Monday, 9 March 2009

Spring Conference - or the Howie and Vince show

Back from Harrogate and almost recovered.

Two characters were all over the conference - Howard Dean and Vince Cable.

Nick Clegg (not completely sold on the haircut) made a brilliant speech yesterday lunchtime and will have gained a lot from the event, but he was overshadowed by his deputy and the man with the scream.

Dean was with the conference for 24 hours during which he packed in meetings with bloggers, with candidates, with donors, with campaigns staff, with Clegg, with Lib Dem News and with the conference floor. I seem to have taken more pics of him than of anyone else there. I have to say that I wasn't that impressed by the set piece speech. But I was more than impressed by the talks he gave to each of the smaller groups and the Q&As he insisted on having with each group. He said a lot about technical campaigning and about message and seemed to pass on lots of stuff that should help the Lib Dems. He seriously thought that the Party could win the next election (I'm not sure that the most overwrought 12 year old Clegg-idoliser necessarily feels the same) and explained how this could happen. Even if it doesn't, he left a lot of people feeling good.

And I got a nice pic with him.

The other omnipresent was Vince. Not so much in person as in spirit. During the rally everyone referred to him. Throughout the hall debates and the fringe everyone seemed to feel that by invoking his name they could assume a little of his current celeb status.

I'm sure that Vince is a sage enough head to know that fortune and fame do not last and the press will eventually be itching to knock him down again. But it is genuinely good for Lib Dems while it lasts.

And that includes Nick. He isn't overshadowed by his Deputy. He actually seems relaxed about the whole Vince thing and gave genuine plaudits during his speech. He believes that for the Party to succeed we cannot be a one man band and having Vince seen as a guru (even if temporarily) can only be good.

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