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The empire strikes back Mar 07

I am appalled, and in no way amused, by Ming’s Dynasty, the tale of the race to succeed the Emperor. And there was I wondering what CK was going to do with his spare time… (Via.)

Conferencing III Mar 06

On Saturday afternoon, I popped into the conference hall just in time to see Baroness Ludford MEP storm the stage (I exaggerate a little). From there, to a meeting in the bar, and then to an excellent LibDems Online fringe meeting. There were some great online campaigning tips discussed, and hopefully many of them will be used on the national party website for future elections. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to detail those tips here 🙂 It was a pleasure to see the party demonstrating how innovative it can be. It was also great to hear the panellists praising LibDem Blogs, for which we all remain very grateful to Ryan.

On Sunday, I was in the hall for Ming’s speech. His call for the party to be more professional was particularly appropriate, coming as it did after moments the microphone of the man introducing him failed. It was a solid, encouraging speech. My personal highlight was when Ming rightly complained about the over-centralisation of governance in Britain:

“It is absurd that if a hospital operation goes wrong the first democratically elected person in the chain of responsibility is the Secretary of State for Health.”

On the other side of the hall, I saw that David Howarth, who was gesticulating at Chris Huhne, had noticed the same thing as me: that this was lifted straight from the speeches Huhne gave throughout the leadership election. It remains an important point and it’s good to see Ming taking on board some of the issues that we raised in the contest.

(Ironically, of course, while it applied to Chris Huhne’s hospital in Eastleigh, it doesn’t apply to Ming’s in Edinburgh – thanks to devolution, the situation is marginally less centralised and the line of accounability leads to the Health Minister in the Scottish Executive.)

Much of the talk around conference was on Ming’s first reshuffle, which has now begun, with many delegates playing fantasy shadow cabinet (James has a tip for Michael Moore’s replacement at defence). Nothing particularly surprising in the appointments so far. One frontbencher who didn’t back Ming during the leadership election confided in me on Saturday night that, as you’d expect, they were waiting to see how Ming would reward the other candidates’ backers. The MP in question, who will remain nameless, had also decided to turn down their current role if offered it again.

All in all, despite some organisational issues and a pretty sparse agenda, conference was good fun. Caught up with friends, and met some new people, including various bloggers. Hopefully I’ll be able to afford (in both time and money) Brighton conference in the autumn.

Behold, the Emperor Ming Mar 02

Ming wins.

First round:
Campbell 44.7%
Hughes 23.2%
Huhne 32.1%

Second round:
Campbell 57.9%
Huhne 42.1%

Turnout was a whopping 72%.

Voted Feb 24

As a good “citizen journalist“, I took notes at the Edinburgh leadership hustings to type up later. I don’t think that’s going to happen – I’m still full of cold and not up to long posts. Stephen and Richard were there and have written good summaries.

Two aspects of the hustings I will mention. The first was the turnout. The room was so full that the Dyanmic Earth fire regulations meant there had to be an overflow room and the candidates repeated their speeches to the people who couldn’t get in the main hall. In an age of apparent political apathy, it was great to see so many people – some of them not even party members – turn out to hear politicians speak.

The second thing that I noticed at the hustings was that it wasn’t a pro-Ming rally. I had, perhaps naively, assumed that Ming’s home town would be lined up behind their local candidate, but there seemed to be a good split of supporters in the room, along with many people who were undecided. I felt that Chris Huhne’s speech won the biggest round of applause, which came as a pleasant surprise. Ming did his “I’ve got a speech but I’m not going to make it” turn, which seems somewhat less sponataneous when you’ve read other reports of it – he did it again last night.

The candidates were pretty well matched when it came to questions and I suspect that, as the hustings have gone on, they’ve adopted some of each others policies and turns of phrase to fill in gaps of their own. None of them scored a knockout blow, although I was pleased to see that Huhne has started reference Ming’s U-turn over Iraq. Huhne stickers appeared to be shifting well after the event.

I went to help me decide how to cast my second preference. Cracking a few jokes and being fairly genial, Ming was good enough to convince me that he does deserve to be my second choice. Simon did well on the day, but he did nothing to convince me that my concerns about him are unfounded.

Having voted, I worked out today that I could offset my disappointment if Huhne loses by betting on both Simon and Ming. I may not have got the best odds available, but with Simon at 16-1 and Ming at 3-2, I’ve placed my bets in such a way as to ensure a profit if Chris loses. And if he wins, I’ll be too pleased to notice. 🙂