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17 September 2008

Bye to Bournemouth

Lembit Opik returns to newstatesman.com's Conference 2008 blog to share his thoughts about how the L

By Lembit Opik

It’s only been 4 days since I last wrote this blog, but it feels like a lifetime. In that time I’ve made 14 speeches, travelled about 20 miles on foot and even more on a “Segway.” As you may know, a Segway Personal Transporter is a strange device with two wheels side by side like a trolley or something. You stand on it and, well, whiz about. This caused a great stir at the conference, and I must have shown around 200 people how to use it. I’ve been campaigning for their formal adoption as legal transport in the UK, and I’d say that the Party voted with my wheels.

The main political work I did was all about housing. That’s my portfolio, and that’s what most of my speeches were about. And we did discuss the Credit Crunch, and repossessions, and homelessness. And verily a great cry went up from the throng of delegate and we agreed with one voice that everything would be fixed if we were in government. And, actually, most of the stuff we came up with is workable now, today. It reminds me once again that when you get together with lots of common sense people, you get common sense answers.

An on-going narrative for my whole conference was also my Bid to be elected President of the Party. It’s a job I’ve been hankering after for 8 years now. I’m currently number 2 to outgoing President Simon Hughes, and with a bit of luck the good members of the Liberal Democrats will choose me to serve next. It was rather enjoyable talking about my plans for that job – though I honestly don’t know who’s going to win. That’s the good and bad thing about democracy. It’s democratic.

And what of fresh faced Nick Clegg our Leader? He obviously had a great 6 days. No rebellions, no speech problems and a very well received performance on the final day. This is the kind of reception a Leader dreams of – and which poor Gordon Brown would give his right arm for.

Did conference achieve anything? Well, I’ve still got flu, lost my voice once and left with swollen glands. Conference isn’t exactly recuperative, while the party got motivated, found a new vision, and left with swollen confidence. There’s a symmetry in there somewhere. So come on Brown, bring on the next General Election – and pass the Strepsils!

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