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Alex Kent meets Nick Clegg in Eastbourne

Alex Kent meets Nick Clegg in Eastbourne

Alex Kent blogs about meeting the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the media circus that went on in Eastbourne on Wednesday, 5th May 2010.

Claire Kenyon mentioned as she was listening to the radio that liberal democrat leader Nick Clegg would be visiting Eastbourne this morning and suggested I go along.

But when and where would it be? Eastbourne is a big place!

So, checked the official liberal democrats website/s and couldn't find a mention of the event! In fact, the only event on the Stephen Lloyd's Eastbourne lib dems page was Thursday, 6th May when people had to pop to their poll stations to vote!

Perhaps it was a secret for security reasons?

So, I thought I'd check – and this is something I've never done before. And lo-and-behold, there were people twittering about the event:

11am, Wednesday 5th May 2010
Winter Gardens Eastbourne

How cool! Twitter has definitely made a fan in me, for getting unofficial information.

So, off I headed from Brighton on my lovely BMW F800S motorbike and got to the site in plenty of time.

The local lib dem party managed to persuade me that I wasn't allowed to stand directly behind the podium, but they couldn't get me to move from the entrance to the barrier keeping Nick Clegg safe, but also making his route nice and predictable.

The media circus was amazing – they swarmed onto the lawn from all directions and it turned out my position was perfect! I loved hearing about all the media trying to jostle into the protected area – it was quite clear there was a strict pecking order that had to be observed with the national news strictly at the top.

I got a laugh when I commented that a 5ft BBC South presenter walked past, that they look bigger on the tele.

It was also funny, that one of the Lib Dems from central-office looked like a spitting image of Nick Griffin from the BNP:

Nick Griffin working behind the scenes for the Liberal Democrats?

Just gone, 11am and Nick Clegg turned up and happily shook my hand after I snapped a picture. Never shook the hand of (or even seen in person) a single MP in my life, so I was quite pleased with myself and my own personal jostle.

Nick Clegg in Eastbourne

Nick Clegg's speech was unfortunately marred by microphone/amplification problems – for shame the rodey that I hope is being privately flogged as I type this.

Obviously, having organised one or two conferences in my time I am appalled that no one passed him the "backup" mike! There was a back-up mike, right? Guys?

His speech was passionate and I was surprised how much more he put into it, than what you hear of the short sound bites reported in the press.

Nick Clegg took answers from the public, which I thought was very brave. But the questions were easy and I can't imagine that Nick worried about them at all. Should have put my hand up and asked him about my policy of allowing motorbikes into bus lanes – that would have thrown him.

As Nick Clegg was answering questions and the media swarmed around him, I got to see my first ever spooks! There was a tall man who looked like death in front of me. I asked him who he worked for and he said nothing. I then asked him if he ever smiles, and he for a brief moment he did – but then said that he's got work to do. He wasn't alone, there were people all who looked similarly scary walking around checking something concealed in their suit jackets.

Nick Clegg's Spook

On Nick Clegg's way out, I got to shake the hand of the local Eastbourne candidate Stephen Lloyd and wished him luck. He looked like a nice guy.

I did get to take this amazing photo on my iPhone of Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez:

Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

I also got to meet a correspondent from the Washington Post, who said that his newspaper back in the USA had regularly featured stories on our UK election. One was on the front page, and the rest had been on the foreign news section though.

Then, as quickly as the swarm had built up on this patch of grass in Eastbourne, it disappeared again. I thought it quite funny that a lady was walking around collecting the "I'm with Nick" banners from supporters trying to keep them as souvenirs. The part of me that publishes books was wondering about the manufacturing process and whether they were recycled!

So, all in all a fun day out in Eastbourne!


Alex Kent

5th May 2010

ps: Oh dear, I was filmed at this political rally...

Posted May 5, 2010
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