A welcome rebalancing of the media/members ratio at conference

Tim Farron 2015 bournemouthTim Farron, with Rosie Farron, awaits the cue to deliver his first conference speech as leader at Saturday’s night conference rally.Photo by Paul Walter.

Pssst. Let me tell you a little secret which you may not have noticed if you haven’t attended Lib Dem conferences. As we went through the coalition years, the numbers of members attending conference dwindled. No doubt someone is going to dispute this and quote detailed numbers. But it was pretty obvious and, towards the end, feintly embarrassing.

While the numbers of members attending conference went down, the numbers of media, police, security guards and sycophantic business people buzzing around soared.

So, the conference ceased to really be a members’ conference and became a rather grotesque media performance.

At the autumn conference in Brighton in 2012, the arrangements for the leaders’ speech (to which I did not give a standing ovation) were ludicrous. Totally ludicrous. The rag, tag and bobtail members like me were pushed to the back into the dark recesses of the auditorium, in front of masses of empty seats. Then around the leader’s podium, they created a sort of TV studio with masses of lighting and doughnut style groups of carefully orchestrated, invited members surrounding him.

At the Liverpool conference there were actually at least three – count them – three journalists there from the Mail group. I know, they nicked my power socket.

Thank goodness that utter madness is now behind us.

OK. We’ve only got 8 MPs, but there are consolations. This time at Bournemouth there are no police, a smattering of security people, no bag checks, no X-rays, a distinct absence of odious sycophantic businesses and a nice, relaxed atmosphere with plenty of members, many of them new.

I yearn for more of this. And, also, less of the middle-aged male representatives like myself who can talk the hind legs off a donkey if you let us, and more of the young, the women, the ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ and the new members of whom I have seen and met many at Bournemouth this time.

Bring it on!


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