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Monday, May 17, 2010

Long memories and the Llandudno club 

Probably my last ever Party Conference, so a quick 50 minutes trip on the train from MK to the NEC on Sunday. Not a voting delegate, but it did give me an experience to add to some historic memories.

How many others attending were also at the Liberal assemblies where David Steel moved the old Liberal Party towards wider co-operation? The first (was it at Llandudno –cant remember) was the late 1970’s Assembly where his proposals triggered a noisy placard-waving conference floor protest demonstration by the Young Liberals. I remember his recently defeated leadership rival John Pardoe sitting beside him on the platform giving firm and vocal support for the leader throughout.

And a later Assembly – definitely at Llandudno – where the SDP-Liberal alliance became possible, and so eventually the emergence of the Liberal Democrats. I remember the ‘biggest fringe meeting in the history of the party’ (was it 2000 people present?) and David Steel’s now notorious ‘go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’ leadership speech.

So for some of us older party activists the stresses and strains of current events are not all new.

There were at least two other members of the ‘Llandudno Club’ at the NEC, who both spoke at Sundays debate Tony Greaves of course And also Richard Moore, as upright, combative and passionate as ever. I suspect that Richard in particular has not necessarily been in full agreement with every stance the party has taken over the last thirty-odd years, and I certainly I have not myself always been in agreement with him. But he has contributed to our debates and development through his fortrightness and integrity. Whatever our particular positions we could do worse than take inspiration from this today.

Any other Llandudno Club veterans online with memories to share?

Anyone remember Giant Haystacks? What became of him?

I had thought of mocking old stereotypes by turning up at the NEC in beard, sandals and a badge saying ‘I had muesli for breakfast’ but the speed of the negotiations left me with no time to grow a beard so I put on shoes and socks and had bacon and eggs.

More on Sunday later perhaps.

Just to note that ‘possibly my last-ever conference’ is because I am finding large gatherings increasingly difficult to participate I as my hearing fails even more. Not a political withdrawal. The NEC echoes were particularly frustrating.

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