A bit of a Libby Demmy treat for me tonight. I went along to enjoy Dan Rogerson MP in conversation with Judith Bunting at Elm Farm Organic Research Centre, at Hamstead Marshall. This was open to “all comers” rather than just Lib Dems, and it was very good to see a very good crowd from across West Berkshire.
Dan is MP for my parents and three of my brothers and their families down in North Cornwall. About a year ago he visited my parents’ house in Widemouth Bay while doing residents’ surveys. They haven’t stopped talking about it since. I was very pleased to meet Dan at our Glasgow conference when he joined in the singing of “Trelawny” (the “Cornish National Anthem”) at the Glee.
But this was my first opportunity to hear Dan speak at length. I was very impressed indeed. He comes across as a humble, genuinely friendly and self-effacing fellow, but he is extremely intelligent and articulate, and very “on top of his” brief as a minister at DEFRA.
Judith started by interviewing Dan, mainly taxing him on the issue of the poor deal which rural areas get in the local government finance settlement.
Questions followed. There was none of the usual pause for hands to go up, as we launched straight into flooding in Compton and cracked sewers in the Lamborn Valley. We then covered rights of way and the operation of the water industry.
One very refreshing thing was to hear Dan, once he had temporarily taken off his minister’s hat and his Lib Dem MP’s hat, say unequivocally that we need to build more council houses. This received warm applause. The remark was in response to a question about how we retain families and local people within rural communities.
I should also say that it was a delight to see Elm Farm Organic Research Centre, which is a remarkable place. The hall we were in is a refurbished 1756 barn which has its own bat attic!