by Stephen Tall on September 19, 2010
At Lib Dem conference and got no time to read all the papers? Missing Lib Dem conference, and wanting to catch up on all the fun as refracted through the lens of the news media? Then look no further… (Warning: this post contains traces of Daily Mail. Avert your eyes if easily offended.)
Genuinely interesting article, well worth reading in full, but here’s an interesting snippet:
The Lib Dems’ private polling shows a peeling-off of the idealist Left, but growing support from a group lumped together as “working mums”: namely, voters who want to see things getting done that will make life better for their families. The Coalition’s greatest asset is the impression it conveys – not invariably, but much of the time – of quiet, co-operative efficiency. After 13 years of government by the dysfunctional Blair?Brown duumvirate, and the war of factions that has continued, posthumously, to infect the Labour leadership contest, the prospect of two men from different parties leading the country in a spirit of mature practicality is a breath of fresh air. Better Brokeback Mountain than broken backs across Whitehall.
And here’s a big debate the party hasn’t even begun to have (understandably at this stage):
the question occupying most Lib Dems is: what if [the Coalition] fails? What if the cuts generate a wave of insuperable national hostility and the economy stagnates? But it’s the wrong question. If it fails, then – self-evidently – the Tories and the Lib Dems will be in huge electoral trouble. The better question to ask is: what if it succeeds?
A very judicious article, recognising how far the Lib Dems have come not least thanks to Nick Clegg’s leadership, while also skewering his post-election volte face over budget cuts. And here’s another look at the potential Lib Dem voters of the 2015 election:
If they are no longer a refuge for disaffected lefties and they are no longer a home for protest voters, from where are the Lib Dems going to replace that lost support in time for the next election? I can see the outlines of an answer; I can sketch a coalition of support that might sustain them in the future. It would be composed of classical and social liberals, centrist voters who find coalition government attractive, along with moderate Labour and Tory supporters who prefer to have Lib Dems in government to dilute the influence of their own extremes.
After months of carping about the Lib Dems and the Coalition, the Observer offers a surprisingly warm editorial:
Mr Clegg must prove to the nation not only that the Lib Dems can be trusted to behave as mature coalition partners, but that coalition itself is a workable and legitimate model of government. He is trying to educate his party about the compromises required to hold power and educate the country about a different style of politics. That is a worthy aim when voters are disillusioned with the Westminster tradition of two-party tribal aggression. …
… [Mr Clegg’s backing of maximum austerity was a] decision to throw the Lib Dems behind the biggest economic gamble taken by any government in recent memory – the bet that the private sector will fill the gaps in jobs and services when state provision is pruned back. … It is a brave gambit. Given how far Mr Clegg has already brought the Lib Dems it would be unwise to assume he will fail.
Reporting the first day’s conference events, and the rally in support of electoral reform (but somehow not finding space to note the two standing ovations given to Nick Clegg):
In his first address to the party as deputy prime minister, Clegg attempted to calm jitters in the party’s rank and file as record numbers of delegates gathered for the party’s annual party conference in Liverpool just four months after the Lib Dems secured their first taste of power in more than 60 years by entering into coalition with the Conservatives.
Highlights Nick’s interview with the paper, reported on the Voice here, noting:
The Lib Dem leader’s central message is that the coalition can only work if his own party accepts it is a full and willing participant that jointly “owns the government”. The alternative, he says, is to operate in an atmosphere of “poison” as a competing faction “constantly trying to put little trophies on the mantelpiece to show we are winning victories”.
A typically snarky string of assertions in the Indy’s coverage, but worth reading for Don Foster’s, erm, unexpurgated take on the party’s role in Government: “There is a huge danger that the rough decisions damage the party. I think the mood is obviously pleased that we are in government and all that jazz, but it is actually a bit shitty.”
He makes bold claims that the Lib Dems have made the coalition more pro-European, more liberal and greener, and he heaps praise on the Tories for going further than expected in many areas, but he is ready to stick both boots in to defend his party’s treasured hopes of electoral reform.
The interview is also picked up in the Indy here… Hughes: Tories who oppose voting reform are Neanderthals.
The paper’s ComRes poll shows the party at 15%, while “More than half the people who supported the Lib Dems at May’s general election believe he has abandoned his principles by entering a coalition government with the Conservatives, a poll for The Independent on Sunday has revealed.”
A record 6,200 delegates – a 40% increase on last year – have descended on Liverpool to pick over the political fallout. Arriving in the city, Mr Clegg said he relished the “great opportunity” to explain the coalition’s long-term plan to activists. “It is wonderful to be here in Liverpool again. It is the first time that the Liberal Democrat party have got together at our conference since we entered into the coalition Government,” he said.
“Everyone knows that we inherited a real mess from the previous Labour government and we have got to sort that, we have got to fix it. But once we do that, I think everyone will see over the coming five years that things will be getting better,” he said.
Here’s former party leader Lord Steel’s frank assessment:
“The truth is we had no option but to go into coalition with the Tories. Now we’ve got to make damn sure it works.” Lord Steel, 72, warned that “when the cuts start to bite” the party should brace itself for a rough ride – and he urged Nick Clegg to draw up an “exit strategy” before the election.
“The great paradox about the coalition is that the public seem to like it more than the party members,” he said. “We hope at some point we will be rewarded by a recovery in opinion polls, though at the moment there is no sign of it.”
“Simon Slater, who was this year re-elected to Shirley West, Solihull, jumped ship to join Labour yesterday, ahead of the opening of Liberal Democrat Conference in Liverpool today.” Ironically, Solihull Council is run by a Lib Dem / Labour coalition.
All together now, ahhhh. The Brokeback Coalition of Messrs Clegg and Cameron get to grips with constructing an Ikea cot for Baby Florence. Another story to help woo working mums to the Lib Dems?
Let us know of any stories we’ve missed in the comments thread below…