The Liberal Democrats’ Special Conference
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 16th May, 2010
The Liberal Democrats’ historic special conference, to endorse the coalition government deal, had an added twist for me, as it was held in Birmingham (well, at the National Exhibition Centre on the outskirts of the city, to be precise). Although I was born a Mancunian and have long been a Londoner by adoption, I cut my political teeth in Birmingham, as a very young sub-agent in the Birmingham Ladywood by-election in the Spring of 1969. To most people’s surprise, we won, though as I have discovered since, not least in my repeated attempts to get into the European Parliament, winning elections as a Liberal/Liberal Demcrat is not always easy. So why am I still active four decades later? The answer was in the NEC hall today: not just one government Minister but a whole charabanc full, who wil be responsible for ensuring that the Liberal-Conservative coalition lives up to its promises. Already, several LibDem manifesto pledges have been implemented: cancelling ID cards and the associated National Identity Register, ending the incarceration of the children of asylum seekers, and scrapping the third Heathrow runway, to name but three, With Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office (Equalities) and Norman Baker at Transport, for example, we can expect the Liberal influence in policy to be strong.
What was particularly interesting about today’s special conference was that people from across the party spectrum spoke — often movingly (Simon Hughes got a standing ovation) — of why and how they had realised that going into an arrangement with the Conservatives was the best thing both for the party and for the country. Only about half a dozen conference reps voted against the motion endorsing the deal. There is a determination, shared by David Cameron and his more moderate MPs, to make this a truly progressive, reforming government. And that, will of course, include movement on electoral reform, with a largely or wholly-elected House of Lords (using PR), and a referendum on AV for House of Commons elections, with Nick Clegg personally spearheading the ‘yes’ campaign.