Saturday, 12 March 2011

In Government; On Your Side!

The strap line for the Liberal Democrat's in conference in Sheffield and how accurately that sums up the Party.....

Nick was totally engaging this weekend - comments like "I genuinely think what you do in local government is remarkable" went down well with the Party faithful including first time campaigners including me.

Despite running the gauntlet of several hundred protesters, who misguidedly ranted "sham on you for turning blue" (my goodness how little they know me!), as delegates entered Sheffield City Hall, the mood was up beat and in typical Liberal fashion, open debate was positively encouraged.

Issues raised were wide and varied and included a discussion on the (lack of) effectiveness of short term custodial sentences for youth offenders; restorative justice winning the day. Party distinctiveness, fighting elections as part of a coalition were also considered along with tuition fees and how the p;arty needs to position itself as a separate,and distinct, entity to the Tories.

However it was the Q&A session with Nick which was the most energising event of the weekend (although acknowledgement of the newly elected and charismatic Party President, Tim Farron, must be made).  With a smooth diplomacy, Nick came across as a warm 'man of the people' type of guy.  Indeed he even had time to ask me personally "how is it going?". It is clear that despite going into coalition with "the other lot", Nick and the other Lib Dem MPs have had a positive impact at keeping the right wing elements of the Conservative party at bay.

Pupil premiums, taking thousands out of paying tax, abandoning the recommissioning of Trident, abolition of ID cards, triple lock pension guarantees are several of the successes that the Lib Dems have helped introduce which probably would not have happened had the Tories had an overall majority last May.

On tutition fees Nick was candidly honest; "we were stuffed" but he did explain that had they gone into coalition with Labour then fees would also have gone up.  Both party's had recommended an increase previously.  Interestingly Nick mentioned that in recent days the National Union of Students have acknowledged that students will actually be better off under the new system than the one it will replace.......where is Aaron Porter now?

More to come but wow.....what a party, what a leader and what a chance the Lib Dems have to positively influence national and local policy - in Government; On Your Side!

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