Tuesday, 20 October 2009

My maiden speech to conference... that I didn't end up making

I had submitted this for the Highland Liberal Democrat News (or whatever it's called), but it's twice as long as it should be so I'll have to do some editing. You lucky bloggers get to read the full 700-odd words.

My conference experience can be rather neatly summated by relating to you my maiden conference speech that I sadly didn't get to deliver in response to the motion “A Fresh Start for Britain: Choosing a Different, Better Future.”

Good morning conference. In 1997, when Labour were elected, I was skipping joyfully down the streeet arm in arm with friends in the early hours of the morning. I was 17 years old, jubilant, and full of hope. You can probably tell by my standing on this stage (This never happened -ed) that I have since found that hope to have been misplaced and have found the need to find a new home for my hopes for social justice, my commitment to compassionate, evidence-based policy, and my rejection of knee-jerk populism.
I joined the Liberal Democrats about 18 months ago for something to do. I suffer from chronic fatigue and was spending my days playing monotonous computer games and watching DVDs. The Inverness Thursday club envelope stuffing and blue envelope writing sessions quickly became a highlight of my week, but they weren't exactly forums of cutting edge political debate. So earlier this year I sent letters to my local MP, Danny Alexander on the subject of drug policy and electoral reform, and while Danny didn't agree with all I wrote, he welcomed my thought-provoking contribution and encouraged me to attend conference. There are no words for the gratitude I feel towards Danny for doing this. This policy motion neatly summarises everything I have loved about my experience this week. Everyone I have talked to has been highly intelligent and open to any ideas that can improve the lives of British citizens. This party is a party committed to rational policy making, not cynical populism, and this policy motion reflects this.
I'd now like to address the massive number of young people watching this on BBC Parliament (3 can be a massive number if you project it onto the side of a building... pause for laughter... (carry on regardless -ed) ) What are you doing joining radical charities and going on marches when you could be joining a political party and changing politics from the inside (I have plans to submit a motion on drug policy and prostitution for spring conference and given this party's commitment to rational, evidence based policy I hope it will be accepted). If you are thinking of taking your passion for politics to either of the other parties, well anyone describing the Tories or Labour as progressive has lost the plot...

And that's where my “speech” fades out, hastily scrawled in my stewards chair when I should have been listening intently to the motion on rail franchises. At conference I contributed to a policy consultation on mental health, drugs policy and electoral reform. I made my feelings known to an electoral reform rally on the urgent support I feel there should be for the Alternative Vote. I sneaked into various events I shouldn't have been at and saw Nick Clegg speak very well four times to various audiences. I hatched a plan with a prostitution advocacy charity to help women off the street and out of brothels. And I addressed a packed fringe event on drug policy reform and gained a near unanimous mandate to produce a motion for Spring conference advocating bringing all aspects of the drugs trade under strict regulatory control. There is one thing about the experience that I do regret though, and that's shouting “I'm voting Tory!” at Nick Clegg after he made a bad joke at glee club. Nobody laughed at his joke or mine. That would have been the fifth time I'd heard him speak well, but sadly he's no comedian.

If you're wondering about my health, it appears the latest herbal remedy is working well, or maybe I just needed my body to start feeling proud of what my brain was doing with its days again. Whatever the reason, it appears my chronic fatigue is on the back foot and I now find myself eyeing up an application pack for becoming a PPC for the coming election. I hope you'll understand now why I seized the opportunity to write this piece. Attending conference might have radically changed my life.

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