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    Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

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    Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

    Post by Parliament.... on Sun 10 Mar 2013, 12:18 pm

    Nick Clegg faces battle with party left as it looks for a 'true liberal' path
    The Lib Dem leader hoped for a rousing spring conference after the Eastleigh success. But with a leading member resigning and demands for a rethink on economic policy, the backdrop to Sunday's speech is not quite so bright

    As midnight fell on Brighton's sea front, Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president, was practically skipping as he exchanged banter with his young aides on the way to a late-night drinks party, following a convivial evening of balti and beer at a curry house.

    Less than nine hours later, opening the party's spring conference on Saturday, he told the few party members who had dragged themselves to the Hilton Metropole's cavernous conference hall early enough for the morning session that, despite enduring "the worst possible" circumstances: "We are resurgent."

    It can be assumed that Farron, looking a little pale, wasn't only talking about himself. The Lib Dems are undeniably delighted by their victory in the byelection battle of Eastleigh in Hampshire.

    The worst possible circumstances, referred to by Farron, included the resignation of the former energy secretary Chris Huhne from his Eastleigh seat after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice (it emerged yesterday that he has also been prompted by officials to resign from the party and privy council); the disclosure of Lord Rennard's allegedly inappropriate behaviour with female party colleagues; and the public relations disaster that was the did-he-didn't-he farce over whether Nick Clegg had been previously aware of allegations against the party's former chief executive before Channel 4 news brought them into the public domain.

    Winning in Eastleigh, despite all this, has seemingly put a spring in Farron's step. But his good temper may also be explained by the resurgence in the party of that wing who believe greater differentiation from the Tories, in both tone and substance, is the key to Lib Dem success.

    There is a sense that the Liberal Democrats won in Eastleigh by being Liberals, cocking a snook at their government partners and ripping up the coalition etiquette book.

    The strong presence of this sentiment inside the party is why the rebellion within it over the government's plans to allow evidence held by the security services to be heard in private and without scrutiny by defence lawyers during civil cases popularly known as the plan for "secret courts" is so potentially dangerous. It hints at tectonic shifts within Clegg's party to which the deputy prime minister needs to be sharp, insiders say.

    As the Observer reveals today, one of the country's leading human rights barristers, Dinah Rose QC, has now resigned her membership of the party over Clegg's support for the government's justice and security bill, describing it as a betrayal of the party's guiding principles.

    Her decision followed last week's Commons vote pushing through plans to allow more civil courts to sit in secret.

    Many other members are considering their position and they have won the right for what is expected to be a stormy debate on the issue on Sunday morning.

    Seven of the party's 57 MPs voted against the government's plans for secret courts, including Farron and the deputy leader Simon Hughes.

    This weekend, in Brighton, there is a feeling, some members say, that a segment of the party is loosening its ties to the leadership to champion what many believe is a more authentically liberal path. Comments by Vince Cable, the business secretary, in an interview with the Guardian and at a fringe meeting late on Friday evening suggested that the left of the party is also now even prepared to demand a rethink of the coalition's direction on its top policy priority: the economy.

    Cable called for affluent pensioner perks such as winter fuel payments and free TV licences to be taxed, and proposed up to 15bn of capital spending on house building less than two weeks before the budget is due to be unveiled.

    At the fringe event for like-minded liberals on the left of the party, he was even more strident in tone. "There is going to be pressure on public spending and I think what we have to make absolutely clear as a party is that there is a difference between managing public spending in that context, we have to have financial wisdom, and the kind of thing that a lot of right-wing Conservatives are pushing for which is Tea Party, some kind of ideological jihad against public spending and public services."

    Paul Burstow MP, who was a Liberal Democrat health minister until the last reshuffle, added his voice to those who want to push a distinct economic message. "There is a growing concern that quantitative easing is not putting real money in to the economy and we need to look at what we can do differently to put money into the economy", he said. "The government has been very focused on deficit reduction quite rightly but that shouldn't be at the expense of doing everything we can possible to encourage growth."

    Speaking to the Observer, the former leader Lord Ashdown, who is heading the party's election strategy, said he disagreed that more borrowing would be a panacea for the country's economic problems, adding: "Whether it [Cable's public intervention] is helpful, is for other people to assess." He was also keen to put out a strong message to the party. If they wanted the Liberal Democrats to block secret courts legislation, the parliamentary would "respectfully listen".

    But, he said, "at the end of the day we are representatives not delegates". It was a show of strength and on Sunday Clegg will do the same; he will laud the party for remaining united over the last three years and promise further wins like Eastleigh if they stick with him.

    Clegg's key message in his main conference speech will be that in Eastleigh the party was not only able to push the Tories in to third but "squeeze" Labour's potential vote.

