Published on 12 Mar 2011 Sections

Nick Clegg rebuked at Lib Dem conference

As thousands of angry protestors jeered Nick Clegg at the party’s spring conference, Liberal Democrats tell Channel 4 News that many delegates agree with the protestors.

It must take some getting used to for Liberal Democrats who’ve always thought of themselves as the nice party. In government, their spring conference is now surrounded by a steel fence.

The protesters turned out in Sheffield to as one put it “make life hell for the liberal democrats” – but they were kept some distance away from the conference venue.

Inside there was protest too. Delegates overwhelmingly rejecting the coalition’s plans to put GPs in charge of NHS budgets.

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That message delivered loud and clear today by delegates, but the upset apparently leaving their leader unphased – Nick Clegg tod his party he doesn’t support privatisation in the NHS – they want him to reject the coalition’s health plans.

The leadership says Lib dems are having a positive influence on government and Nick Clegg was in teasing mood as he faced his party.

But outside one delegate braved the protesters and she told them that many Lib Dems believe in the same things that you do. They told her that her party wasn’t listening.

Katie Razzall writes on the protests at the Lib Dem spring conference:

Karen Wilkinson is a brave woman. Faced with thousands of protesters shouting at her from behind a steel fence, Ms Wilkinson went up to the fence and engaged some of them in a conversation.

One was holding up a picture of Nick Clegg with the words LIAR on it.

"Why are you the only Lib Dem with the guts to talk to us?", they shouted, "will you ask Nick Clegg to come out?".

Ms Wilkinson told Channel 4 News afterwards that she'd wanted to speak to the protesters - several thousand massed in Sheffield today - to tell them that most of the Lib Dems inside the conference believed the same things as they did.

She only joined the party a few months before the election. She told protesters they should sign up to a party and try to get the change they want that way.

Inside, Nick Clegg faced protest too. Delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of amendments attacking the coalition's plans to put GPs in charge of NHS commissioning. The charge led by Baroness Shirley Williams and the former Oxford MP, Dr Evan Harris.

Their leader later told them he was in favour of reforming the NHS but not privatisation in any form.

Today, the Liberal Democrats rattled their sabres. It must be galling for delegates who've always thought of themselves as the "nice" party to be confronted by angry demonstrators at their spring conference.

But ten months into the coalition, it's something they are having to get used to.