The Lib Dem conference in Brighton

 List of MP’s Present.

• Tessa Munt – MP for Wells, Somerset

• Tim Farron – President of the Lib Dems and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

• Lord Oakeshott, – Lib Dem Peer

• Gordon Burthwhistle – MP for Burnely

• Brian Paddick – Former Lib Dem London mayoral candidate.

• Simon Hughes – Depertury Lib – Dem Leader

Along with 250 other people at 8.30 in the morning, I attended a Lib Dem Q + A at Brighton
nightclub, Oceana. A surreal moment witnessing MP’s in a nightclub! Ironically the night
before it played host to a foam party where it apparently left a lot of mess. I could use this in
a clever way and link to certain political mess, but I won’t.

The event was filmed live for radio station 5 Live and hosted by award winning Journalist,
Victoria Derbyshire. As an aspiring journalist and interviewer myself, I have followed
Vitoria’s career for a while, particularly her interview style and it was great to see her in
full flow today, putting the politicians to task and making sure they give a full answerand
justification to their comments.

Having my seat listed as reserved and armed with my pen and notepad, I felt a bit like a
political journalist. These delusions of adequacy didn’t last long though, I was asked to make
way for a Lib Dem councillor. Still, on with the show..

Audience members seemed to represent all sections of society, cleverly constructed, I suspect
by the producers of 5 Live to get a range of opinions. An example of this was shown through
a member of the audience who was a community mental health assistant and a dad to a
disabled boy and was disgruntled with the tax credit system cuts, explaining that without
it, he wouldn’t be able to survive. In contrast to this, later on, another audience member
explained that she was a high wage earner and said that because of the 5 p tax cut made by
the coalition government – she couldn’t contribute as much money into the system as she’d
like to.

At times, there were certainly moments of hostility. This was noticeable in an exchange with
a student and MP, Gordon Burtwhistle. The student talked about what he called sarcastically,
Nick Clegg’s ‘revolutionary’ idea where he could dip into his parents pensions to buy his
first house. The student then spoke about how public sector pensions were low, called the
scheme a shambles, and then addressed all the MP’s and asked “ What pension is this that
I’m supposed to buy my house? “ After the round of applause for the student, Burtwhilse
answered by talking about how people who have pensions have lump sum payments when
they retire and mentioned about the pension scheme he had at an engineering company he

worked for before becoming an MP. The student then interrupted him saying, “Good for you,
where’s my money?“ to another round of applause.

“Clegg’s apology will never be enough”, said another student. Explaining how he simply
couldn’t afford university education. Burthwistle again commented by saying “ I don’t
think Clegg should have to apologise at all” and elaborated by saying how some students,
depending on earnings, won’t even have to pay it back, or at most, a small amount per month.
This, as you would imagine, didn’t go down too well amongst many students.

In fact, as a result of this comment, one student commented “ Even though Lib Dems are in
government we shouldn’t say they are in power”

Further cry’s of “You Lib Dems are not helping any vulnerable people in
Society “and “You’ve helped the Tories attack working class people “ filled the air. The more
hostile the people were, the more them MP’s squirmed.

Not only was there hostility between the youth and Lib Dem, but also within their own
party. There seems to be an incredible amount of disillusionment within the party with one
councillor even remarking, “The Coalition has been a hideous mistake, the sooner we’re out
of it, the better” Waiting for the claps to die down, the councillor then delivered the final
blow to the Lib Dem MP’s supporting Mr Clegg. “I would accept Clegg’s apology if it was
with a letter of resignation, Nick is out of touch and aloof”

A voter then said “I’ve voted Lib Dems all my life, next election I will be voting UKIP
because I know exactly what they stand for”. At this point I looked at the MP’s to see their
reaction. Judging by their knowing look, I think the UKIP party have been mentioned by
disgruntled members quite a lot this year!

It wasn’t all negative press for the Lib Dems though. A young, disabled woman commented
on how she thought the Lib Dems have done well, but unlike other political parties, they
don’t shout about it. This was certainly a contrast to the other disabled people in the audience
who complained about benefit cuts.

It was interesting to see first-hand how MP’s avoid answering questions. Lord Oakeshott, a
Liberal Democrat peer, answers questions about the leadership of the party – and wouldn’t
commit to answering whether or not Nick Clegg will lead the party at the next general
election.

Overall, It was a fantastic to be part of this. Not only did this provide me with experience of
reporting from an event, but it also ties in well with Public Affairs – part of my journalism
course. Also, as an undecided and neutral political supporter – I can write this without subject
to too much bias!

– Sam Evans

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