    In other words, being in government, toeing the Treasury's line on the economy, does not condemn the Liberal Democrats to electoral suicide. "We beat the Tories. We squeezed Labour don't forget that bit," he will say. "Why? Because for the first time in a generation we could campaign on our record of local delivery and our record of national delivery too.

    "Every leaflet dropped in the Eastleigh campaign combined both. And, when people took a long, hard look they liked what they saw. We didn't win in Eastleigh in spite of being in power. We won in Eastleigh because we're in power locally and nationally."

    He will say that now is not the time to revert to protest. "In the days after the byelection, even though we won, I was asked how I feel about our party no longer being a magnet for the protest vote. No longer the automatic 'none of the above' choice", he will tell his party faithful. "But the truth is: the Liberal Democrats are not a party of protest, we are party of change. A party that is for things, not simply against things. A successful political party cannot thrive just by picking up the votes that have been lost by its opponents."

    Clegg, who will be leaving conference soon after his speech on Sunday to attend his son's birthday party, will have to hope his message gets through and that he too soon has a skip in his step. It's been a long time coming.
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    Re: Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

    Post by papa_umau on Sun 10 Mar 2013, 12:38 pm

    While that copied and pasted piece from The Guardian is interesting, it is a bit too long for people not to lose interest in, in it's entirety.

    As I did go to the trouble to read it all I think that the Liberal Democrats are kidding themselves on if they think that their win at Eastleigh was anything more than a poor Lib-Dem result. After all, they were returned with a vastly reduced majority.

    With all of the problems - mentioned in that piece - in and out of government that the Liberal democrats have been having, and how Nick Clegg's following has been decimated, the Liberal Democrat party are - in truth - expecting a drubbing at the next election.

    Their partnership with the Tories has done more harm to the party than any other incident with Huhne or anybody else and the party faithful, know this.

    The Spring conference today is going to be nothing more than a patch-up job where Clegg will highlight what he thinks are the good things about their party while sweeping under the carpet all of the negative things that they will all know about but will be scared to talk about.

    I will be interested to read between the lines everything that is said at this conference today.

    Watch this space.


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    Re: Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

    Post by Parliament.... on Sun 10 Mar 2013, 9:10 pm

    papa_umau wrote:While that copied and pasted piece from The Guardian is interesting, it is a bit too long for people not to lose interest in, in it's entirety.

    As I did go to the trouble to read it all I think that the Liberal Democrats are kidding themselves on if they think that their win at Eastleigh was anything more than a poor Lib-Dem result. After all, they were returned with a vastly reduced majority.

    With all of the problems - mentioned in that piece - in and out of government that the Liberal democrats have been having, and how Nick Clegg's following has been decimated, the Liberal Democrat party are - in truth - expecting a drubbing at the next election.

    Their partnership with the Tories has done more harm to the party than any other incident with Huhne or anybody else and the party faithful, know this.

    The Spring conference today is going to be nothing more than a patch-up job where Clegg will highlight what he thinks are the good things about their party while sweeping under the carpet all of the negative things that they will all know about but will be scared to talk about.

    I will be interested to read between the lines everything that is said at this conference today.

    Watch this space.

    Papa, why is it not being televised. ? I
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    Re: Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

    Post by papa_umau on Mon 11 Mar 2013, 11:27 am

    That's a good question Ivanhoe !

    I don't actually know the answer.

    Maybe it is because the Liberal Democrats have become irrelevant in today's politics.

    They used to be the "third way" before they joined the Tories but now that they are seen by many as Tory lap-dogs they have lost any political weight that the once had.

    There are a few comments made by political pundits about the Conference found in the pages of Google and I guess that that is just about all we can expect.


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    Re: Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

    Post by Parliament.... on Mon 11 Mar 2013, 11:38 am

    papa_umau wrote:That's a good question Ivanhoe !

    I don't actually know the answer.

    Maybe it is because the Liberal Democrats have become irrelevant in today's politics.

    They used to be the "third way" before they joined the Tories but now that they are seen by many as Tory lap-dogs they have lost any political weight that the once had.

    There are a few comments made by political pundits about the Conference found in the pages of Google and I guess that that is just about all we can expect.

    Papa, I thought the BBC were duty bound to cover all conferences. What's changed do you think ?
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    Re: Lib-Dem conference care of the Guardian.

    Post by papa_umau on Mon 11 Mar 2013, 11:45 am

    I don't think that they are "duty bound" as you put it, as even if the BBC is certainly a well-known British institution, it is still an arm of the media where they must be allowed to have a free say about what they want to speak about.

    The supposedly sacrosanct "freedom of the press" does include what comes from the annals of the BBC.


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