In 5 weeks' time, the Scottish and Welsh parties meet for their respective Spring Conferences. The Welsh are going to Cardiff while the Scots head north to the beautiful highland capital of Inverness. As everywhere which meant anything to me as a child is within 20 minutes' walk of the Conference venue, I'm delighted to be going there. Although it seems a long way north, it only costs £10 return on the bus or £22 on the train to get there.
Just one weekend later, Federal Conference takes place, for the first time ever, in Gateshead.
So, why, I wondered allowed on Facebook the other day, do Liberal Democrats like going to Conference? Here are some of the replies I received:
Why I like going - meeting up with old friends, listening to some of the debates & speeches, coming away feeling things are good (which invariably happens!)
Just a great chance to catch up, hear what is going on, make an input, cross-question the politicians.Gives you a chance to contribute to the democratic process. People are concentrated on Lib Dem ideas, not the agendas of others. Always come away with my mind buzzing with ideas.
I like meeting other Lib Dems being from Lib Dem Siberia.Talk to politicians, contribute on policy, meeting people I know online in real life.
Love policy debate - the opportunity to shape what we do. Also, general banter and drinks
I always leave inspired to go do stuff because people are talking about the kind of stuff they're doing locally. Also, I like how social it is - I get to see friends that I don't normally get to see because they live so far away. They're MY main reasons for going but the actual conference is really useful too - fringes and training events are really helpful and I end up taking back loads of ideas and enthusiasm. The policy debates are interesting and it's great to be involved in shaping the party's policies (and the government's policies as well now!)
Conference is somewhere I can be myself. In every possible way!
When Paddy was running for the leadership of the newly merged party he had this line about the Liberal Party fitting him like an old overcoat. Going to conference is a bit like getting that overcoat out of the cupboard and putting it back on.
One of the best bits is finally finding out what someone you'd known for years via their blog actually looks like.
Feel free to add your own answers in the comments. Please don't confess to anything on anybody else's behalf, though, and, specifically, don't spill the beans about what happened that year in Pitlochry.
Vibrant conferences, full of debates and ideas, are just what we need as we head into local election campaigns in Scotland and England as well as the London Assembly elections. I always come home from Conference exhausted, but strangely invigorated. Being with the Lib Dem family really is good for the soul.
Cheap registration ends for Scotland tomorrow and Wales next week. You can register for Cardiff here, Inverness here and Gateshead here.
Not yet persuaded? Then Stuart Bonar's video from last year's Federal Conference in Birmingham gives an excellent insight to the event.