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I am agog to hear the podcast of last night’s LDV fringe event (hint), but in the meantime, some snippets of news from the jumping-up-and-down-on-the-sidelines school of conference reporting.

First, David Howarth is plugging away the civil liberties message in the Guardian:

…I am still profoundly unconvinced by the Tories’ conversion to the cause of freedom.

First, Tory proposals have a tendency to smack of too little, too late. For instance, its surveillance proposals looked oddly similar to those to be found in the freedom bill. Scrapping ID cards? Getting rid of the ContactPoint database? Reining in councils’ investigatory powers? It’s all there – and has been for seven months.

While distinguished BOTY judge Paul Waugh (oh, apparently he’s written a few bits and pieces for newspapers too) has this to say about universal benefits:

…today it appears that good sense has deserted both Cable and Nick Clegg.

In arguing that child benefit should be means-tested, both of them are in serious danger of deterring the very voters they rely on.

Child benefit isn’t, in the grand scheme of things, a huge amount of money if you are a middle class parent. But when times are tough and every penny counts, it makes a significant contribution to a family income.

Much more importantly, taking child benefit away from middle class parents would fracture their social compact with the state.

You heard it here first, folks. Child benefit is how the state bribes the middle classes to keep voting for it…

Meanwhile, the lovely Floella Benjamin, who spoke at the conference rally last night, has written in the Guardian as follows:

For the last decade or so, knee-jerk policies have thrown demoralised organisations like the NHS, the education and justice system from crisis to crisis, never giving them a chance to stabilise and be effective. The Lib Dems are in a unique position to make fundamental changes to Britain’s political future and change the way the country is governed.

Not by spinning mantras, sodden with dogma or laden with class hatred and party political infighting, but by coming up with policies that benefit all members of society, policies that are arrived at by careful and deliberate debate and consultation, rather than being decided by a few people who then announce them to a party of cowed backbenchers who are afraid to rock the boat. As Martin Kettle pointed out yesterday, the Lib Dems’ policies are formulated by the members and are well thought through in a truly democratic way.

All of which is interesting when set alongside this piece from Alex Stevenson of politics.co.uk. Much of it is the usual snarky coverage of the rally (don’t get me wrong – I wonder why we get away with the cheesy music as much as we do), but then it flowers into a rather good insight:

Thankfully, as the rally made clear, the Lib Dems will never stray too far away from their profound belief in openly disagreeing. It highlighted the internal, rather than external, arguments to come.

All present should have been shifting uneasily in their seats at the thought. Instead something else appeared to be happening: the punters looked excited, geed up, ready to go.

I’d forgotten this is a party which loves winding itself up. This made me feel rather uncomfortable. But, I thought consolingly, at least it’ll give us something to write about over the coming week.

By Jove, I think he’s got it!

And podcast is there yet none, but at least James Graham has provided his take on last night’s LDV fringe on the post-Rennard campaigning era over at CiF:

First, we agreed there was a danger in becoming too prescriptive in terms of specific techniques and that there was a need to go back to first principles. This was seen as largely a training issue, which the party needs to invest more in, and the party centrally taking on more of an enabling role. I was keen to emphasise that with websites such as The Straight Choice emerging, this was likely to be the most scrutinised general election campaign we’ve yet seen in the UK. We should assume that every leaflet we deliver will be scrutinised by at least one blogger who in turn will be read by at least one local journalist. Shoddy and dishonest literature will be exposed and could become a national story.

But enough of all that, what everyone wants to know is, is Nick Clegg in or out? Ooh, stop press:

@libdems Congratulations to @LibDemPress for beating the policy unit (twitterless) in this morning’s beach cricket with @Nick_Clegg #ldconf

From what I can gather from elsewhere on the twitterstream, absolutely everyone is currently piled into one of two standing room only fringe meetings – either Greg Dyke and Guido on the fallout from MPs expenses or Ben Goldacre on libel law in science. Interesting times.

Lastly, a big shout out to Robson Brown who really, really wishes that a particular rumour could be quashed, and here’s the rumour:

@rbsnb Bizarre rumour that i am standing in Bradford south or little horton going around #ldconf. Er, no!!

No smoke without fire, Robson…

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