Ad liberalling (Or: Eternal Sunshine of the Liberal Mind)

by Stephen Tall on September 21, 2006

In an hour’s time, and next door to where I’m typing this, Ming Campbell will get to his feet for the first time to address the Lib Dems’ autumn conference as leader. He will receive a rousing reception which will leave the media scratching their heads.

For the assembled troops of journos and commentators, this week has not followed their script.

If we’d followed their agenda, the party would have spent this week scrapping and fighting over the Tax Commission proposals, exposing a chasmic rift in liberal ideology.

If we’d followed their agenda, the party would have greeted Ming with chilly reproof, and there would have been loud cries of ‘Come back, Charlie’ when Mr Kennedy addressed conference.

None of it was to be: give liberals a script, and you can guarantee they will junk it. It’s not exactly ad-libbing. Let’s call it ad-liberalling.

The ‘Green Tax Switch’ was comfortably approved, unamended. And though Charles was welcomed back with warmth, any suggestion that he will again be leader is a media myth. This conference has been about the ‘next generation’ – Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and Julia Goldsworthy – and it is they who are its future.

I’m almost embarrassed to end with a meteorological analogy… but it’s been a long week with too little sleep, so what the hell…

The sun was shining last Saturday when I arrived in Brighton. And, despite the media’s attempts to rain on our parade, it’s shining even more brightly today.