by Stephen Tall on September 19, 2007
One of the things non-party members (who usually go by the name, ‘normal people’) are most curious about is what those of us who go actually do at a Lib Dem party conference. Usually it’s a heady mix of full-on policy debates (so much more exciting if there’s a knife-edge vote which could defeat the leadership), fringe meetings (which the more ambitious MPs will attend half a dozen or more), and enjoying the company of folk you meet perhaps just once a year. This year, there was an extra treat: a candidates’ hust for the three Lib Dems who are vying to be the party’s choice to take on Ken and Boris in the ’08 London mayoral election. In an absolutely packed lecture theatre at lunch-time today, Chamali Fernando, Fiyaz Mughal and Brian Paddick (in order of appearance) strutted their funky stuff, giving a 5-minute speech, before being quizzed by chair, Suisan Kramer, herself an erstwhile Lib Dem mayoral candidate back in 2000. Chamali fired off an absolutely cracking speech, fizzing with dynamic vigour; Fiyaz displayed an easy and commanding grasp of policies, communicated with real confidence; while Brian brimmed over with liberal camaraderie and humour, emitting a calm assurance that engulfed the audience (I guess he’s had to face tougher crowds in his life). Like everyone else, I’m assuming Brian is a shoo-in for the Lib Dem nomination. In which case on the basis of today’s performance he will – win or lose (and he could win, you know) – do the party proud. But both Chamali and Fiyaz will do themselves and their future career prospects a power of good by continuing to make such a good contest of it. I’m writing this on my way back from Brighton… work calls tomorrow, so this is my final photo diary direct from the front-line.