15 Sep 2013

Lib Dems in Glasgow – wind and nuclear

As the Lib Dem conference discussed energy a gale was blowing down the Clyde. The wind turbine across the river was spinning around so fast you you might think we don’t need nuclear energy after all.

An Alternative View Of The Liberal Democrats Annual Party Conference

Just before lunch, the Lib Dem leadership won the first of what promise to be a series of tricky votes at its conference in Glasgow. The delegates backed nuclear power by about 60 to 40, a mirror image of the old divide in the party. (They also voted not to oppose fracking.)

Two of Chris Huhne’s former special advisers at the Department for Energy and Climate Change turned up supporting different sides of the nuclear argument – one backing nuclear energy because of the need for non-carbon alternatives, the other opposing saying it demanded massive hidden state subsidies. “We’ve grown up,” one senior citizen member told me at the end of the vote.

Ed Davey did his bit-to-mic for the “lifting the veil” approach Nick Clegg has led, highlighting Tory policies the Lib Dems claim to have stopped. He called Tory approaches on environmental policy “stone age,” mocked the Tories’ Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and talked about the climate change agenda being under threat from Tories in the coalition. He said he’d been cautious about shale – “fracking responsible,” as he put it. He’s still seen by long serving party officials as the man most likely to take on Tim Farron in a post Nick Clegg leadership contest, whenever that comes.

Read more: Gary Gibbon on politics

Other debates coming this week include: nuclear weapons, tuition fees, economic management, the spare room subsidy/bedroom tax, the 50p tax rate, and later we’ll discover which emergency motions have made it on to the agenda. Of course, it could all have been very different here if cruise missiles had been fired at Syria but that “what if?” Lib Dem conference will remain a hypothetical (though it might interest Lib Dem delegates to know Owen Paterson was the only voice to speak out against the Syrian intervention at the Coalition Cabinet just before the Syria debate last month).

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