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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
My Lib Dem conference diary
The politician heavyweights may steal all the limelight at party conference time, but what are these jamborees like for the ordinary delegates? Liz Shard, a 33-year-old Liberal Democrat councillor from Kingston-upon-Thames, allows us to peek into her conference diary.

SUNDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER.

I arrived in Brighton late in the afternoon. When I went to my first conference last year, I'd only just become a councillor, so ended up going to lots of training sessions. This time I'll be free to do what I want.

Sitting down to work out what events I want to go to is very difficult. There's loads of choices to make. It always seems like the fringe meetings I want to attend all happen at the same time.

MONDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER.

I turned up too late yesterday to pick up my delegate's badge, and knowing that the queues would be massive, I leave it until later to sign in.

Sarah Teather has given morale a boost
Everyone's in good spirits. That's not just because Sarah Teather won the by-election in Brent East - a formerly safe Labour seat. People are always in good spirits at the conference - it's an opportunity to get to know people from your own borough and to meet new people.

I went to a question and answer session with Charles Kennedy. I thought he spoke very well off the cuff. The delegates' questions were written down on card, and we were assured he hadn't seen them in advance. Judging from his informal replies it didn't seem like he had been shown them.

TUESDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER.

I'm not an early riser at the best of times - especially during conference - but I set my alarm for the 9am debate on council tax.

Council tax in my area has gone up and the pensioners in particular are really suffering badly. We do need to see a fairer local tax. I'm not an economist and don't quite know how it would work, but I know we need some kind of income-related tax.

Later, Sarah Teather gave her first speech. Everyone was pleased to see her and I think she did really well. She's the youngest MP - which at 33 makes me feel old - and it goes to show that anyone can get on in our party. I've only been a member for two-and-a-half years and I am already a councillor.

WEDNESDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER.

Yesterday, The Sun wrote an article which was very critical of Charles Kennedy [Red Kennedy, Loony Left policies of Lib Dems' boozy chief]. I saw it, but didn't read it.

It's great! If The Sun feels it needs to attack Charles Kennedy, then that shows how worried Labour is about us.

No murmurs about 'Red Kennedy'
THURSDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER.

Delegates always look forward to the leader's speech on the last day. I thought it was excellent. Everybody is behind Charles Kennedy. I haven't heard a word against him, not even murmurs in the bar.

I'm not going home to prepare for government after the next election, but the message I'm taking away is that we're a growing party. We're on our way and we're going to get there.

Delegates went away very positive, which is probably more than you'll be able to say for those attending the Tory and Labour conferences.

This is the first in a series of diaries from the three main party conferences.


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