I’ve been a member for many years but like many others, I’d never taken the plunge and dived into conference.
That all changed last year when I went to the 2019 Lib Dem Party Conference in Bournemouth.
I didn’t know what to expect, but before I knew it, I was meeting fellow Lib Dems from across the country, sharing stories, learning new tricks, and feeling at home with over 3,000 like-minded members who share my values.
How’s that for a great weekend by the sea?
Thanks to Coronavirus, this year’s going to be a little different. Well, very different actually. Conference will be exclusively online – but that just makes it even easier to access all the great events on offer.
And for anyone who feels daunted by turning up as a newbie, there’s nothing to worry about. Here’s what to expect…
Meet fellow Lib Dems
There are loads of ways to meet other Lib Dems. Why not start off by dropping in at the Federal Conference Committee virtual stand and asking any questions you might have about the weekend?
Enjoy a virtual stroll through the exhibition centre. Talk to members with a plethora of diverse interests. Chat to teachers and women’s groups, or see how the Liberal Democrat Seekers of Sanctuary are standing up for asylum seekers in the UK.
In each auditorium session, members can use the online chat function to bounce ideas around.
Hear from the party leaders
Welsh leader Jane Dodds, Scottish leader Wille Rennie, and newly-elected party leader Ed Davey will all be taking to the virtual stage to discuss the issues facing the Lib Dems and laying out their vision for the future.
Get stuck in on key debates
Are you a fan of the Universal Basic Income? Where do you think our country should go in a post-Brexit world? If like me, you enjoy getting stuck into the debate, this is your chance.
At conference, Lib Dem members come together to debate and vote on the key issues of the day – and decisions made by delegates (that’s you!) go on to become national party policy.
Check out the fringe
A particular highlight for me will be Lib Dem spokesperson for home affairs and constitutional reform Alistair Carmichael and the Social Liberal Forum discussing alliances, electoral pacts, and whether the Lib Dems could ‘do business’ with Labour.
Saturday night is comedy night with the Liberal Democrat Creative Network. In just one of the excellent fringe events, watch comedians battle it out to pitch a new law for post pandemic life, with the winning idea being taken to parliamentarians.
Help shape the future of the Lib Dems
Some newbies will go on to become Members of Parliament or stand for council, others will leave their mark by helping to shape party policy.
Forging a path to electoral success depends on every single one of us standing up and fighting for a better future.
Whichever direction your Lib Dem journey takes you, conference has a training session to help you along the way. Learn digital campaigning skills from the experts, get advice on reaching out to new members and growing your local party, or find out how to become a target seat. There’s a huge amount on offer.
I left conference feeling motivated and uplifted.
Meeting crowds of Lib Dems – whether virtually or in person – goes to remind you that there are thousands of people across the UK who believe in the same values of openness, tolerance, and freedom that we as Lib Dems stand for.
And if you see me in the chat, feel free to say hello. I’ll be there trying to get around as many events as possible!