Sunday, September 14, 2008

So what happens at Party Conferences?

Anyone who has never been to a party conference might wonder what we do all day. Well its not all sitting in a huge conference hall listening to debates on taper relief of capital gain tax, followed by partying till the early hours in the conference bar. There is training, fringe events, photo sessions, campaign groups to talk to, media and meetings with colleagues and various party bodies. There might be some drinking in the hotel bar, but tonight I am having an early night as I have an early start tomorrow.

So I started the second day again with some more training, there is no shortage of training in the Lib-Dem's, yet its all useful.

On the way out of the conference centre I got talking to campaigners from Rethink, a mental health campaign organisation. There is real inequality in just about every area of life for people with mental health issues, including mild depression that can effect any of us. Then there is the bigger issue of the huge percentage of people in our bulging prisons who have mental health issues. Surely treatment is more appropriate than banging them up!

Time cup of tea before attending a fringe from the 'ippr' with Norman Lamb looking at the balance between Public & Private provision of Public Services. This is a debate all major parties are having at the moment and we can learn much from countries such as Sweden.

I managed to grab something to eat then went into the Q&A with Nick Clegg. Nick answered a range of questions including; is he Cameron Lite, or Clegg Full Strength. Nick answered this by comparing policies, finally stating David Cameron would never do that! Nick believes we have the best policies on for example; housing, public services and the economy. Nick's ambition is that we remain the trend setter in British politics in the way have been on the environment.

Quick trek up the hill for a briefing with Vince Cable. Vince discussed some of the issues with the housing market. Councils should be able to buy empty properties or where people are unable to keep up with their payments and rentback.

Vince clarified our new tax proposals through closing tax avoidance, green taxes & savings. Regarding regulation of banking, ask me about, Countercyclical Regulation when I get back and see if I remember.

Finally an evening fringe run by Oxfam discussing how Climate Change is a Foreign Policy issue, with shifting weather patterns, basic resources such as water will become a valuable commodity which are already creating tensions around the globe. Countries such as the USA are not immune to this as deforestation in Brazil will affect rainfall in parts of the mid-west. So we need an international framework to agree how much water can be taken out of rivers and regulate the activities of countries that would affect neighbours. Quite a challenge!

Another full and interesting day, we have been so lucky with the weather. I think I have earned a pint on the conference hotel lawn overlooking the sea.

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