Friday, March 19, 2010

House Points: Lib Dem Spring Conference

Today's House Points from Liberal Democrat News. You can tell an election is near: I am turning into a party loyalist.

Conference conversion

I have never been one for spring conferences, reasoning that there is too much travel and not enough conference. But this year’s event was a great success and Nick Clegg was reported everywhere.

In the Guardian Michael White said: “The lucky charm that the Lib Dem leader inherited from Charles Kennedy ... is still working for Clegg as the long-awaited Westminster grand prix starts. Team Labour has serious engine trouble, the Tory alternative has blown two tyres in pole position.”

The New Statesman said: “Nick Clegg will be encouraged by the rise in support for the Lib Dems following the party's spring conference ... Many pollsters predict that Clegg's presence at the first televised leaders' debate could lead to a surge in support for the Lib Dems as the election campaign progresses.”

And the Independent was particularly complimentary: “Mr Clegg has kept his head and is showing a new confidence and clarity at just the right time.”

It was a big contrast my own finest political hour. At a spring conference in Scarborough years ago I spent an hour with Paddy Ashdown’s head of office polishing the leader’s speech. My pride was slightly deflated when I learnt there were only two journalists present to hear it.

Another point in favour of this conference is that it brought together the collective wisdom of the party. That is not a concept you will hear celebrated by the national press, but the motion on the Digital Economy Bill passed at Birmingham was much better thought out than the amendment recently piloted by two of our most celebrated peers.

And it also brings the Liberal Democrat family together. There are periodic rumblings from Cowley Street about the stalls run by internal party organisations. They don’t pay enough. They don’t look professional. They are not Serious About Power.

As this line was recently echoed by the semi-official blog Lib Dem Voice, it is worth restating the importance of these organisations. So much of our policy these days is bought in from outside pressure groups that we must be do all we can to foster debate within the party.

If it goes on like this I shall be forced to admit that spring conferences are a good way of doing this.

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