LibDem conference I met up with Merlene Emerson, who stood in our area for the party at the last general election. Here are her thoughts on the conference, what's happpenned since and whether she would have done anything differently. She also appeals for your support in the referendum on voting reform. Here's what she had to say, starting with the conference:
It was certainly bigger and had more of a buzz than previous Lib Dem Conferences . ..tighter security, 40% more delegates and over 60% more media (including our Bush blogger).
The rally on the first night set the mood, impressing on us all the importance of the referendum on electoral reform. What is patently obvious to me is that this would be a fairer system of voting, requiring a candidate to be elected on a majority of the votes.
Besides, it is the system used to elect the new Labour leader so they can hardly deny their support for it. I can only speculate as to how different the results might have been (or will be) with AV in Hammersmith.
Debates on motions like those on Free Schools, Trident and International Development all showed that it is possible for our Party to retain its own set of values and identity despite being in a Coalition Government. I managed to get called to speak at the Consultation on diversity and also organised a couple of fringe events on behalf of EMLD on the Immigration Cap (with Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister for Equalities) and on Turkey and her developing Foreign Policy (with London MEP Sarah Ludford and the Turkish Ambassador on the panel).
Having come back this summer from the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and the Shanghai World Expo, I was keen to find out where we were with the London Olympics 2012 and joined our GLA team at the Olympic reception. Likewise, I could not miss the chance to quiz the Chinese Ambassador at the China forum on ‘China and UK – partners in a Changing World’ as well as to hear directly from the young people at another fringe event on Knife Crime sponsored by Kids Count.
Of course, Conference was more than debates and fringe events. There were also the subtle (and not so subtle) lobbying and networking that occur outside of the Arena at various watering holes, sometimes into the early hours.
However the highlight for me was actually taking time out of Conference to walk around Liverpool and to meet people from the local communities, visiting Pagoda and other Chinese Associations, Pine Court, a BME housing trust, and MCCDA, a charitable provider of domiciliary care.
After all, politics cannot be about policies in the abstract, it has to relate to real people and to real communities. From my campaigning in the Bush, I have found pockets where the needs of the residents both young and old have not been adequately addressed by the local Council. There is still much that can and must be done to stimulate the local economy and to find different ways of delivering better services in a time of belt tightening.
Finally, I have been asked what I could have done differently in my campaign in the May elections. To be honest that feels like a very long time ago now. I would rather be looking forward, especially as Lib Dems are now in Coalition Government, and are in a position to ensure many of our manifesto policies (such as green taxes and the pupil premium) are implemented.
The next big challenge would be the referendum for fairer votes. So having started with the referendum, may I end with the same. I need your help to work towards a ‘yes’ vote in May – a vote that will ensure the end to tactical voting - and maybe, just maybe, I will be back in 2015 asking for your vote again.