July 2012

No sensitive little violets at the Social Liberal Forum conference

I don't think anyone would call me a 'sensitive little violet', especially as one of the aims of the Social Liberal Forum Conference last Saturday was to increase our visibility.

I'm not going to write about how any of the sessions at the conference went, because I didn't actually manage to sit all the way through any one of them. But others have started commenting already.

I spent most of the day trouble-shooting. Fortunately there wasn't too much going on that I would class as trouble. In fact, the main problem we encountered was some bugs with the AV which meant that the webcast was too quiet to hear properly. Luckily, Tracy Connell managed to record Nick Clegg giving the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture.

We were asked why we had invited Nick Clegg and other speakers who are not SLF members. But this was never intended to be an SLF lovefest. We wanted to provide a space where Lib Dems from across the party could explore and debate some of the core social issues, in a political context. The topics under discussion were all issues that are of central importance to social liberals, but we know that they also matter to everyone in the party, and indeed to many people outside.

So Nick Clegg addressed the title we had given him: 'How Liberal Democrats in Government are addressing Beveridge's "five giant evils" (Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness)'.  

We had been planning this conference for eight months. By 'we' I mean the conference team of Geoff Payne (the Hackney one), Prateek Buch, Liz Maffei, Naomi Smith, Kirsten de Keyser and myself, as project manager. We are all volunteers, but we made a great team.  We divided up the tasks between us and met on a monthly basis in some rather pleasant pubs and restaurants.

Geoff is a genius at constructing a programme of topics and speakers. We decided to have a theme of intergenerational justice, which would allow us to explore the impact of coalition policy on the old and young and the interplay between them. So under his guidance we created sessions on economics, housing, education and social mobility, well-being, care, and inequality.

But we also took a look at how new political expressions have sprung up, including the Occupy movement. Sadly, both Naomi Colvin from Occupy and Shiv Malik from The Guardian were both taken ill, so we missed their perspectives. Another session asked whether the Government is tackling the causes of last summer's riots.

Altogether we had 39 speakers or chairs on the programme, eight of whom provided perspectives from outside the party. Seven parliamentarians spoke, including two Cabinet members (Nick Clegg and Ed Davey), two ministers (Lynne Featherstone and Paul Burstow), one peer (Claire Tyler) plus Simon Hughes and Tom Brake.

I was very keen that people would be able to network easily, so we gave a lot of thought to the location of refreshments and the dozen or so exhibition stalls. This seemed to work well at our venue at the Waterloo campus of Kings College London.

If you were there then I hope you enjoyed it, and we will be contacting you soon to ask for feedback. If you weren't then watch out for next year.

Diary of a Games volunteer - preview of the Opening Ceremony

I went to see the final rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony last night, so I'm sure you want to know what happened. Well, I can tell you this ....


What I can say, is that it was the most amazing spectacle I have ever seen. If you were planning to do anything other than watch it on Friday evening, then think again.

Oh, and I do get fed up with all the carping about the organisers. The crowd management before and after was excellent, and carried out cheerfully by everyone. I didn't have to queue anywhere for more than a couple of minutes, including the loo, although the crowd did move fairly slowly towards the station afterwards. There were plenty of food outlets around the stadium, selling fairly basic stuff - fish and chips, noodles, curry, sausages, pizza, waffles, icecream, beer - and not a sign of McDonalds.

Diary of a Games volunteer - dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony

On Wednesday night I travelled back home from the dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony in a bit of a daze.

You all now know why! And that was without Bradley Wiggins, Mr Bean, Tim Berners Lee, the cauldron and the wonderful James Bond sequence which they kept secret from us.


The clouds appear


And the animals


Rural life


The industrial revolution


Hospital beds

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