Lib Dem Conference: Michael Brown's notebook - Last stand for the old regime

IT WAS Paddy Ashdown's day at Harrogate yesterday as the Liberal Democrat faithful heard him bid an emotional farewell during a speech that ended without a dry eye in the house. Delegates eschewed their normal reserve, even giving him an unheard-of standing ovation at the beginning.

"You wouldn't have done that if I had stayed," Mr Ashdown said, before hamming it up with a joke at the expense of John Prescott: "Memorable Prescott pronouncement 178: `The green belt was a Labour idea and we are determined to build on it'."

MUCH SPECULATION surrounds Paddy Ashdown's future. But Charles Kennedy's aides claim that Bill Clinton was disappointed that Mr Ashdown did not get the United Nations special envoy post in Kosovo. Mr Clinton saw Mr Ashdown's regular contributions in the Commons during the Kosovo crisis, on the American channel C-Span, and observed: "He's got what it takes."

A LARGE crowd of journalists and camera crews was on hand outside Harrogate District Hospital to cover the new leader's visit. One patient nipped outside to ask what all the fuss was about. "We are covering Charles Kennedy's visit," he was told by The Independent's photographer John Voos. "Oh good. I do so like his violin-playing," replied the patient, thinking that Nigel Kennedy was in concert at the conference centre.

RUMOURS OF MR Kennedy's supposedly easy-going, lazy nature came to an abrupt end when party bigwigs were forced to abandon a grand City of London Corporation dinner to attend the leader's daily debriefing in the Majestic Hotel at 10pm.

Lord Razzall, the party treasurer, and Jane Bonham-Carter, a leadership adviser, spent the whole evening clock-watching, terrified of being late for their audience with Mr Kennedy. Party bosses expecting an easy late- night unwinding at the ITN champagne party were kept late by Mr Kennedy working on the next day's conference business. Harassed officials have quickly learnt that Mr Kennedy is not quite the cuddly bunny they had previously imagined.

EVEN Politico's bookshop paid its own tribute to Mr Ashdown by discreetly removing from display items from its range of men's underpants emblazoned with political slogans. While "I like the size of your majority" was still on sale, "Pantsdown" briefs and trunks had been hidden under the counter. Delegates wanting to purchase them were handed the illicit underwear in brown paper bags. Sales, however, were still said to be "brisk".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all