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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lessons from Conference

There is a good blog post from Andrew Sparrow on the Guardian website in which he outlines ten things he has learned from attending Liberal Democrat Conference. Obviously a number of journalists were attending our conference for the first time this year and were pleasantly surprised to see that we did not live up to the myth.

These are the highlights of Andrew Sparrow's post:

1 The Lib Dems have made up their minds about the coalition – and they like it. Journalists came to Liverpool expecting to find evidence of a grassroots backlash against Nick Clegg's decision to go into coalition with the Tories. Well, forget it. There have been grumbles, but (this week) they have been inconsequential. In so far as you can say what the party as a whole thinks, it's broadly happy with the coalition, and expects it to last.

3 The Lib Dems are not turning into a rightwing party. Sometimes Lib Dem ministers and Tory ministers can sound quite similar. At a fringe meeting last night, I heard the Tory Oliver Letwin say that he enjoyed working with Danny Alexander and that he had "yet to find any major difference between us". But you don't have to spend long listening to the debates here to realise that Lib Dem activists are quite unlike their Conservative counterparts. The Lib Dems are defnitely more "leftish" and at a Tory conference you are unlikely to hear a self-proclaimed atheist transexual speaking up for gay marriage in a long debate on equality.

4 The Lib Dems understand coalition politics better than the media. Westminster journalists like me are often asking the Lib Dems how they will fight an election against the Tories after five years of coalition. Lib Dems are genuinely bemused by this. They point out that this is not a problem in Scotland, Wales, local government or continental Europe – all places where three-party politics is more entrenched than Westminster. At a fringe meeting last night, Ashdown asked delegates to put their hands up if they had shared power with another party. Dozens of them responded. Then he asked if anyone in that group had had a problem fighting an election against their coalition partners. No one thought it was an issue.

6 The Lib Dems are beginning to believe they could benefit electorally from being in coalition with the Conservatives. Conventional wisdom says smaller parties always get eaten up in a coalition. In May, many Lib Dems seemed to believe this. But they have noticed that voters seem to like parties cooperating and Chris Huhne told the conference this week that they should make a virtue of the fact that they're a collaborative bunch.

10 Miriam González Durántez is going to be an interesting figure in our national life. Clegg's wife received plaudits during the election campaign for getting on with her job and refusing to play the conventional role played by the leader's spouse. This week she had a ding-dong with Channel 4's Jon Snow and gave short shrift to an interviewer from the Times. It won't be dull while she's around.

Foregotten this one no 9 Lib Dem delegates don't necessarily decide policy any more. The Lib Dems are more democratic than the other parties. For years, conference really has decided policy. But this week delegates have been passing motions which, although technically party policy, will not decide what the government does. Whether or not a conference motion influences the coalition will depend on whether or not Clegg fights for it at the cabinet table.
No, I didnt forget it. I left it out because it was not entirely accurate. What representatives decide does become party policy but there is a distinction between party policy and coalition party forced on us due to us failing to get 316 MPs elected in May.
There was also a distinction in the Liberal Party between party policy and what actually went into the manifesto. This was established under David Steel and has not been seriously challenged in the merged party.
" 7. The alternative vote campaign seems to be in trouble"

Is that good or bad for the Liberal Democrats?
I am not even convinced it is in trouble. It has not started yet.
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