LibLink: Mark Pack – What to watch out for at Liberal Democrat conference

Mark Pack has been going through his conference documents and over on the MHP blog he has highlighted the bits that are likely to be most controversial and/or interesting.

Here’s just a sample of what Mark has picked out:

An early chance to catch the mood of the party will be the session on Saturday morning looking back on May’s elections and AV referendum. Unhappiness is to be expected. What to watch out for is who speaks out and where their comments are directed.

A common theme is likely to be the need for the party to present itself as distinct from the Conservatives, a sentiment echoed by Party President Tim Farron in the committee report under his name which says, “We all need to work harder to promote the Liberal Democrats as a distinct Party”. He also has his name to a motion promoting the party’s traditional community politics philosophy as central to its future.

It is therefore not the most joined-up piece of party management for Farron’s call for community politics to appear on the same agenda as a weighty motion and policy paper (cliché alert: titled “Facing the Future”; better than “Facing the Past” at least), complete with an introduction from Nick Clegg – and all of which do not mention community politics at all.

This is not so much a case of Farron and Clegg being at odds over the party’s future direction; more a case of unfortunate juxtaposition and reflecting Clegg’s long-term instinctive choice of a different vocabulary from that of community politics. The Facing the Future policy paper suffers somewhat from having 17 “priorities” but is designed to ensure that the government’s policies for the second-half of the Parliament, when much of the Coalition Agreement will have been completed, have a strong Liberal Democrat flavour.

Unsurprisingly, NHS reform is on the agenda, but in the form of a Question & Answer session, including both Paul Burstow and Shirley Williams on the panel. That is a format well-suited to avoiding confrontation as Liberal Democrat conference audiences are very different from those of BBC’s Question Time.

There’s plenty more – on party finances, tuition fees, drug laws, nuclear power, wellbeing and more – in the full piece here.

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8 Comments

  • “What to watch out for at Liberal Democrat conference”

    Eggs, tomotoes and rotten fruit I’d of thought……..

  • coldcomfort 14th Aug '11 - 3:34pm

    I have spent 50yrs on & off battling the Tories [ and Labour]. As a young, lower middle class person I suppose you’d call it in the 1950s , one could see that too many Trade Union Leaders were as much power drunk barons as the traditional Tory toffs who saw themselves as power entitled natural rulers. So it really stuck in the gullet having to go into coalition with the Tories but ‘there was no alternative’ as one of them once said. To keep this short I will merely say that on an intellectual level the Coalition Agreement was a great achievement. Many of the coalition policies that have emerged have been quite good. On a political level however my leaders have been too trusting of Tory ‘integrity’ [ a word that generally is pretty alien to died in the wool Tories], have made silly naive mistakes and have allowed us to carry far too much of the bad smell. We were comprehensively shafted by Cameron over AV and on a personal level owe him absolutely nothing. So what I’m looking for is my leaders to recognise that we poor bloody infantry cannot always be able to rectify the errors of our generals and to come up with a clear vision & narrative of where we go from here and why voters should support us. And to generally sharpen up their political act.

  • @coldcomfort

    The notion that the Lib Dems are unjustly carrying too much of the blame for cuts is a comforting narrative, but one that I think is inaccurate. I think, if I am honest, the reason that the Lib Dems are bearing the brunt of the reaction to the cuts is that Clegg presented himself as an alternative to “politics-as-usual” (read: breaking manifesto promises). What happened after he became Deputy PM is well documented. Now, I don’t blame him for some of those changes, in fact at least one of them was an improvement (tuition fees) while others were not (VAT rise). But the beating we are taking is down to the perception of hypocrisy, and on that score, we have to accept that our accusers are entitled to some measure of indignation.

  • @ mpg

    “we have to accept that our accusers are entitled to some measure of indignation”

    No we don’t and no I certainly don’t. We’re doing a great and hugely courageous job under almost impossible circumstances. Who would have chosen to have to go into government in May 2010? No-one.

    The fact that our opponents are given free media rein to voice their worst, most obnoxious lies about us, day in day out, doesn’t mean we should concede an inch to them.

  • Robert C & mpg, I don’t think we disagree. My main point is that the ‘hypocrisy’ attack did not require huge political acumen to anticipate. I can never remember main stream print media ever giving us a fair go so we should have anticipated what Robert C says about the barrage of lies etc. Having got David Laws scalp with almost the first ball of the innings we should have expected that every prominent LibDem would have their life raked over. Maybe our leaders did so anticipate but if so didn’t defend adequately. So I simply ask them to up their game.

  • Tony Dawson 15th Aug '11 - 6:41pm

    “An early chance to catch the mood of the party will be the session on Saturday morning looking back on May’s elections and AV referendum.”

    What would be far more interesting would be if this session also included a genuine post mortem on the 2010 national Lib Dem election campaign, the deficiencies of which appear to have been largely brushed under the carpet in the euphoria of having a handful of MPs thrust into government.

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