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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Conference goodies

I got to my hotel in Liverpool last night and then took a stroll down to the Conference Centre. There were police everywhere. It was to be expected of course, but still it does not feel like a Liberal Democrat Conference.

The last time I saw this sort of security was when the SDP/Liberal Democrat Alliance were leading in the opinion polls, though there was also the armed patrols during the visit of the American Ambassador, shortly after 9/11.

Being in government also means that the way that Conference is conducted changes as well. There will still be the fringe meetings of course, though I suspect that the quality of the food will improve measurably, and open debate on policy motions that cause discomfort to the leadership will always be a feature of a Liberal Democrat conference.

However, suddenly there are Ministers with orders to mingle and activists to keep happy. Thus we have arrived in this fantastic City still smiling at the news that a decision may be taken to delay replacing Trident until after 2015. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it is a step in the right direction.

In addition, yesterday's Guardian reports that there is more to come. They say that David Cameron has given the Liberal Democrats clearance to announce the introduction of measures against tax avoidance. The news that Liberal Democrat Ministers are to lead a clampdown on tax avoidance amongst the super rich will always play well with activists.

The other task will be bolstering moral and reassuring activists that we did the right thing in putting the stability of the country and the implementation of key Liberal Democrat policies ahead of narrow sectarian interest. That is the party leader's job and the Guardian suggests that Clegg will deliver "a chin up, chest out" speech, emphasising that distinctive Liberal Democrat policies are being put into action for the first time in the party's history.

The next few months are going to be critical so our Ministers will need the full support of the party. I believe that they will get it. However, a few more policy announcements like these will help smooth the way.
Hi Peter

Many thanks for the good news and for the hard work you are putting into the party. It is very encouraging for myself as an activist to hear this. Will be out with our local branch today in Newtown Powys
Will you be raising the thorny issue of housing benefit cuts?
Hello Peter,

Trident nuclear weapons will undoubtedly be an important issue at this conference, although I am a little more cynical than you on the likelihood of the National Security Council putting the brakes on the Trident replacement programme. See, for example, today's Financial Times (http://bit.ly/bF2jIe) which reports that the government will be going full steam ahead on Trident replacement and ordering both new aircraft carriers.

It will therefore be very important for rank and file activists to make the point to MPs and Ministers that there is considerable support among the public for scrapping Trident. Voters do not want to spend millions of pounds on new nuclear weapons when essential local services are being cut. It is only a small fringe on the Conservative Right that want Trident to be replaced, and the Lib Dems in government should stand up to them and call their bluff.
Shambo, I had a very useful conversation with Scope about Housing benefits.
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