Lib Dem conference diary: Where are the women?

Charlotte Henry tries to track down the women at the Lib Dem spring conference
Charlotte Henry tries to track down the women at the Lib Dem spring conference

The Lib Dems are gathered in Brighton for a weekend of group therapy. Emotions are clearly mixed after a hard fought by-election win in Eastleigh and scandals around Lord Rennard and Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce.

Turning up to conference, I rather hoped the beginnings of a culture shift were now in progress, with women taking on ever more prominent positions in the party.

Then I turned up to my first fringe event, which had only men on the panel, (until Olly Grender forced herself on). Lucky it was international women's day.

Jo Swinson has faced questions over her handling of the Lord Rennard scandal, and Lynne Featherstone has also been criticised for not talking about it publically. Both appeared on the stage yesterday, addressing the issue head-on.


Sarah Teather , who won her seat on the back of one of Rennard’s famous by-election campaigns, hasn't commented either. She doesn't appear to be here this weekend.

Having been chaperoned around various media scrums, the first thing Nick Clegg really had to negotiate was a speech at the rally. First he dealt with the issue of the Rennard allegations directly and then turned to Eastleigh.

There was a dig at Grant Shapp's, with the DPM sarcastically asking “if that really is your name” of the Tory chairman who's been caught up in controversy over his anonymous internet businesses, but it was dropped at the last moment. Clearly the Lib Dems rather enjoy lauding their success over their coalition partners.

The world was only just beginning to take stock of the end of Hugo Chavez's reign. The late Venezualan president was hardly known as a bastion of liberalism, so it was odd to find a leading Lib Dem lefty at the bar praising him as a "great man".

Despite the scandals though, it has to be said that overall the mood is positive amongst the cockroaches in Brighton. The Lib Dems are nothing if not resilient.

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