Conference comment: What the papers say (3)

Ed Davey GlasgowToday’s big debate is on the economy and the Guardian reports Vince Cable and Nick Clegg at odds over future economic direction:

Clegg has decided to stage what Cable and some on the left regard as an artificial showdown over economic policy during a set-piece two-hour debate… Cable’s aides said he will stay away from the debate, which is being billed as a test of Clegg’s authority. Cable believed a compromise could have been reached between the leadership and the left over their amendments to the economic motion, especially the right for councils to borrow more to build.

The Daily Mail, always looking for a good scrap, says Cable has sparked a Lib Dem “civil war”. The Mirror said Vince “gave Mr Clegg a bloody nose by supporting rebels.” Today’s Guardian also reports on the split.

After party members at the Glasgow conference voted 230 to 183 to support nuclear power in “limited” circumstances, the Independent declared it a historic change in direction. The Guardian said that grassroots Lib Dems “appeared to be in a pragmatic mood as they also backed the leadership over the controversial issues of tuition fees and fracking.” The Telegraph reports Ed Davey’s speech as a battle between himself and Owen Paterson over wind turbines. The Daily Mail lavishes Davey’s claim in the speech to have “beaten Stone Age Tories”.

The vote to reject automatic blocking of internet pornography also makes the news in the Daily Mail and the Guardian.

The Independent reports Sir Alan Beith saying that Christians feel that they are being forced to hide their religion because of “silly” interpretations of equality laws. Sir Alan made his comment at the launch of Liberal Democrats do God, a topic Greg Mulholland has written about here on Lib Dem Voice.

Writing in the Guardian, Richard Grayson, former vice-chair of the Liberal Democrat federal policy committee, explains why he left the Lib Dems and threw in his lot with Ed Miliband.

The Independent has more bad poll news for the Lib Dems:

59 per cent of all those who voted Liberal Democrat at the last election believe the party has got worse in the three years since, with only 9 per cent saying it has got better.

The article is based on a survey by YouGov for Labour Uncut.

The Express reports Charles Kennedy telling a meeting that Britain will not join the Euro “over the course of the next generation.” The Guardian describes pressure on Clegg to declare that the Lib Dems will support an in-out referendum on Europe in the next parliament.

The Financial Times at the weekend said the Lib Dems have done themselves and the country a service by entering government:

The message that being in government is “hard” but “right” may be difficult for the [Lib Dem] base to swallow. It has the virtue of being true, however. While paying a price for entering the coalition in 2010, the Lib Dems have also done both the country and themselves a service. At a stroke, they have killed the argument that a Lib Dem vote is a wasted one.

The Lib Dems cannot erase the past three-and-a-half years. The party’s challenge must be to defend the government’s record while explaining the distinctive contribution it has made to its achievements. But this requires a coherent proposition to put before the electorate. Mr Clegg’s credo of a party that favours a small state and is strong on civil liberties offers such a prospectus.

The Times Leader (£) also recognises the Lib Dems important role in government:

Liberal Democrats should resist the urge to flirt with potential coalition partners. Their best hope is to make a case for their record in office and the Lib Dems’ best hope lies in combining the radical centre with being as good a government as possible.

Speaking on Andrew Marr, Nick Clegg appeared to dismiss hopes of a Labour Lib Dem coalition after the next election:

Labour would wreck the recovery. Under the Conservatives, who don’t have the same commitment to fairness as we do, you would get the wrong kind of recovery.

But moments later he confirmed that post-election discussions will be guided by the electorate’s vote.

The Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan yesterday morning continued to be positive about the Lib Dems:

If you put aside the polls, the usual sniping from the Vince/Farron brigade, and the ritual conference spats over sandal policy. Mr Clegg is still there, he has enough Coalition achievements to claim the credit for, and he can see that events are leading towards delivering what he told Andrew Marr was his central preoccupation: getting the Lib Dems back into power in 2015.

