Sunday, April 26, 2009

40 Days and 40 Nights

Not many things persuade me to drive far on Saturdays but the Liberal Democrat North East Regional conference is one. This one was special because it is only 40 days to the European Parliament election in the UK. The biblical phrase resonated in the hall as the impact of having elected our first Lib Dem MEP for the region was discussed. The positive effect of having someone to speak up for the North East in Europe was rightly celebrated. Fiona Hall's achievements in more general fields were also celebrated, as was the launch of her new website.
Our new President, Ros Scott, spoke about her disappointment which many of us share that more people in positions of power didn't listen to warnings years ago from Liberal Democrats about the dangers of demutualising the Building Societies and allowing personal debt to spiral skywards. If only Paddy Ashdown and Vince Cable had been taken seriously we might not be in the dire situation we're in now.
Alan Beith MP spoke of his disgust, shared by all present as well as the rest of the party, at how the government has treated Gurkha soldiers. A few years ago a small group of very dignified retired Gurkhas visited our Autumn Federal Conference and I signed the petition supporting their right to settle here. They are still as dignified, still as deserving of respect, still veterans of some tough times in the armed forces and still our government treats them with contempt. Yet again I feel ashamed to be part of a country which elected this government.
Fiona Hall talked about her work in Europe, especially on two fronts. The environment has always been dear to her heart and she talked about long negotiations to get the European Parliament and Commission to agree to the right things. At almost the opposite end of the Grand Design scale was her effort to secure European funding to keep a small business in Northumberland afloat while the owners sorted out some financial issues. Both good, both worthwhile and both (along with lots of other things) done by a Liberal Democrat MEP.
It was good to see so many members of Liberal Youth there, taking full part in the discussions and then hurrying off to finish the day with some campaigning in Newcastle North.
A good day, and worth a morning drive to go there.

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