It's taken me more than two years, but I finally think that I've solved the problem of potentially tough committee meetings.
Tonight saw the first meeting of the Regional Candidates Committee, with a long, technical agenda and a great deal to plan, organise and decide upon. We had been unable to hold the meeting in Cowley Street due to the unavailability of a room and, to be honest, I never enjoy meeting there anyway. It's always a struggle to get in 'after hours' as you need to persuade someone to let you in, and the hanging around waiting for someone is frustrating.
So it dawned on me, why not host the Committee in the National Liberal Club? It's quiet, discreet and comfortable (the leather armchairs are a real plus), the bar is very reasonably priced (at least for Central London) and extremely central (next to Embankment station) and where could be more appropriate?
And so, at 7.15 this evening, I arrived in Whitehall Place, signed in the committee (we are a gentleman's club, after all - and yes, we do admit women as members...) and headed for the bar. Arranging for provision of a couple of bottles of wine (a key relaxant at the end of a tough day), our new Chair, Margaret Joachim, brought us to order and pushed through the agenda very efficiently.
Naturally, I can't detail our discussions, nor the decisions taken, but I was impressed with the collegiate style of a group who give an impression of focussed competence. Me, I'll stick to gentle humour, a grasp of the possible and a network of contacts which allow me to peer slightly myopically into the future. But they seem willing to tolerate that...
After the business was complete, we stayed on to do what some might describe as bonding but I would suggest was part of the pleasure of getting to know your colleagues better whilst not actually discussing business. The committee is heavily female-accented this year - it was only our gender balance rules that prevented me from being the only male out of the seven members - and an ability to be able to relate to something other than politics is quite welcome.
I sense that I'm going to enjoy this...