Monday is jobs, with policy motions on creating jobs and policy papers on both sustainable prosperity and also on mutuals, employee ownership and workplace democracy. The first of these (F23) may generate some lively debate around an amendment that would delete the reference to keeping to the government’s “fiscal mandate”.
Then there is Vince Cable’s keynote speech. Watch out for whether he continues to push for further banking reform and whether he expands on the growing calls from Liberal Democrat MPs for some changes in economic policy, especially more public infrastructure investment (although probably not Roman style).
Monday also sees the low-key dénouement to the party’s mid-term review process with a Q&A featuring Danny Alexander (will he repeat his anti-Tory rhetoric?), along with the Federal Executive and Federal Finance and Administration Committee reports – a chance for people to ask about the party’s finances and membership.
A lively debate is likely to be had over introducing a standard 20mph speed limit on residential roads as it sees a classic clash between national standards and local diversity.
On the fringe, look out for the lunchtime session from The Times and Populus about the Liberal Democrat and voters; a polling organisation co-sponsoring an event is usually the sign that it will contain some hard data to leaven the usual opinion-making fest. Early evening, you can catch Julian Huppert, myself and others talking about politics in the age of social media and later in the evening the Local Government Association (LGA) session on welfare with Steve Webb looks to be an excellent chance to get stuck into the details of one of the most troubling issues for party members with one of the ministers members most trust.
Tuesday it is the turn of tax to be the theme, centering on a speech by Danny Alexander. His speeches usually go down well at party conference. Quite what he has to say on wealth taxes, of the emergency or mansion kind, will be interesting as will how much progress he will be able to report on previous promises of action on tax evasion and avoidance (for which there are some promising signs).
Post-reshuffle the lunchtime fringe with Paddy Ashdown entitled “Why have the Liberal Democrats forgotten Foreign Policy?” looks particularly tempting. Or join me outside the room in an impromptu protest against gratuitous capitalisation in fringe meeting names. Bring your own placard please.
The last item of formal business on the day may well be the most controversial – a motion opposing the Government’s ‘secret courts’ proposals. Expect an amendment from Liberal Democrat peers and others arguing that the changes secured to the original plans mean they should now be supported rather than opposed outright.
In the evening you can catch me and others talking about the Draft Communications Data Bill and then you can round off your evening in the perfect way – by coming to hear my talk again, this time at the Air Ambulance fringe on public services. (I’m really looking forward to hear what people have to say at that, as it seems to me the Air Ambulance Service is a near-perfect example of a way of providing a de facto public service which people are happy with, yet if it was proposed for any other public service would be outraged with. There’s lots to get stuck into about the pros and cons of that sort of conservatism towards structuring public services.)
Finally, Wednesday is mostly about Nick Clegg’s keynote speech. However both Tuesday and Wednesday have a slot for an emergency or topical motion. This is when issues such as the Libor controversy are likely to be debated.
Given their importance, I should also mention that Wednesday morning sees the party’s new housing policies, with the intention to build 300,000 new homes a year, debated along with mental health support.
This is of course not a comprehensive summary of all the motions being debated, and depending on your interested the most important one may not be listed above. So it’s well worth taking a look through the full Brighton conference agenda and directory, which also has details of the time and place for the fringes.
Hope to see many of you at conference, especially at The Voice’s Blog of the Year awards, and if you’re tweeting about Lib Dem conference remember the hashtag – #ldconf.