So that was Liberal Democrat Spring Conference. This is the FIRST time that I have been there in the Spring – usually Daddy Richard is just too busy – but Liverpool '08 is a SPECIAL YEAR so we made a special effort.
The BIG controversy was SUPPOSED to be the debate on Health Policy. In the end, though, it was as dull as dishwater after washing some particularly dirty dishes. This is NOT to cast aspersions on any of the policy, or on the people who took part, but let's face it, the debate got a little SIDE-TRACKED by the amendments into a discussion about the pros and cons of giving local councils power to run local health trusts.
(To be honest, I thought that there were good points on both sides of that argument: We trust councils with schools and meals on wheels, why not doctors and hospitals? But then people would rather have a locally chosen health board, as one well-deployed bar chart ably demonstrated!)
But the real issue about health is that we have had to admit that we cannot pay for free care for the elderly. This has to be a disappointment, it was a GOOD policy, but we also have to be HONEST and say that Scotland has shown it to be much, much more expensive than we thought. Dr Evan urged us not to send Mr Norman Lamb naked into the fight… actually, and he was speaking as a doctor, he just urged us not to send Mr Norman naked…
Mr Norman himself came on at the end of the debate, with a pale blue shirt that almost matched his – in that light – pale blue hair. "Ooh! It is SUPER-LAMB!" said Daddy. Perhaps the YELLOW background could have been used for CSO to make him FLY! Or possibly just to add some DINOSAURS – that would have livened things up!
(Actually, Daddy Alex was telling everyone at conference how between speeches they should have played "Carry On Abroad" on the big conference screen: you know, the one where they arrive to find that the hotel is only half-built and then the big storm comes along… maybe it wasn't THAT funny…)
So anyway, instead of free care for all, we now have a universal care guarantee to make sure that even the least well-off can be sure of receiving treatment. It is a policy based on fairness, but also one that we can actually hope to deliver.
The policy also introduces the "Patients' Guarantee" (that you can opt to go private if the NHS fails to deliver) and individual care budgets so that patients with mental health problems can take control of their own regime of treatment, all aimed at taking control of money away from Whitehall and returning it to people.
That was a subject that Ms Julia Worth-Her-Weight-In-Goldsworthy talked about in her speech straight after. At the moment, Mr Frown's QUANGOs control more money than the whole of the NHS budget AND the Defence budget added together; more than ALL of the money controlled by accountable, elected councils. Typically, Mr Frown wants to control everything from his desk in Whitehall; while the Conservatories want to control everything from some privatised monopoly. Only WE Liberal Democrats are promising to CULL the QUANGOs and put people back in charge – starting with Health.
Mind you, I thought that the emergency motions – Mr Vince's on nationalising banks and protection for deposits that depositers believe in; Mr Ed's on the need for an inquiry into the whole Extraordinary Rendition business – were much more exciting! It is a shame that everyone had gone by that point.
Anyway, the REAL highlight was going along to the Gender Balance Blogger awards in my NEW RUCKSACK (courtesy of the VERY NICE Mr Brian's campaign to be Mayor of London), where we saw awards for loveliness in blogging go to the VERY lovely Ms Lynne Featherweight, and the VERY lovely Citizen Alix of Mortimer, and the VERY lovely Ms Jo Christie-Smith. HUGS all round.
Oh, and Mr Clogg gave a speech too.