Campaigner meets with politicians at party conference

Campaigner John Snell talks about his experience at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Brighton.

It was June when I got an email from Prostate Cancer UK HQ, asking for volunteers to attend the Party Political Conferences. I put my name forward although I didn’t expect to be used. Imagine my thrill when I was told that I had been selected to go to Brighton for the Lib Dem conference in September. I felt really honoured to represent the charity at such an important event and I did as much reading as I could on the challenges ahead.

I left home mid morning on Sunday 23 September, with my wife Sharyn who very kindly offered to act as chauffeur for the trip. The weather was awful with high winds and plenty of rain. Sadly it didn’t change for the whole stay in Brighton. On arrival my first job was to touch base with Alexis and Bryan from the charity at the hotel. We met around 5pm and made our plans as to which MPs we were going to meet. Having done that, we decided to enter for the Crazy Health Quiz taking place in a local pub. We made our way there, battered by the strong winds and rain. There were about ten teams entering and by some act of God we won with 35 scored out of 39. I have to say this was totally down to the knowledge of my colleagues, but I was quite happy to acknowledge the praise showered upon us! As we knew one of the teams was a team of surgeons we were rightly very pleased. What a good start I thought!

Monday was spent meeting with MPs from different areas of the country to enlist their help and support with the ‘Quality Checklist’. The checklist sets out the quality of care and support men with prostate cancer should expect to receive, based on research with people affected by prostate cancer and healthcare professionals. It’s needed because surveys show that men’s experience of care varies across the country. I didn’t know what to expect, but contrary to popular belief, they were lovely guys, answered our questions, and pledged their support. The MP meetings were interspersed with interesting fringe events which were either interviews or debates. Top subject appeared to be the NHS which, as we know, is about to go through huge changes.

Alexis and Bryan had heard that Nick Clegg was ‘doing the rounds’ and visiting various stands. Royal Mail had sponsored our charity for 2012 and what a great help they were too, as they invited us to use their stand as a base. Now comes the really interesting part! I was asked to meet Mr Clegg, give him a new badge and discuss ‘Movember’. When he finally arrived he was in the centre of a huge entourage of people including the usual fighting photographers. When I saw the crowd I realised my chances of meeting him were remote, bordering on impossible. Miraculously when he came round the corner of the stand I found myself two yards in front of him with no one in between. I stepped into the space, shook his hand, gave him a badge and had a chat with him. He offered to be photographed with me in front of the Prostate Cancer UK banner.

What a wonderful experience, one that I would not have missed for the world!