My first LibDem Conference by Sarah Cheung Johnson

Sarah calls herself a “post-Brexit newbie” and like many others that joined the Liberal Democrats after the EU Referendum last June, felt she could no longer just sit by the sidelines.

On joining the party she found a warm welcome from her local South Cambridgeshire team and was soon asked to stand for County Council as a candidate for her local division, Longstanton, Northstowe & Over.

My first LibDem Conference has been great fun but unfortunately far too short, as I only had a weekend pass. Still, I managed to pack in a whole lot in those two days .

Here are my highlights:

The issue closest to my heart, Brexit, was a priority at Conference. Which other party would be brave enough, democratic enough, to let its members set its Brexit policy? LibDems one-by-one lined up to speak with passion and fire on our fundamental pro-European beliefs. The only argument was how to achieve an Exit from Brexit. The debate was LibDems at their best – people from all backgrounds – many speaking for the first time – sharing their thoughts, experiences and expert views with enthusiasm. A simple majority confirmed the party policy – that we will campaign to be a full member of the European Union (not just membership of the Single Market & Customs Union as per our General Election stance) and we wish to achieve this by having what Vince Cable calls a “First Referendum on the Facts”, widening the franchise to include 16 & 17 year olds, UK citizens who live abroad and the estimated 3 million EU nationals who make UK their home. If Brexit is such a great idea and will unlock so many untold positives why fear a vote on the final deal at the end of the negotiations?

There were sessions for every interest – mine took in Education, Party Strategy, Issues for the young in our country as well as training sessions to help us campaign successfully so we have a shot at turning our Liberal values into real, tangible change. Speeches from leaders – I unfortunately missed Tim Farron’s barnstorming speech but was very impressed with Layla Moran, one of our newest MPs elected in 2017 and ex-Physics teachers. Check her speech out here

But it’s not all serious, one of my other social highlights was the famed LibDem Disco. Where else can you go and share the dancefloor with the ex-leader of your Party? Tim Farron did a turn as DJ, together with Baroness Sara Ludlow (our Shadow Brexit Minister in the Lords), Kelly-Marie Blundell our candidate for Lewes and Daisy Benson, who started up the biggest group of LibDems on Facebook – LibDem Newbies. It was great fun and raised a lot of money for one of my local parties the Cambridge LibDems who run the event (brilliantly, of course). Thanks for the boogie times guys!

Finally but not least – my fellow LibDems were inspirational. In debate after debate, in every discussion and fringe session showed how this party is packed with every day people who are passionate about our liberal ideals, championing equality, wanting to fight for a fairer, more inclusive society, building a strong economy, championing the environment and of course, our internationalist and outward looking view. Speaker after speaker stood up, smart, compassionate and often expert – but always modest about for example, their 20 years as a Councillor or 10 years of being a lawyer working in Housing Aid. I’m proud to stand with these people and this army. We are far from our strongest but I believe on all the big issues we are on the right side of the debate. And for those we aren’t, we are always ready to analyse and debate, based on expert opinion. If these people sound like the kind of people you would enjoy being with, join us

As for me, I’m a Conference convert and am already not only planning on attending Spring Conference but considering having a go at standing on that stage and delivering a speech! (wish me luck!)

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