here’s what we learnt from the Lib Dem conference, their first since a near wipe-out at the General Election in May,
1) They like a good disco. On the first night of the conference Paddy Ashdown hit the decks, former Scottish MP Jo Swinson danced like she was in Ibiza and Tim Farron was seen dashing out the party after quick turn on the dance floor, slightly sweaty and shouting ‘mine was Blue Moon’.
2) Onto the serious stuff. The Lib Dem fightback, or should that be #libdemfightback (the brand emblazoned everywhere) is centred around being the party the one that fights for more social housing and against the Conservative plans to sell of housing association properties. They are in favour of staying in the European Union and will use it as a key campaign message in the run up to the 2017 election. They also want to be the champions of small business.
3) The deep affection and love for former leader Charles Kennedy who died earlier this year. After a moving video montage played out to the packed auditorium, there was not a dry eye in the house. His former wife was there to watch the enormous respect the party had for him, and honoured his memory with a rousing round of applause, that was supposed to last a minute and went on for far longer.
4) Tim Farron is unapologetic about the five years the party spent in Coalition, despite the unpopular ditching of prommises over tuition fees. Backing Sheffield Hallam MP, and former leader Nick Clegg, in his final speech to conference, Mr Farron said: “You know, there are those that would like me to take this opportunity to distance myself from the past five years, to say it was all some dreadful mistake, to say: “I disagree with Nick.”
But I don’t and I won’t.”
5) Nick Clegg is a friendly, approachable chap with plenty of time for Yorkshire Post readers and his constituents. Although I frequently heard ‘doesn’t he look sad’ uttered under the breath of concerned party members, he looked pretty relaxed to me. And he got a standing ovation when he spoke about the importance of staying in the EU.
6) Not content with a disco and a gospel choir singing Lib Dem Fightback like an apocolpytic battle cry at conference, the best was saved until last with the Lib Dem Glee Club. Yep, you heard it right. Think less of a polished American high school sing-along and more of a sweaty rabble hurling abuse at opposing political members. All together now to the Hokey Cokey tune: “You put your Clare Short in, your Clare Short out, Your Clare Short in and shake her all about. Oh Iraqi cokey, cokey.” Pure bonkers. Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland said he wouldn’t be going along.”
They can poke fun at themselves though too. One song goes: “Clegg, Clegg, we are so dead, You’ve gone and let power go straight to your head.”
LEFT OR RIGHT?
7) The enduring message that the Lib Dems want to come from their conference season is that they can take votes from Labour in the space that’s been created by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party taking a step to the left. They hope to capitalise on this with spin that those in Labour have already made approaches. However economically they seem more aligned with the Conservatives.