Wendy at the Conference

Wendy at the Conference

By Wendy Chamberlain

Having joined the party last year following the UK General Election, I attended the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in the Autumn, but was keen to experience a Federal Conference. I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Spring Conference last month in York, something that I would encourage all members to do at some point if you can – there is an access fund that helps those who may find it cost prohibitive.

I travelled down to York on Friday afternoon, dropped my bags at my B&B nearby and headed straight to the York Barbican for the Civic Reception. Caron Lindsay, Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and known to many Dunfermline and West Fife Liberal Democrats was my Newbie buddy for the weekend, and I met with her there. I then dropped into the First Timers reception and was really impressed by the numbers there, and that many of those there were members of longstanding, who had decided to attend for the first time. It was also great to have addresses from both Sal Brinton and Tim Farron – it really made us feel valued as a group.

The Conference rally was the main event on Friday night. This was focussed on the upcoming European Referendum – the speakers were hugely impressive, particularly current Welsh AM Eluned Parrott and Saleyha Ahsan –  a junior doctor who handed her membership form to Tim Farron from the stage! After dinner with Caron and some of her friends from across the UK, it was back to my B&B to actually unpack.

I was keen to use the Saturday to attend training and fringe events as well as the main conference agenda, so after attending the official conference opening in the Barbican main hall, I headed round the corner to the Novotel and a session hosted by Liberal Democrat Women with former MP Tessa Munt about becoming a candidate – very empowering and Tessa encouraged all attendees to keep in touch. Another session at the Hilton was run by the central elections team focussed on the Scottish Welsh and London Assembly elections. Unfortunately the debate on fracking was taking place at the same time, so it wasn’t particularly well attended. I did find out, however, that Limekilns was the most Lib Dem part of the Dunfermline constituency when Jim Tolson won the seat in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections!

I then popped over to another Liberal Democrat Women event looking forward to the Electing Diverse MPs motion the following day. I was really encouraged by the turn out – standing room only! – as well as the range of opinions expressed. Off back to the Barbican (I should have had a pedometer attached to me!) for lunch and a look at the exhibition. There I obtained Joined the History Association and was directed to purchase my Liberator songbook for the infamous Glee Club.

I then spent the afternoon in Conference main hall. This included a really personable Q&A session with Tim Farron. As a former police officer I was keen to attend the Privacy and Security in a Digital Age debate, moved by Lord Paddick, and again I was really impressed by the variety of speakers – including a number of first time speakers – who always got a round of applause – and party members with a wealth of experience in the subject area.

I actually managed an hour or so back at my accommodation, before heading out again for the late night Glee Club – this is a conference tradition, and I was assured that I had to attend it once to fully experience conference – I would recommend that you do the same!

Caron Lindsay moved the most divisive and emotive debate of the conference – Electing Diverse MPs. Although the measures outlined were less radical than those approved at the Scottish Spring Conference there was a  great deal of debate and strong speakers on both sides, including a group of Liberal Youth wearing I Am Not a Token Woman tshirts. Current legislation only allows for shortlisting on the basis of gender and disability, and the motion was passed with an amendment to campaign to extend current legislation for all under represent groups. I did submit a card, and although not selected, was happy to have used my vote to support the motion.

Tim’s speech was brilliant and it was great to see the full hall – as I tweeted from the event: @nick-clegg 8th May 2015 your speech made me join @LibDems @timfarron your speech today made me proud that I did!

And that was it, by 1pm all over, back on the train and back home after along but exhilarating weekend!

Conference Attendees

Conference Attendees