UK Politics

Tuesday LibDem Conference Diary

20 Sep 2011 at 20:19

Sarah Teather has been wandering round the conference with a face like thunder. As well she might. Her off colour jokes about the Chancellor, George Osborne, went down like a lead balloon among the delegates here, but what should worry her is the reaction of Nick Clegg, who, I am reliably informed went red with rage when he heard what had happened. It wasn’t just Teather who incurred his wrath, though. The LibDem leader was furious at his colleagues who insulted other coalition colleagues, and indeed, fellow LibDems. There’s an inquest into what happened and whether next year the opening conference rally might be ditched in favour of something less risqué. And as for Sarah Teather, she’s in the happy position of knowing she is unsackable. Why? Because she’s a woman, and there aren’t many of those to the dozen in the ranks of LibDem ministers.

Presenting a three hour programme on an O/B is a challenge even if you’ve been doing them for years. Yesterday’s LBC show was my first from the conference. It went really well (I think!) but I have rarely felt so tired as I did afterwards. So tired that I have to admit I didn’t wake up until 10 o’clock this morning, something I haven’t done in years. Tonight’s show includes an hour long phone in with London LibDem mayoral candidate Brian Paddick from 8-9. Paddick is an interesting character who has something to prove, not just to the LibDems but himself. He says he has learnt a lot from the rather awful campaign he ran last time. I intend to find out what that is, because at the moment, I’m none too clear.

There is a very different air about this conference compared to LibDem conferences of years gone by. It is infested by lobbyists and campaigning groups. Oh, and the BBC. Oh, and newspaper commentators who two years ago wouldn’t have given the LibDems the time of day. Did I mention the BBC? I reckon they must have the best part of 150 people here. Mind you, for an organisation that employs 52 journalists on Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme, I don’t know why I should be surprised. I mean, what the **** do they do all day?

I love interviewing Ming Campbell. He such a pleasure to interview. Some people go through the motions. Ming really engages with you, especially when he knows you’re going to give him a bit of time. He hates the two minute interview just as much as I do. Last night I asked him about Nick Clegg’s performance as leader. I followed it up by saying: “Were you comfortable in the job as leader?” He gave such an honest reply that I almost felt guilty for asking the question. Almost.

Last night’s Newsnight was a frustrating watch. Jeremy Paxman got 80 LibDems together, ostensibly so he could shout at them. What on earth was the point? Quite what we learned from the segment, I’m still not sure. Yet people on Twitter seemed to think it was marvellous. “Paxman in blistering form” said one. Really? I thought it was dreadful. Being combative is one thing. Being downright rude and insulting is another. I am a huge admirer of Paxman, but I do wonder sometimes if he is encouraged to play up to the caricature by the programme’s editors.

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