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« Impact of tobacco laws divides opinion | Main | Last call »
Sunday
Sep152019

I ❤️ Bournemouth

I was reminded this morning how much I miss going to party conferences in Bournemouth.

It's been several years now because only the Lib Dems still go there, and the Lib Dem conference has never been a happy hunting ground for Forest.

In fact, it's ten years since we last organised an event at a Lib Dem conference (in Bournemouth, where else?) and we only did it then because it was in conjunction with Liberal Vision, a campaign group set up by Mark Littlewood (former head of press with the Lib Dems) in the days before he became director-general of the IEA.

Together we hosted a panel discussion followed by a drinks party. Title of the discussion was 'Politics and Prohibition – how liberals can fight back against the nanny state'.

Chaired by Mark, panellists were Tom Clougherty, policy director of the Adam Smith Institute, Lib Dem blogger Charlotte Gore, Liverpool councillor Colin Eldridge, psychologist and Lib Dem councillor Belinda Brookes-Gordon, and me. You can read about it here. Dick Puddlecote wrote about it too.

It followed several other Forest events in Bournemouth. Most successful was a drinks reception attended by 400 people in the ballroom of the Royal Bath Hotel in 2006.

Highlight of the evening was a mock police raid with sirens and flashing blue lights that ended with the speaker, Boisdale's Ranald Macdonald, being 'arrested' and led from the stage in handcuffs while every guest sang 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'.

Another speaker that night was Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas and now MEP for the Brexit party. We were all staying in another hotel overlooking the beach and I can still see everyone's rather stunned faces as we sat on a sunny terrace the following morning, drinking coffee and nursing hangovers.

The following year, a few months after the introduction of the smoking ban, 100+ guests joined us for a reception at the Labour conference in Bournemouth but it was far less successful. The ban meant that at least half our guests spent the evening in the garden outside and the speakers had to address a half empty room.

Returning to 2009, it was a particularly busy time and the morning after our event I had to catch an early morning flight from Bournemouth Airport to Edinburgh to attend a tobacco control conference organised by Holyrood magazine. (Again, you can read about it here.)

The problem was, I had driven to Bournemouth in my car so I had to fly back to Bournemouth the following day to pick it up before I could drive home to Cambridgeshire.

A few days later I had to return to the south coast because the 2009 Labour conference was in Brighton and we had organised an ad van to highlight the fact that 52 pubs were closing each week in the wake of the smoking ban. (See 'Forest at the Labour conference'.)

The week after that we were in Manchester for the Conservative conference (but that’s another story).

Anyway, I'm a bit jealous of delegates at the Lib Dem conference because a sunny autumn day in Bournemouth is not a bad place to be, especially if you're near the beach.

A favourite haunt of mine is the Westbeach cafe/restaurant overlooking the sea. You don't get this view in Birmingham or Manchester!

Photo courtesy Westbeach

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