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Monday, September 19, 2005

The joys of Conference

Having only just started to really enjoy Conference it is almost time to leave. Together with all of the other Welsh Liberal Democrats AMs I am travelling back very early tomorrow morning and braving the M6 at rush hour so as to get back to Cardiff Bay in time for the first Plenary session of the new term.

The few days I have been here have had their interesting moments. The first one concerned the Conference passes. Many people would dispute the fact that AMs are Parliamentarians, nevertheless that is how the Liberal Democrats class us for Conference purposes. This means that we get the same privileges as MPs in terms of use of facilities, access to otherwise restricted areas etc. However, to secure that access we need Parliamentarian badges.

When I registered on Saturday I found that these badges were not forthcoming. It appeared that the computer software used to generate them was refusing to recognise that AMs and MSPs were in fact Parliamentarians. It was also having problems with those MPs who had previously been an MEP.

Not having gone to the Spring Conference in March I was also unprepared for the changes in the security arrangements. Barcodes on badges are now scanned as we enter the hall, whilst they are also apparently required wear in the main conference hotel. Not realising this I turned up to the Imperial last night and was immediately challenged. The first person I asked to vouch for me declined to do so. Fortunately, I found a former member of the Welsh Liberal Democrats who was prepared to put his neck on the line and confirm that I was a party member.

I was concerned as to why I had not been informed of the need to wear a badge in the Imperial Hotel. I was told that the information was contained in the letter that accompanied the badge when it was sent to us prior to Conference. Unfortunately, the Party had omitted to send mine in this way, even though I had pre-registered. Eventually, I found the information in the booklet entitled "A Conference Guide" - on page 69!

Being in Blackpool the weather is not the best at this time of the year. On Saturday night it was particularly dreary and I got quite wet as I set out on the 20 minute walk between the Conference Centre and my hotel. As I got to the North Pier it occurred to me that I should catch a tram which I did. It was only later (and with less than 12 hours to go before I leave) that I discovered that the local Council was providing free tram tickets for delegates.

Of course if I had thought I would have brought with me suitable wet weather gear. Fortunately, I have just won a windcheater by scoring 7 out of 8 in the quiz on the Electoral Commission stand. This jacket appears to have been made for Conference reps. Putting aside the distinctive Electoral Commission logo on the front, it has emblazoned across the back in large letters the words "Political Anorak". Must have seen me coming!
Is it true that Mike German voted against your party's leadership on the restriction of spending on the EU? Not very loyal if that is the case.
Peter - apologies for your badge problems. I was on the other side of the desk most of the time when you came to registration to try and get it sorted, and couldn't.

The root of the issue was that there was a death in the close family of one of the members of the conference office staff shortly before conference, which naturally took him out of action at short notice.

As he was the member of staff who deals with the badging system, the conference office staff were caught on the hop, which was one of the reasons why I was called up to volunteer on the Friday.

Try as I might, I couldn't learn the module in Crystal Reports quickly enough that was refusing to respect your position!

I think you got sorted in the end, but again, apologies.
Thanks for clearing that one up. I can sleep soundly tonight knowing Peter's badge situation was just one big mix-up.

Rather more importantly though - did your Assembly leader vote against your party leadership or not?

By the way Mr Black, I have been sticking up for you elsewhere:

It is true that the entire Welsh Party voted in the interests of Wales against the 1% cap on the EU budget. Whether that was the position of the Party leadership I do not know because they did not speak. However the purpose of Conference is to debate policy openly and constructively on its merits, not blindly follow a leadership line. You must be thinking of another party.

Rob, there is no need to apologise. I just found the incident mildly amusing from the point of view of my natural ludditism (though clearly I did not know the circumstances). In fact I have a great deal of time for the many volunteers who struggled against such odds and still provided a first class service.
please ignore snide comment - we were clearly posting at the same time

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