Saturday, September 23, 2006

Conference is over!

This time last week I was driving south to Brighton with two other delegates from Stockton to the Liberal Democrat conference. It was a perfect day for driving - dry, slightly overcast, light traffic. With a couple of comfort breaks we were there in time for the afternoon consultative sessions. Then a leisurely evening meal, taking advantage of the fact that there were no evening sessions.
The rest of the week passed in a whirlwind of debates, fringe meetings, meetings with people from all over the country who might be able to help with problems we had, touring the exhibition stands and grabbing some fresh air and exercise by walking along the sea front between venues.
One exhibition stand offered a health check with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, height, weight and waist measurement checks. They were followed by useful advice on how to put right the things that were wrong. Now all I have to do is put it all into practice. It did lead to a light-hearted competition to see who was walking furthest in the course of each day!
The quality of debating was superb - I'm always humbled by the range of expertise in our party, from academics and professionals to people who are "at the coal face". At the end of the tax debate there were many, including me, who weren't sure which way to vote right till the final speeches had been made.
I'm delighted that we've taken steps to move the burden of taxation from the earner to the polluter. And to remove some of the double benefits that richer people have at present. I really believe that our tax policy is now fairer than any policy has been in my lifetime and I look forward to us winning more seats in Parliament next election so that it can be put into practice. If anyone wants to see the policies explained simply this is the place.

Our whole emphasis on the environment and climate change was inspiring and I'm even more enthusiastic than ever to see microgeneration of electricity being used widely in new buildings and in older ones where possible. And no, that doesn't mean windmills on every corner - it means ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic cells, solar-thermal units, combined heat and power plants and yes, some windmills. I am amazed that we put up with the losses of electricity that we suffer by pushing the stuff round the national grid when we could be much more efficient if we generated more of it where it's used. Typical of the Labour government though - while exhorting everyone to do their bit towards climate change reduction they reduce the grants available to help ordinary people install these generating systems!

Meanwhile, it's back to ward work - overgrown shrubs, lights not working and Focus to be delivered.

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