The last day of a conference has always felt like a wake for me. After days of enjoyment in great company and contributing to the future well-being of my party, it really is a sad feeling to have to tear myself away from what I see as my extended family.
The day began with the obligatory packing which automatically puts you into 'Goodbye' mode. After leaving my bags in the hotel storage, I made my way to the conference auditorium in the Echo Arena for the final time to hear Vince Cable's key note speech as Secretary of State for Business.
Vince gave a sharp, sombre but very well received oration which brought the conference to an excellent conclusion.
In fact, the conference continued until 4pm but I was to leave at lunchtime to get back home in good time. So Vince Cable's speech was my final piece of the action in Liverpool '10 and it was a good way to leave it. I then bought a few books at the Lib Dem History Group stand before a final walk around the Jury Inn conference bar to say my goodbyes. In particular, I bumped into the Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Martin Haymer and the Leader of Portsmouth City Council Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
Lib Dem MP Bingo
As I left, I noticed two more MPs who had avaded me throughout the week. This brought my 'Lib Dem MP Bingo' final tally to what I think is a very respectable 46 out of 57. For the record, the 11 MPs I did not see during the conference week were Stephen Williams, Don Foster, David Laws, Gordon Birtwistle, David Ward, Charles Kennedy, John Thurso, Robin Smith, Mike Hancock, Mike Crockart and Adrian Sanders. Of these, I know that Don Foster was there - indeed he was to give a speech to conference after I left. Charles Kennedy had also been spotted at conference early on. Gordon Birtwistle, David Ward and Mike Crockart were probably there but as new MPs, I don't know what they look like! I'm pretty sure I saw John Thurso but if it was him then he's shaven off his moustache which threw me. The only MPs which I gather definitely did not make conference this year were Stephen Williams, Mike Hanock and David Laws.
But the moral of the story is? To do it again next year! It's nothing other than an interesting side-line during the course of the week!
Goodbye to an excellent conference
So we set off at 1.30pm and so, sadly, came to an end what I would say is one of the best conference I've been too. It was bigger, more professional and of course attracted more attention from the outside world. Being in Government suddenly made it a totally different beast and we'll be getting used to it over the next few years. It was all very accessible and the weather even improved as the week went on.
As for Liverpool - I was greatly impressed (I should be, it's run by a Lib Dem council!). The problem with conference is that there's so much to do, you're always in that bubble for the duration of the gathering. As a result I didn't have time to get around to see Liverpool properly. But I'd be keen to go back and spend some days there to see it all properly. I'm sure that I speak for many who were this week who would be very happy if conference were to go back to Liverpool in the future.
But what makes the conference most of all for me and what therefore by definition makes it so difficult to leave, is the bumping into old and making new friends there. The next conference is a weekend affair in Sheffield in March before the autumn gathering this time next year in Birmingham. It's very likely that I won't see many of the faces that I saw during these past 6 days for 12 months. It's a sad thought but then, in a way, it's what makes conference such an enjoyable experience.
If we had it every month it would lose its charm and would destory the bank balance so it's probably right that we hold them as regularly as we do...probably!
The 2010 Liverpool Liberal Democrat Conference has come and gone and will now form a part of my memory bank of happy recollections of conferences past.
Now it's time to sleep.