Rocking all over the pier
And it improved from thereon in... Hartlepool has only been mentioned twice (Hartlepool a particular bugbear since I can't get there to campaign due to work commitments) and there is a definite note of defiance and of trying to put clear yellow water (maybe I shouldn't use that particular expression...) between us and the other two parties. I also stopped being ill which improved my day considerably.
Anyway, I attended the Free Trade debate for a while. I thought this could be controversial but, in fact, it ended up as being a discussion about whether water and health should be included in GATs. I possibly came out more informed about GATs than when I started but that wouldn't be hard. I have always prided myself on knowing nothing about politics for fear I might start wanting to talk to people about different types of voting systems or something... and may need to shoot myself in the interests of public safety. Thus it came as something of a disappointment to me when I got 8 out of 10 on the 'Are you a political anorak?' quiz run by the Electoral Commission. For my pains, I won a blue plastic anorak and a mousemat. I would have thought it was a swizz but my companion at the time had done it earlier and only got 6 (thus, not winning said anorak). Not bad for almost purely guessing... well, not quite. It was kinda multiple choice and I felt some of the names/answers were sorta familiar.
Next we debated asylum/immigration. This was apparently daring of us but, to be honest, I couldn't see how the Mail could possibly spin the policy given it was moderate and in favour of an accountable quota system... I maybe surprised - perhaps I should try flicking through a Daily Mail today. Alternatively, I could buy one, read it publically and see how long it took for me to cause a riot (riot = more than 5 people. I think you need 2-5 for an affray).
I ended up at a lunchtime fringe on Penal Reform. This was because I was following some people who were following someone interested in Penal Reform. I always prefer following friends to fringes rather than choosing my own unless i have some desperate preference since i often end up in something which is pretty interesting but that I'd have never considered myself. Penal Reform was actually interesting since I now know what Restorative Justice is and that there is a difference between a Secure Children's Home, a Secure Training Centre and a Young Offender's Institute.
I left the main hall after Charles Kennedy's Q&A. Charles was pretty funny, although I could tell by his body language (crossed legs, hunched neck into shoulders) that he was nervous. If the questions were really unscripted then this is entirely understandable. There was, of course, the inevitable question about The Orange Book. I still haven't got around to reading this yet. I'm getting plenty of sleep so my concentration is ok so probably a task for the train.
After the Q&A I went around the exhibition. Correction - I attempted to stock up on pens for the year... Pens and squeezy planes (where the wings pull off easily, allegedly), and a hedgehog keyring. Best goodies so far was NASUWT just because of the flashing pen and the sheer size of their goody bag. The Local Government lift (it wobbled as well, it felt like a lift) was pretty coolish. I still don't get how anyone got 29 seconds on the IFAW porpoise game. I was going really fast but lost the ball; the guy I was with did it very slow and completed the course. I am also going to have endless amusement out of the British Heart Foundation waist size tape since I have more than one podgy male friend (hee, hee). I was directed to this stall by Heather on the LDYS stall. They were going to find the healthiest political party so she sent me because I'm 'whippet-thin' (according to the woman on the stall) - we decided to help this process along slightly [grin].
After visiting that old favourite, Pizza Hut, we went to the Royal Bath Hotel for a Europe fringe. Europe fringes are generally complete underwear but I was convinced by my companion's killer reasons for going to this fringe a) he'd always wanted to go into the Royal Bath hotel (he lives in Poole) to see what it looked like b) it was in the Gladstone room. c) was that it served food but this became less important after I'd gone to Pizza Hut. He spent so long telling me how conservative and elite the hotel was that inevitably I caused utter proletariat chaos upon arriving... arriving covered in tomato and cheese (hands and face) carrying a takeaway pizza box that I had nowhere to put. I needed a bin and ended up trying to force the box into an ashtray bin in the lobby. 2 doormen converged on me and looked at me and the box as if I was something nasty they'd stood in. Bear in mind that I was not only covered in cheese, I was also wearing a halternecked copy of Marilyn Monroe's dress in pink underneath a bright purple velvet coat... and bright red lipstick...
The Europe fringe was one of the more interesting I've been to although no one tackled the whole issue of 'Where next?' for the EU. Apparently we lose at least 3bn due to the government not being able to borrow at euro rates due to not being in the euro zone (don't question that stat - I *think* I've got it right). Oh, and the main Lib Dem EU fringe attraction, Idris (not a Geographical Information system but a person... I think that's the name) the UKIP chap who heckles amusingly and incoherently. Idris, incidently, was reason d) for attending the fringe. Unfortunately, everyone shut him up :(
Afterwards, we went to a Q&A session run by the Chard group on the erosion of civil liberties. This was in a very small, very hot room with Mark Oaten and Peter Black AM. No speeches, just a discussion. Although conversation kept drying up from time-to-time, it was very unscripted and quite entertaining esp. when ten minutes before the end someone decided to bring up fox hunting just to stir things. I asked some questions about ID cards although my main contribution was showing a councillor from Derby everything I'd collected from the exhibition... loudly.