearly very passionate about what she does and it's quite inspiring. A week ago (ish) I blogged about what I wanted to do in the future and Lynne's speech - which is here if you wanted to read it - has nudged me (at least for today) towards working for the promotion of human rights abroad, especially gay rights. Her announcement that the Government is set to consult on gay marriages in March was warmly welcomed but I was annoyed by the obvious delay! Why does setting up a consultation take six months, why can't a bill just be introduced, debated and voted on? After venting this mild annoyance on Twitter it was pointed out to me by a follower, and Lib Dem councillor who listening to the speech, that we are having to take the Tories with us on this policy and it is obviously something a lot of their MPs, Lords and membership aren't exactly jumping for joy about.
After that speech I grabbed a quick sandwich, jumped on a train back to Michael's house, had a speedy shower and hopped on the next train back for the First Timer's Drinks Reception. This did cause another moment of desire for a friend who knew what they were doing because I managed to miss the rally and Nick Clegg's speech because I didn't know it was happening!! The drinks reception was fun though, found everyone friendly and chatty and had some good conversations with other newbies. The old gentleman from the morning queue did make his speech but it wasn't until he was introduced that I realised I'd met him before; William Wallace, Baron of Saltaire and I met one day campaigning for my local candidate at the 2010 General Election and I was hoping to meet him again. He recognised me from the morning and came over for a chat afterwards which was nice.
I've now reached the point where I've realised I want to be at the ICC for 9am tomorrow morning and there are no trains so I'm going to have to get a taxi so I should probably go to bed!
Night folks :)