It's usual for the conference to end with the leaders speech but because Nick Clegg had to fly to the UN to represent Britain, we had that conference highlight 2 days earlier than normal. So yesterday had a slightly odd feeling to it as the conference continued towards a different to normal conclusion.
I had planned to attend the Equal Marriage debate and listen to Simon Hughes' speech. Unfortunately I missed them but I gather the debate went through successfully to give the Liberal Democrats yet another distinctive policy position from that of our coalition colleagues.
I've barely had time to walk around the exhibition hall and look in at the myriad of stalls that are present. I put this right yesterday by spending my afternoon in the conference centre. I renewed by lapsed membershup of the Liberal Democrat History Group and had a chat with the Parliamentary Candidates Association stall. Lib Dem Image is always an useful stall to look around and this time was selling a handful of books. Usually there's an entire stall dedicated to political books but to to my disappointment, not this year. Mind you, that's probably a good thing for my bank balance!
There's a much greater array of external stalls this year with charities and organisations wanting to sell their wares to us members. In all, its been a diverse and interesting exhibition this year.
Secretary of State Chris Huhne MP
In between my stall hopping, I went into the auditorium to listen to Chris Huhne give his speach. He gave a forthright, no-nonsense statement on what he plans to do as a Cabinet Member for Climate Change. There was a good crowd there to listen to him and he was well received.
Paddy Ashdown Observor Interview
At 6pm, I got into the large queue for the Andrew Rawnsley interview with former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown.
It was an excellent hour+ in the company of a well loved, charismatic, fascinating individual. He's led a remarkable life from his time at MI6 to leading the newly merged Liberal Democrat party for 11 years to being High Commissioner in Bosnia. He backs the coalition entirely and had some terse exchanges with Rawnsley about the current political situation near the end of the interview.
A Final Supper
A good contingent of Ceredigion members (and friends!) then had an Italian as a final night meal in the Albert Docks. It was nice to get a good group of us together for the final evening of what has been an excellent conference.
But no final evening conference is complete without the traditional end of week Glee Club.
Now, Glee Club is like Marmite. You love it or you hate it. When I first attended an autumn conference in 2003 I was told by the Liberal Youthers to avoid Gee Club, so I did. A year later in Bournemouth, I did go and I've never looked back.
Glee Club for me is the vocal equivalent of 'Have I Got New For You'. It's satire set to music where we mix traditional songs with comic compositions that laugh out loud at ourselves as Liberals but also at others.
I spent much of it this time round in the excellent company of Laura Gilmore and with another 500 or so friends. The majority there were lapping up such iconic Glee Club hits such as 'The Land','Letterboxes' and 'Losing Deposits'. There were some looking on in contrast in a mixture of incredulity and bemusement. Good friend of mine from Birmingham Mike Dixon was one of them as he told me beforehand that even after many years as a member of the party, he still doesn't 'get' Glee Club! You really do hate it or love it.
Paddy Ashdown made his annual visit with his 20 odd year old 'Two Tribes' joke which everyone lapped up and Tim Farron made a second fantastic rendition of his own take of the Ting Ting's 'That's Not My Name'. Simon Hughes led his London gang and friends in renditions of 'Bermondsey' and 'Simon Hughes' (to the tune of Postman Pat!), We also had 'turns' from new MPs such as Tessa Munt and Julian Huppert and also an amusing (if not quite in tune) rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' by Liberal Youth - quite apt as we are in Liverpool!
I got involved in the action on stage too as is my usual wont. The English always sing 'Jerusalem', the Scots (led by Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael) Flower of Scotland and likewise the Cornish and Yorkshiremen also sing their own local traitional songs. The Welsh contingent led Glee Club in 'Cwm Rhondda' (Bread of Heaven) in tribute to Richard Livsey and later on, I took the microphone to lead in 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' (all 3 verses!).
It was great to see good friends Paul Pettinger and Naomi Smith sitting there whilst I was leading in our anthem and I caught up with them afterwards having not had time to talk to them throughout conference to date.
Having began at about 10.15pm, amidst a large ensemble, Glee Club came to an organised and apt end at 1.45am. We finished with 'Auld Land Syne' but in typical Glee Club fashion, we demanded more. Those of us left invaded the stage for an impromptu 3rd and final rendition of 'The Land' - certainly the right way to bring Glee Club to an end!
Apart from the heat (it was baking in there all evening), I'd almost go so far to say that this was one of the best Glee Club's I've been too, to date. It was a packed Glee Club throughout and there was a real positive atmosphere where the Glee Clubbers were more than enthusiastic in leading the evening on stage instead of just leaving it to the compares to do so. We had an excellent mix of songs and satire with all of my personal favourites having been sang (including my favourite 'Shirl in the World') and we didn't have an over-reliance on any one in particular. For example, a few years back, we had what I felt was a poor Glee Club (Brighton '06 I think it was) because it was poorly managed and ended up having far too many drunken renditions of Jerusalem - thank you but two is more than enough!
A Final Conference Bar Goodbye
The night came to an end with a final drink to say goodbye to friends old and new at the conference bar in case we don't see each other in the morning.
Glee Club night is always an odd one. It's a great evening but its very being means that it's almost time to go home. The end is in sight on what has been another excellent, Liberal Democrat conference.