Folk are clearly in good heart here in Birmingham. I cannot claim that this is my favourite venue, I still hanker after the seaside-maybe it is just nostalgia on my part. Talking of which The Liberal History Group held a meeting last night on the Red Guard Young Liberals. Sadly I couldn't get along but I'm told that it was well attended. Anthony Hill was our special correspondent and marked Bernard Greaves's contribution very highly.
The star turn was billed to be George Kiloh who was chair of NLYL. Tony Greaves who chaired the meeting confirmed my memory that back then 1966-70 Kiloh had real charisma and was a natural leader. Clearly he still looks back on those days as some of his most significant and despite his professional success he has not conspicuously build on those natural gift. Apparently he has kept all his papers from the time and is going to hand them over to a University. It is hard to grasp that what we did in our youth is now the stuff of serious academic study.
Some people don't change and whilst I was chatting to Tony Chris Huhne walked passed. Tony hailed him and like most Lib Dems if Tony hails you they stop. Tony had kept a notice that was displayed in his hotel, it read: If you want a trouser press-go to a dry cleaners.
For once in my life I've booked early for conference. I'm well passed the stage when I'm prepared to 'rough it'. I'm booked into a Weatherspoon Travel Lodge which is surprisingly good. Most of the rooms are taken by people attending Cruffs Dog Show and the Birmingham Science Fiction Convention. Surely they too would be better of at the seaside. Sci fi is not really my thing altho once along time I go I was doing a programme on Hospital Radio and they asked me for my favourite book. My mind went blank and the only tittle I could think of was the book I was reading which was Ursula le Guinn's 'The Dispossessed' , so for a while people used to come up and earnestly engage me in conversation about Sci Fi.
Back to the Conference. It is lunchtime. The final act of the morning was Vince Cable's speech. He does manage to combined serious economic commentary with humour. He got a genuinely warm standing ovation. I can't remember a Liberal Economic spokesman getting such a reception since Pardoe and in truth that was often for the manner in which he delivered his speech rather than the content. Vince is far more attuned to the television age. But I think the real secret of his success is that he treats is audience with respect. He addresses them as people who think seriously about these matters and want to engage at that level and not in the tribal 'ya boo' way.
I'm back at the Travel Lodge and have been talking to a 'Dog Lady' (well that is how she introduced herself). She has been explaining that there are some endangered breeds in the dog world. When I first attended a Liberal Assembly in the aftermath of the 1970 General Election the party was on the political equivalent of the 'endangered list'. Indeed people used to treat us as if we were only of anthropological interest. How days have changed. The party is clearly no longer on the register. In fact the only thing that seems to be really endangered is the political system which seems unable to adapt to reflect the changed voting habits of the UK.