By Charlotte Henry
Lib Dem conference is always a rather strange experience. I mean, how many people give up give up five days and hundreds of pounds to debate land value taxes, political reform, and so on? We don't even get champagne like the Conservatives!
It all kicked off on Saturday night with a well-attended rally. There was no stand up from Sarah Teather this time, but we did have some rather good jokes from deputy leader Simon Hughes and president Tim Farron. There was also a trip down memory lane from Jo Swinson, before a rather fired up Nick Clegg took the stage. There were a variety of self-deprecating remarks on his recent video and shoot up the music charts, but ultimately this was a rally on theme of Lib Dems not apologising anymore for their part in government.
The Lib Dems affirmed their opposition to airport expansion at Heathrow, Stanstead and Gatwick first thing yesterday morning. This was then followed by a debate on making good food available at cheaper prices. The motion was bizarre though – it called for local organic food plans at local government level.
Only in the Lib Dems.
That section was rejected by conference, but the rest of the motion, including a rather illiberal consultation into a tax on fizzy drinks, was accepted.
The most disturbing aspect of the debate was the discussion of agriculture's effect on carbon emissions. There was a speech that was, essentially, about cow farts.
It is not quite what you need when recovering from the first night hangover.
The highlight of yesterday was a Q+A session with Nick Clegg. Not many party leaders would put themselves through an hour long grilling from party members, taking questions on the communication data bill, green growth, and yes, tuition fees. Clegg seemed to be on good form: passionate, verbose, and excited. In particular, he was determined in defence of the government's economic plan, saying it was more flexible than is often portrayed.
Interestingly, the one thing not being discussed by delegates seriously is getting rid of Nick Clegg. Nobody is walking around with a clipboard seeking the required signatures for his removal. It is frankly a narrative set up by the mainstream media, and bares no relation to the reality of this conference.
So the first weekend is done. The Monday of conference is always a bit of damp squib, a hump to get over before the final debates and leader's speech, but there is an important debate on some secret justice proposals today in which Lib Dems must reaffirm their stance on fair justice.
After yesterday though, I'll never look at my roast beef on a Sunday in the same way knowing how much gas is involved…