I've always had mixed feelings about Federal Conference. Years of being a wallflower amongst the 'beautiful people' (MPs, Peers, MEPs, PPCs, council group leaders and the like) have made the whole experience a rather fraught one. In the past, I tended to shuffle around Conference, huddling for social warmth with old friends, whilst everybody else rushed around, apparently part of some heady social whirl from which I was excluded.
Retiring from active politics twice probably didn't help, and being a bureaucrat didn't help either. To be honest, the Party only notices its secretaries, treasurers, returning officers and the like when something goes wrong, and then the attention is unlikely to be positive. Even the long service awards tend to go to campaigners and councillors.
And so I would potter around the venue, looking slightly perplexed, and never really enjoy myself. Until last year, that was. Last year, the faceless bureaucrat was unmasked in the midst of the maelstrom that was the Presidential contest. Suddenly, from being relatively unnoticed, I had a profile, and not an altogether welcome one. Given that I am in many ways rather shy, and notoriously poor at self-promotion, suddenly being one of the front guys for the campaign was a bit of a shock to the system. It wasn't easy, and the sense of being under a microscope didn't help.
This time, it will probably be different. I won't see as much of Ros as I might like, especially as she has a fairly intense schedule. On the other hand, I've met so many people in the past year, virtually all of whom have been really kind, it will be nice to touch base with them again.
My focus at Conference is rather different too. Having become a parish councillor, deep in the heart of the countryside, I have a steep learning curve. There will be rural receptions, training on PagePlus and EARS, and all the other stuff that I'll be able to take back to Creeting St Peter for use later in my campaign for 2011.
I suspect that I'll still be looking perplexed though. So if you see me reach for my jacket pocket and look bemused, you'll know that I've missed an appointment. Just point me in the direction of the bar, and don't let me cross any roads unsupervised, and I'm sure that it will be alright...
See you there?