Sunday, 26 April 2009

"Now you know what all the fuss is about"

Those famous (to a Reading FC fan) words spoken by Gary Lineker in the first Match of the Day following Reading's promotion to the Premiership three seasons ago, could equally be applied to the guest speaker at yesterday's Northern Liberal Democrats Spring Conference in Gateshead.

I'd never met, or even seen, our new Party President before, but Baroness Ros Scott came to Gateshead and opened Conference with a lovely speech about how she first got involved in politics, about her rise through the party and her experiences along the way.

As we trooped out of the Council Chamber at lunchtime I spotted Ros standing on her own, and went over to introduce myself. We joined the queue for lunch (why do local authority caterers assume we all eat in Gregg's and want corned beef in flaky pastry, fat laden chicken and quiche, all served up with enough salt to refloat the Titanic?) and chatted away about Darlington and local politics. What a thoroughly nice and ordinary person she is. No airs and graces: it was obvious why she became the first non-MP in a competitive election to be elected President. During the lunch break she sat on the sofas, chatting away to everyone. She understands what ordinary party members are all about and she knows about local politics and local government, which is where most of us operate.

Conference was well-attended and its focus was launching the campaign to get Fiona Hall re-elected as one of the region's MEPs. Dave McCobb explained what he hoped local parties would do during the election period. Alan Beith and Fiona herself spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing us as the Labour Party implodes and the Conservatives have nothing to offer (AB: "Does anyone wake up in the morning and say we must have George Osborne as Chancellor" was a line I may have misquoted, but you get the idea.)

Conference closed early, in time for some afternoon delivering. I went up to Kingston Park in our target seat of Newcastle North, delivering Fiona's tabloid and addressed envelopes from the PPC, Ron Beadle, in an affluent little housing estate with well-behaved dogs and manicured lawns.

Then there was still time to meet up with a friend of mine who lives locally before hearing the glorious news that Reading's quest for automatic promotion back to the Premiership remains alive thanks to Preston's defeat of Birmingham. Now it's down to the Madejski next Sunday for the final game of the season against Birmingham.

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