After having taken the plunge of becoming a UKIP member, and having then taken another plunge by participating in an Action Day last year, I took yet another one by attending Spring Conference – my first conference, having been unable to attend the ones in the previous two years.
What an experience!
Like so many, I did watch last year’s Autumn conference in Doncaster on telly, as the BBC did a live stream, more or less, on the Parliamentary Channel. So I thought I knew what to expect: great speeches, great atmosphere.
Yes, there was all of that, but nothing, simply nothing beats actually being there. Not only is the enthusiasm infectious, not only is it great to shout ‘hear hear’ and notice others shouting that at the same time, the best is being able to talk to so many members from all over the country: in the queue waiting to go in, during the breaks, leaving the venue, in the bar, at dinner.
We shivered, oh how we shivered waiting to be let in.
The check-in system of the venue organisers – not UKIP! – had crashed, they couldn’t repair it in time, so we had to wait outside until they’d come up with a solution. Rather old-fashioned and low-tech, the ticket stubs were torn off manually. Oh – and we all got a paper bracelet, so we could go in and out all day.
Seats were filling up fast, thanks to the long wait – no time to check the stalls or get a slice of fruit cake. That fruit cake, btw, is utterly delicious!
There were the rousing speeches by our usual suspects: Nigel Farage, our two MPs, and the incomparable deputy chairs Suzanne Evans and Paul Nuttall. And that was only for starters, on Day one. Not all speeches are yet up at this website but the ones which are are well worth reading.
They deserve and will get some more attention because one theme united them all: what to say and how to bring our arguments in the next sixty or less days.
One of the best moments for me came when Nigel Farage asked all those in the audience to stand up who were PPC or who were standing in the local elections. Nearly half of that audience rose to their feet!
That was unbelievable, and the feeling in the hall of enthusiasm and yes, joy, cannot be described. As the saying has it – you had to be there!
It is indeed the case, as David Soutter (Head of Candidates) pointed out on Saturday, that our candidates, for Parliament and for any of the local elections, are the most vetted candidates of all parties, thanks to the ‘attention’ of the MSM.
It is however also the case that we, the ordinary members and activists, who will be out everywhere from now on until May 7th, must be conscious that we’re being scrutinised as well. An unguarded remark by one of us – in the streets, on social media – might cost us votes.
No, this does not mean we must tape our mouths shut.
It means we can and must recall the manners we’ve been taught, and use our cleverness – and we are clever, else we’d not be UKIP members! – to address the various problems the Cartel parties and MSM try to use to make us put our feet into our mouths. The speeches at Spring conference are giving us enough material to use in our talks and our writings.
Was it worth the trip from one end to the country to the other, to attend?
Oh yes it was! Just imagine meeting those ‘in the flesh’ whom you’ve only known from social media – how good was that!
Above all – imagine being able to walk up to any of the speakers, Nigel Farage included, and just talk to them: no SpAds and spin doctors preventing access, no haughty glares from them to us foot soldiers for daring to approach – to the contrary! I never expected to be able to have brief chats with the likes of my personal ‘stars,’ Suzanne Evans and Diane James, or to speak briefly to Harriet Yeo.
This is what Conference really is about: for us to chat with those we elected, without being herded away, without being taken for granted.
And yes, one can indeed walk up and talk to Nigel in the bar, just like that!