Saturday, 4 March 2006

A packed rally at Harrogate

Posted by Chris

I attended the rally at Harrogate last night and sat on the front row. Having got in early to ensure that we got seats, in what inevitably turned out to be a jam packed meeting, I was determined to get an unrestricted view of the proceedings.

Glynis hates sitting at the front, cos she is not as showy as me and she sat two rows back with good friends Stan and Stella Wilson, formally of Redcar but now living in Thirsk. Stan was my ward colleague before he retired and Glynis took over.

On the way through the Holiday Inn, I stopped to ask Stan which room the rally was in. He was talking to another former Redcar lad, Neil Fawcett, and I was in that much of a rush that I failed to recognise him. It dawned on me as soon as I sat down.

Ming's victory speech was preceded by the 'four chicks' debate, which I found much more interesting. Apparently, last year people claimed that there were only men on the panel so this year they redressed the balance. However, all four were from the London area. We certainly have some talented women in the party and as we were at Harrogate, at least one from the north would have been more appropriate.

Lynne Featherstone is gorgeous and is set to be a star in the near future. She also writes an excellent blog.

Sarah Teather is already a star and is so confident that I am tipping her as a leader in waiting. I actually can say that I knew her before she was famous, as I served on the Federal Conference Committee with her for a sort while, three or four years ago.

Before she was actually elected onto the FCC, I became involved in a disagreement with Sarah over the wording of a motion about a cinema organisation, who was inserting a covenant into the deeds of cinema buildings that they were selling off, to prevent rivals reopening the buildings as a cinema.

The organisation concerned took exception to the wording and was threatening to sue. Sarah was adamant that the wording should not be changed but I took the view "if in doubt, leave it out" and quite a row took place. Sarah was amazingly cool about it and won the argument easily. The wording was, in fact, changed in time for the Conference, when the then Chief Executive produced a form of words, that Sarah accepted. This avoided any possibility of a legal challenge.

Ming Campbell looked ten years younger when making his victory speech. The signs of stress that I had noticed during the leadership campaign seemed to have disappeared. He is clearly going to be a tough leader that is for sure. He is clearly determined to stamp his authority on the party and there may be a few battles ahead.

Simon Hughes was at the rally and he was seated just a few seats away from me. I noticed that Chris Huhne was not present but I spotted him arriving with his bags just as we were leaving.

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