Lib Dem conference 2010: open thread #ldconf

by Stephen Tall on September 22, 2010

The thousands of Lib Dem members who made it to Liverpool this week for the party conference will be arriving home now, probably tired, in need of a healthy square meal, and perhaps a tad hungover. Here’s your opportunity to tell Voice readers what you made of it all: the highlights (and any lowpoints), the surprises (and disappointments)… in fact, anything you like.

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow, who’s been live-blogging the conference all week, has set out his ’10 things I’ve learned from the Lib Dem conference’ here (you’ll need to scroll a bit down the page). They’re well worth a read, but here’s 3 I’ve picked out:

1. The Lib Dems have made up their minds about the coalition – and they like it. Journalists came to Liverpool expecting to find evidence of a grassroots backlash against Nick Clegg’s decision to go into coalition with the Tories. Well, forget it. There have been grumbles, but (this week) they have been inconsequential. In so far as you can say what the party as a whole thinks, it’s broadly happy with the coalition, and expects it to last.

4. The Lib Dems understand coalition politics better than the media. Westminster journalists like are often asking the Lib Dems how they will fight an election against the Tories after five years of coalition. Lib Dems are genuinely bemused by this. They point out that this is not a problem in Scotland, Wales, local government or continental Europe – all places where three-party politics is more entrenched than Westminster. At a fringe meeting last night, Ashdown asked delegates to put their hands up if they had shared power with another party. Dozens of them responded. Then he asked if anyone in that group had had a problem fighting an election against their coalition partners. No one thought it was an issue.

9. Lib Dem delegates don’t necessarily decide policy any more. The Lib Dems are more democratic than the other parties. For years, conference really has decided policy. But this week delegates have been passing motions which, although technically party policy, will not decide what the government does. Whether or not a conference motion influences the coalition will depend on whether or not Clegg fights for it at the cabinet table.

But, agree or disagree, all 10 are well worth a read. Anyway, over to you…