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 a jam-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, Susan 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, wooing an audience more than willing to be wooed with a beguiling mix of charm and calm (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: