RICHO returns, with his sandals on, for the Liberal Democrats Conference

Richo in Bournemouth:

Party Conferences are pretty big in the UK. There have a season for them and everything. Every autumn party faithful hit the beach towns to hear from their leaders, make comments on policy, vent spleens, heap praise, and generally get excited.

Companies hold events and seminars, fringes they are called, and get involved in debates that interest their lines of business.

It’s all exciting, alcohol fuelled, intriguing and terribly self absorbed.

First for the season is the Liberal Democrat Conference (sort of like the Democrats in their Natasha phase).

This conference could easily be mistaken for a giant Star Wars meet as members dress like rebel elders in the first series, that bit where they all stand around the computer as the Death Star approaches.

Think all natural brown fibres (except for leather which is replaced with recycled car tyre products in shoes) and lots of body hair.

This September’s political season kicks off with labour in the dumps and the conservatives needing a uniform two-party swing of 1.5 per cent to win government in the 2010 General election. But between the tories and the 116 seats they need to win in 2010 are the alternative parties, whose strongholds are in the organic-rich hills of south west England.

So we need to at least consider hung parliament scenarios. According to the Lib Dems at least. I joined the sandal wearing brigade headed to Bournemouth in Dorset on the south coast of England.

This really is a very small party compared to Labour and the Conservatives, and there seemed to be more tourists in shorts and sandals than long pants and hemp socks. Next year they should hold the conference in a yert.

The only real buzz concerned resident freak MP Lembit Opik’s bizarre campaign to become Liberal Democrat President. Until earlier this year Lembit dated a Cheeky Girl, an Easter European twin duo who had a hit a couple of years ago called ‘Touch my Bum’.

It is worrying – this absence of buzz, because this year the Lib Dems have a new leader, Nick Clegg. Young, fresh, keen, nice teeth. I would upload a picture of him but to save time just imagine David Cameron with brown eyes. Nick gave a great speech, got a four minute standing ovation and managed to deftly combine the need for an environmental economy (big with party members) with tax cuts (hated by party members but good with 97% of UK not in the party)

But deep down one suspects the Lib Dems know that the brand they are trying to get people to lap up is already out there, and is a hit with the voting public. The Tory’s are have a huge lead over Labour. Nick is Cameron lite and doesn’t seem to do enough middle class self loathing. Maybe that will come with the more money he earns.

And then the conference finished. But no-one noticed.

At conferences you can eat a lot of crap hospitality food so I like to visit the local restaurants and also the amusement arcades during downtime. My favourite restaurant if you happen to be in Bournemouth is West Beach. Right on the foreshore with succulent locally sourced fruits of the sea. My favourite arcade game in Bournemouth was Big Buck Shooter Pro. In honour of Sarah Palin I felled no less than 25 bull moose with my pump action shotgun. There are three more conferences to go. As Jed, the game voiceover says: ‘Let’s go huntin’.

Next stop, Manchester for Labour. REMEMBER to enter our Throw a line to Gordon comp, for the chance to WIN 20 pounds.


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