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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
The view from the pub

During the Liberal Democrats annual conference, BBC News Online talks to regulars in Brighton's The Hop Poles pub to get their take on what the party should be discussing.

The sign outside claims The Hop Poles is the "most laidback and friendliest pub in central Brighton".


I saw 400 people with yellow things round their necks walking towards me

Alex Murray
Its flower-bedecked facade nestles in Middle Street, a quiet route leading from the seafront to the city's famous Lanes.

Just a few hundred yards away, Charles Kennedy and his party faithful are discussing such weighty issues as the prospect of conflict with Iraq.

But the Liberal Democrats' gathering at the Brighton Centre has distinctly underwhelmed drinkers at The Hop Poles.

Tuition fees

Manager Alex Murray, 23, a friendly chap with spikey blond hair and a ring through his lip, says: "I only knew it was on yesterday when I saw 400 people with yellow things round their necks walking towards me.

"The only thing I know about the Lib Dems is the scrapping of tuition fees up in Scotland.

The Hop Poles
Laid back and friendly watering hole
"I think that's a really good idea. One of the reasons why I didn't go to university was because I couldn't afford it.

"The government got rid of student grants the year before I could've gone.

"I got a job in a pub instead."

Octopus

Mr Murray has worked in the jolly watering hole for three years. It is famed for "big, cheap food", he says.

On shelves behind the bar are old fashioned sweet jars of bon bons and pear drops. Below are the optics.

The music is "big tunes", a selection of reggae, funk, soul, bass and hip hop.

Charlie Endean
Being a student is a struggle, says Charlie Endean
An octopus made of wheel trims, the work of artist Tol, stretches across the ceiling. In the garden is a model of a 12ft alligator.

Sitting at the bar is Tomasimi Guillaume, nicknamed Zof, a 25-year-old Frenchman enjoying his lunch.

Old trains

Zof said he did not know much about the conference, but argued that the delegates should be discussing health and transport.

"The health service in this country really shocked me. It is so disorganised," he said.

"I had to wait about four or five hours before being treated.

He added: "The trains are really old and they are never on time."

Zof
Zof: Shocked by British health care
Barman Charlie Endean, who is studying a BA honours in film and culture and society at Sussex University, said: "It's a struggle being a student.

"I work here too much to pay for it. I think it is terrible that people who are studying come out with a degree in waiting because you spend all your time serving drinks to people."

Accessibility

Reflexologist Daniella Saunders, 26, of Brighton, said she wished party conferences were open to the public.

"I am trying to broaden my knowledge and interests in this sort of thing," she said.

"I'd like to hear what they have to say with my own ears rather than on TV."

Her friend Thomas Fredericks, 27, said ruefully: "You only get a part of what they say on television."


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23 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Politics
22 Sep 02 | Politics

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