The Lib Dems annual conference was in Glasgow this year – about as far from Eastbourne as you can get!
Mind you, unusually, it was sunny when I arrived on the Saturday so perhaps I brought a little bit of Eastbourne sunshine with me!
Anyway – the big national issue we spent a lot of time on over the five days was also inextricably linked to what I’ve been focussed on in Eastbourne since the general election – the economy – and what the Lib Dems have been doing in the Coalition Government to get our country out of the dreadful economic mess we inherited in 2010.
I spoke in one of the main economic debates and emphasised the fantastic success we’ve achieved locally by working together on apprenticeships and jobs.
I told the packed hall, to much applause, of our 100 apprenticeships in 100 days campaign, which has resulted in Eastbourne recruiting an incredible 2,500 new apprentices since the General Election.
This has come in the depth of the worst economic recession since the Second World War, and is as many apprentices as our town has managed in the previous six years put together!
This is an amazing result and I am deeply grateful to all our local partners in this endeavour: Sussex Downs College, other training companies, businesses too numerous to mention, the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, the Hospitality Association, FSB and our own Eastbourne Council. Thank you.
Also not forgetting the Eastbourne Herald who have been tremendously supportive of my apprenticeship initiative from the beginning
Away from the auditorium, I spoke at six fringe events –four of which were around the jobs agenda so I think my colleagues are pretty clear now that I really am passionate about the issue!
As a party nationally we also have a great story to tell. Vince Cable as business secretary has led an increase in apprenticeships to a staggering million people over the last three years and the overall rate of employment is the highest it’s been since the early 70s.
All this adds flesh to the lines that underpinned the whole conference – within government the Lib Dems have worked tirelessly to create a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everybody to get on in life.
And with the House of Commons Library giving me the bald statement only a few days ago that Eastbourne’s latest unemployment figure is down to 3.9 per cent, we as a town really have bucked the economic trend.