Brogan is positive about the Lib Dems again today, but Boris Johnson, uses his Telegraph column to declare Nick Clegg “the loser of British politics”. Well, no one expected a Tory leadership hopeful to cheerlead for Lib Dems. Kevin Maguire in the Mirror also dismisses Clegg: “A grown-up party would ditch the biggest vote loser in British politics.”

The Telegraph Leader is not complimentary either:

For every victory that Mr Clegg touts from his time in office, there is a serious defeat – often made all the more humiliating by his habit of defining a policy as something he would “die in a ditch for” and then failing to deliver on: scrapping tuition fees, House of Lords reform, electoral reform, etc.

The Lib Dems are no longer synonymous with high principle, yet, as if to assuage their guilt, they continue to promote some of their older, less attractive ideas.

Chris Huhne, writing in the Guardian, disagrees and gives Clegg strong support:

The 2010 election was not a flash in the pan: it was the culmination of a 30-year breakdown in two-party politics. If the Liberal Democrats hold their nerve, they will do better than most people think at the next election and may well be in the next government.

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  • A rather pro Clegg assessment of what is in the papers! What about the Guardian report that Cable refuses to speak in the F19 Economy debate?
    We need a distinctive economic policy. Or we are doomed to fight the next election as a moderate civil liberties and gay rights version of the Tories.

  • Well, a 50 year breakdown in 2 party politics, actually.

  • “Mr Clegg’s credo of a party that favours a small state and is strong on civil liberties offers such a prospectus.”

    I don’t think we are a party that favours a small state or indeed any particular size of state. I certainly hope not, because that whole agenda is a whole pile of proverbial with no evidence to back it.

    What we should be is a party that favours state action when it is effective in solving problems while leaving the free market and other forms of ownership to act where appropriate. Having a particular bias against the state is NOT why I am a member of the Lib Dems.

    Meanwhile, overall, much of the coverage continues to be hysterically anti-Lib Dem, particularly from the right wing press (i.e. most of it), with ridiculous trumped up stories portraying us as totally divided on economics (not true, as analysed above) or having a problem with sexual harassment not faced by the other parties (the Tories and Labour being entirely free of such problems. Yeah, right…).

    Basically this kind of wall-to-wall slagging off is the reason why our poll ratings are so low and really can only be addressed by action locally and nationally during election campaigns, when at least we get some kind of a break from the constant bias provided by an eternally hostile mass market press.

  • daft ha'p'orth 16th Sep '13 - 12:17pm

    The papers seem to be very much enjoying the Lib Dem talking points, “Five Things to remember for every interview”, sent out (inadvertently?) to journalists today.

    Today is one of those days which makes it very obvious that I could currently replace my MP with a very small number of lines of source code.

  • Here’s a link that works for the ‘line to take’ in interviews:

    Frankly I can’t see most MPs having the wit to digest more than the five bullet points at the top. And in fact Jeremy Browne only managed three of them:

  • Chris,
    Why is the Lib Dem “management” pushing this “thought-police” briefing? The section I read, in the 5 points, was a re-hash of the Tory government’s policy and not put forward in the way Lib Dems should handle the spare room tax [or whatever people are actually calling it in the press]. Surely the “management” realizes that giving the press a huge hand-out will allow the press to wade through it looking for the gaff with which to hit us – now and at any future election.
    It feels as if we are being corralled like sheep – by a sheep-dog who has digested a cricket score-board.

  • “Why is the Lib Dem “management” pushing this “thought-police” briefing? ”

    I think it was sent to the press in error.

  • daft ha'p'orth 17th Sep '13 - 10:13am

    Cheers @Chris.
    Whilst I agree that MPs will probably only digest a few of them I sincerely hope that the interviewers will take the time to learn them in detail (perhaps with a numerical index for convenience) and mock them wherever they appear.

    Otherwise, though, this is pretty cynical stuff. I liked the fact that the muppet(s) who compiled and broadcast that document states that the ‘Spare Room Subsidy’ is ‘not a tax’…and lists it under ‘Fairer taxes’. The authors don’t believe what they’re writing, the spokespeople haven’t even necessarily thought about what they’re repeating, so why should the general public bother to give it the time of day?

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