Five things you might have missed from the Lib Dem conference
It hasn’t all just been about cancelling Brexit – MEPs have been dressing up and even speed-dating with members.
The headlines about the Liberal Democrats wanting to cancel Brexit have been all over the news in the past few days.
But party conference events extend well beyond the four walls of the main hall where senior figures are making their speeches.
Here are a few things readers may have missed in the rabble over revoking Article 50 if the Lib Dems secure a majority at the next election.
– Windowless rooms v the beach
The weekend saw Bournemouth’s beaches packed with sun worshippers and sea frolickers as highs of 24C (75.2F) degrees were hit on Sunday.
Few would have wanted to swap places with Lib Dem members who, a mere stone’s throw away, sat in a windowless auditorium voting on European party policy.
We’re at the seaside but you wouldn’t know it when in Bournemouth International Centre’s brick-faced corridors and rooms.
– One of the EU’s key Brexit officials overshadowed
Ex-Tory MP Sam Gyimah turned out to be the “mystery man” defecting to the Lib Dems on Saturday.
The announcement was a slick PR move for the party but it overshadowed another big conference guest – Guy Verhofstadt MEP, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, who, holding up a yellow “B****cks to Brexit” t-shirt like a new football team signing, gave both barrels to Eurosceptics.
The former leader of the Liberal group in the EU, he said: “You are very courageous to invite me because the hard Brexiteers and those around them are always saying, ‘Guy Verhofstadt, he’s from Belgium, this old prime minister, he’s against Britain’. That’s complete nonsense.
“(But) we all know Brexit is not working and that’s simply because it is a bad idea. I will not say the worst idea in British history, but very nearly.”
In a bid to show off how much he loves the Brits, he revealed he races a 1950s right-hand drive Austin Martin and has a Cairn Terrier dog, a breed originating from the Highlands.
The federalist even gave his dog a British name – Marcel…
– Fishy politicians
Is there anything better than a politician dressed up? Well, probably, but let’s not put them off the idea – the photos are always golden.
North West MEP Chris Davies took up the mantle this year, walking round the conference centre and its surrounds dressed as a fish.
The chair of the EU’s Fisheries Committee was collecting signatures for his Fish for the Future campaign in support of the EU’s Commons Fisheries Policy (CFP).
In delicious irony, given Ukip’s penchant for a trip to Bournemouth for their conferences, it is likely a petition calling for the CFP to scrapped has made the rounds in exactly the same building.
– Fears for the union
It can’t all be elected officials dressed as fish and ice cream on the beach. Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson picked up plenty of coverage for her refusal to forgive David Cameron for calling the 2016 referendum.
But almost immediately after that, the Scot admitted she had grave fears for the continuation of the United Kingdom under Boris Johnson’s leadership.
The East Dunbartonshire MP said: “I thought it was very interesting to hear Sam Gyimah, our wonderful new Liberal Democrats MP, talk about how he saw the Tory Party increasingly playing to English nationalism.
“That force of nationalism does represent a threat to the United Kingdom. I am worried because I do not think the Prime Minister cares about the United Kingdom.”
– Speed date your representative
Ever wanted to get to know your representative in Brussels a bit better but been pushed for time? Well, MEP speed dating could be for you!
The 12 Lib Dem MEPs – 11 of them newly elected in May – were on hand at rose-decorated tables on Sunday evening to meet excited members hungry to know more about the new kids on the block.
It is the kind of event that only really happens at party conferences. Slightly odd but less strange than Glee Club – where members infamously make up irreverent songs about their senior figures – by all accounts.