Well, Conference is over and my fluffy feet have almost recovered from all the CLAPPING.
But it wouldn’t be the end of Conference without the big speech from the leader. This year opened with a series of slides: Sir Mr the Merciless STREAKING down the racetrack. And if that wasn’t enough to put you off your sticky buns, there was always the TOP GUN moment: Sir M in the role of TOM CRUISER. And Chucky Kennedy valiantly trying to look like Val Kilmer!
It is not often that I get to compare Sir Ming to JACKIE TYLER. But that is who I was reminded of by his Conference reception. No, I will EXPLAIN.
Earlier this year, before the latest series of DOCTOR WHO even, my daddies went to another sort of conference, one for Dr Who enthusiasts: the Liberal Democrats of the SCI-FI world!
At that conference, it was the first time that CAMILLE CODURI, the actress who plays Rose Tyler’s MUM, had been at one of these fan conventions. She was obviously VERY NERVOUS when she first got up on stage. As you would be with two hundred Dr Who fans braying in the audience. But as she answered the first couple of questions it gradually dawned upon her that the Dr Who fans LOVED HER. And with that, she BLOSSOMED!
It was quite similar for Sir Mr the Merciless. I am not saying that the conference LOVED him – I don’t think that either he or they are quite READY for that yet, maybe a brisk handshake or even a comradely slap on the shoulder, but NO HUGGING. But there was a palpable sense that Conference were willing him to success.
After all the kerfuffle at the start of the year, over Mr Charles and then the leadership election, and over Mr Gerbil and Mr Hugs making a general MESS of things, the Liberal Democrats have been doing PRETTY WELL to keep themselves together (not to mention giving a bloody nose each to Lord Blairimort and Mr Balloon in by-elections!). So it was frankly RUDE of the dead wood media to spend most of the run up to conference saying that it was do-or-die for Sir Mr the Merciless in spite of all the party’s hard work.
If there is one sure way to get a herd of Lib Dems to do something, it is to try and get them to do the opposite. Try and get them to have a big row, and the leadership will get their tax policy by two-to-one; say that they want Mr Charles back and Sir Mr the Merciless will be clutched to the collective BOSOM. (Well, hand firmly clasped, anyway, see above.)
So you can see why there was a sensation in the air that everyone in the hall for that speech was willing Sir Mr the Merciless on. That’s not to say that he could have just tottered to the front of the stage and fallen off the edge to rapturous applause. But it also meant that some opening nervousness was going to be overlooked. And as Sir M picked up on the fact that Conference DIDN’T want him to fall off the front of the stage, his performance strengthened notably.
The first jokes – the ones about the hymns for Lord Blairimort’s “Songs of Praise” were a BIT strained, but Conference was giving him credit for making jokes AT ALL at that point.
Then he was into his stride, and realising Conference was with him, he gave us what we wanted: tax policy and climate change, the big Liberal policy statements of the week – will we see anything like that at the other conferences? I do not think so!
Then a swipe at the Labour’s squandered years.
Next on to civil liberties: “terrorism thrives where civil liberties are denied”. This was the good stuff!
Time to play his JOKER: foreign policy – Britain’s tarnished international reputation: too soon into Iraq; too late to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon. The shame of Guantanamo and rendition. And the need to act and act now in Darfur.
And on Mr Balloon suddenly discovering he has RESERVATIONS about our foreign policy…
“Where were you when what was needed was not reservations but votes?
“I’ll tell you where you were:
“You, Mr Balloon, were in the government lobby backing military action against Iraq.”
Then on to tackle INEQUALITIES: the Diversity Fund to make the Liberal Democrats MORE representative (at least he MENTIONED homophobia in one paragraph, even if he forgot gay daddies again by the next), and a Commission on Public Services to widen the reach of opportunities for everyone, with principles of stability, local accountability and tailoring to the individual.
Time for the best joke of the speech:
“The Labour is like the hurricane that hit the Azores this week;
“A great, grey depression that spins around sucking everything into its centre. And its name? Hurricane Gordon!”
Into the home strait, and guaranteed applause by name-checking the Liberal Democrats ACTUALLY in ACTUAL government – Sheffield, Liverpool, Scotland – ten billion pounds being managed for seventeen million people with Liberal government, and our best chance yet to take the lead in the Scottish Parliament. And from Holyrood to Westminster.
Big finish, step out from behind podium to show that he CAN step out from behind podium – “My vision; your challenge; our future!” – and then all the CLAPPING. Nice choreography as first Lady the Merciless and then all the MPs stream onto the stage too with a sense of golly there are quite a few of them now!
It might not have been the most BRILLIANTEST of speeches, and there might have been just a few too many gaps where we were expected to put the clapping in, but it was the speech that Conference wanted and needed and it was the speech to shut the media up… at least until next week. And next week the Mr Frown show hits Manchester like one of those ASTEROIDS that Mr Lemming is so worried about.
So the next challenge really is… what next? There is a long gap in the political calendar until election season next year and the only danger for us now is falling off the radar. This is then going to be the REAL test. Good luck, Sir Mr the Merciless: it might be the only thing worse than being talked about.
I have rewarded Daddy Richard for taking us to conference by letting him play STAR WARS LEGO for the last two days, so obviously my diary has fallen behind again. I will try and make him catch up again soon!