Clegg tells Lib Dems to enjoy the power
From a sparsely attended Conference hall this afternoon there’s nothing too exiting going on… but it should fill up for the AV Yes Campaign rally – about the only thing these days that could unite Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg on a platform.
Odd one this because the Lib Dem leadership will now discreetly pull back from the front-line of the campaign and hope that prominent non-political characters now go centre stage in the campaign.
They want the message to be about the wider public good of AV, they don’t want it to be seen as a bit of self-serving policy to gain party advantage.
Nick Clegg says in his speech tonight that he doesn’t know whether the Lib Dems would benefit or not from AV.
He’ll also use the speech to tell delegates to “enjoy” the pride of being in power “for a second.”
Lib Dems strategists say there are plenty of party stalwarts who feel that way. I certainly met a few, chatting at random to folk around the Conference centre today.
I also found some delegates from The Wirrall who seemed quite emotional about the distasteful business of getting into bed with the Conservatives.
You wonder how much it helps when the Lib Dem leader seems to be getting on quite so famously with his Tory counterpart – The Sun today has them fixing Ikea cabinets together and knocking tennis balls at each other at Chequers. Transparency gone too far, Lib Dem communications folk might think.
Doesn’t look like there will necessarily be a vote on Trident here after all. There’s a debate on the Pakistan floods that will take one of the two available emergency debate slots here and the other one, to be voted on tomorrow, looks like it could be on housing or health policy.
Both of those are fairly hot potatoes of their own – there’s some Lib Dem hostility to the housing benefit changes coming into effect in April 2011 and some bafflement about where the Lansley health reforms came from and what they add up to.
Chatting to delegates I found quite a few spontaneously bringing up concerns about GP commissioning. On this and other policy areas delegates say they’re feeling particularly cut off from decision-making because the Party’s not been communicating with them as much or as well as normal.
This they blame in large part on the loss of “short money”, the state funds paid to parties in opposition, snatched away the moment they are in power. A lot of them also blame the media reporting of the Coalition too.