Conference Comment: What the papers say (2)

Paddy Ashdown GlasgowIn an interview with the Guardian, Paddy Ashdown is however unequivocal. He says we should not turn our back on a future liaison with the Tories:

Paddy Ashdown has urged his restive party to prepare for the possibility of a second coalition with the Tories, saying the Conservatives have proved surprisingly good and trustworthy partners for the Liberal Democrats in government.

As the newspaper recognises, that’s not going to go down well with the left of the party. In a mea culpa, Paddy admits that he was wrong to have pushed so hard for a deal with Labour after the 2010 election, when Nick Clegg was moving towards the Tories. “I was wrong and Nick was right,” he says.

The Independent on Sunday reports a poll of party activists conducted by “the respected grassroots website Liberal Democrat Voice.” This found that 39% would prefer a Lib Dem-Labour coalition after 2015, compared with just 15% who favour another coalition with the Tories. Stephen Tall, co-editor of Lib  Dem Voice told the newspaper:

Our survey shows that, despite the pounding the party has taken over the past three years in coalition, Lib Dem members are still eager to stick around in government. The dilemma, though, is this. Party members clearly prefer a Lib-Lab pact, while the leadership appears to lean to a second coalition with the Tories.

Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll meanwhile has the Lib Dems on 7%. The Huffington reports that three-quarters of voters will not consider voting Lib Dem in 2015 and the party will be targeting the remaining 25%.

Paddy also gave an interview to the Huffington Post in which he dismisses the idea of leaving the coalition before the next election:

You are at the wheel of a ship that is passing through the storm. You can’t say ‘excuse me, I want to hop off’ – it’s the craziest idea I have heard in my life.

In Sunday’s Observer, Labour peer Lord Adonis gives his scathing analysis of the Nick Clegg’s role in the coalition declaring:

Clegg’s misjudgements have cost us dear: he would have wielded more power had the Tories formed a minority government.

Harriet Harman puts a caustic pen to paper in the Huffington Post listing “Ten broken Lib Dem promises.”

The Scotsman on Sunday reports on Willie Rennie’s speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference and says:

The Liberal Democrats began their charm offensive in Scotland last night as their conference got underway in Glasgow by declaring they would be “heartbroken” if the country opted to back independence next year.

The newspaper also quotes Tim Farron on Scottish independence:

Of course that we would surely be poorer apart. And not just economically poorer, it goes far deeper than that. I don’t want to get soppy, but just know that the rest of Britain would be heartbroken if you left.

The Daily Record yesterday attacked the Lib Dems over their record on the bedroom tax:

The bedroom tax has destroyed hundreds of lives… But now it looks like the tax is about to claim another victim. The Liberal Democrat party.

The Mail Online finds space for Lembit Opik (remember him?). He opines:

I’ve got nothing against Nick Clegg personally. It’s purely business. And the truth is, if the Liberal Democrats were a business, he’d have been fired a long ago.

As Kirsty Williams quipped:

Why do we need to keep talking about jobs, jobs and more jobs? We need to find Lembit one.

Kirsty also gave an interview on jobs and evolution to Wales Online.

The Mail Online gives coverage to Nick Clegg’s speech, saying he: “turned his fire on David Cameron, claiming the Tories would have ended job security for millions of workers.”

Back to the Independent on Sunday where Jane Merrick’s interview with Jo Swinson seems overly focused on her forthcoming maternity leave. Merrick also reports on a “surprise finding” from a Lib Dem Voice poll reveals that a majority of Lib Dem members are in favour of fracking, with 46 per cent for and only 36 per cent against.

The poll also reveals that the Lib Dems’ opposition to nuclear power has softened, with 65 per cent of members in favour of it being in the energy mix and 29 per cent against.

John Rentoul is none too kind to the Lib Dems in his article for Independent Voices:

A Lib-Lab coalition may be what Liberal Democrats want at the next election but it is not an outcome they can bring about. Brutally put, the Lib Dems are the leftovers of British politics.

He believes the subtext of what is happening in Glasgow is the Vince Cable versus Tim Farron leadership contest.

Taking us back in time, David Boyle blogs on Jo Grimond’s ‘Sound of Gunfire’ speech fifty years ago. Bringing the debate up to date, he warns:

But for now, in the heat of battle, we do have to stick together if we possibly can.  Not uncritically, but remembering that this is a very long march indeed. It may be portentous to say so, but I think the Grimond legacy is our ability, generally speaking, to do so.  We are able to do so only to the extent that we know what we are as Liberals, and that is thanks to Grimond.

Finally, in the Telegraph, Matthew d’Ancona looks to the future of the Lib Dems:

The structural question is whether the Lib Dems can transform themselves into a party ready, as they might put it, to keep the Tories compassionate and Labour safe with your money. This would be a standing offer to the electorate from a party actively seeking power in Whitehall: an entirely new role for a party that, a decade ago, was still happiest on marches and in town hall committees. In Glasgow, the question Clegg will pose again and again, explicitly or otherwise, is: are you all up to this challenge? Conferences are generally framed as a test for the leader. But this one is a test for everyone else.

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5 Comments

  • Geoffrey Payne 15th Sep '13 - 7:56am

    Well that was a painful read. Still a lot will happen this week, so no need to jump to conclusions about what people think today. What they think by the end of the week will be more salient.

  • ALSO FROM THE ASHCROFT POLL:
    His figures from the Con/LD marginals:
    Con 32, Lab 18, LD 29, UKIP 12, Others 8 and 1 in 4 Labour supporters prepared to vote LD tactically!!!!

  • theakes

    That is interesting and brings heart to us who want the Tories as far away from power as possible…

    Unfortunately, many lib dem members and councillors (guess which one I mean here) seem to have no truck with those who are not true believers.

    It would be nice for the party to acknowledge the importance of these types of voters and perhaps consider them when spouting ant-Labour Tory propaganda (as Clegg this morning). Those voters sitting on their hands, or voting for their ‘real’ party would lead to a disaster for the LD

  • Matthew d’Ancona: ‘keep the Tories compassionate and Labour safe with your money’

    Couldn’t have put it better.

  • Surely it is time for Ashdown to simply go away. Some of us remember his brazen about turn at the time of the coalition negotiations when he suddenly decided on austerity after advocating our party’s position to do the opposite. More recently we had his embarrassingly sanctimonious TV response to the parliamentary vote on Syria and now new love-n with the Tories!

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