>Lib Dems in Liverpool-the tale of two conferences

>Over the past few days the Liberal Democrat party have, for the first time in decades, assembled as a party of Government. Something to celebrate you would think? Well according to much of the press that filtered through into the conference bubble, the Echo Arena in Liverpool was filled with a range of emotions veering from discontent to despair.

Clearly VN was hanging out with the wrong people, because that really isn’t what it seemed like. Yes a few had a sense of unease at the difficult decisions ministers are having to take. It would though be more worrying if the party blindly stumbled into government never questioning, analysing, or discussing the decisions the party is now in a position to make. Overall there was a great sense of pride at what the party has achieved, and will achieve in the future. This was demonstrated by constant reminders of what Liberal Democrat policy is being enacted Government, as well as continually introducing inisters with their full Rt. Hon. title. The reception afforded to Nick Clegg (twice), Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Lynne Featherstone and Tom McNally hardly indicated a conference despairing of the actions of its leadership.

It is worth noting that the phrase ‘Lib Dem values’ was overused to the point of becoming meaningless. The problem with this phrase is that liberalism is a philosophy that is made up of various strands, and the ‘values’ of all of these strands are represented across the Liberal Democrat party. Many times the reference to values was in the context of people’s pride at what Lib Dem ministers are doing in government. Just occasionally it was used as a warning to the same ministers. It is though becoming increasingly clear that that all but the most devout sandal wearers are determined to make the coalition work. Some Lib Dems even actively LIKE the coalition, imagine that…

It was pointed out in an excellent piece in the Guardian that Lib Dems delegates intuitively understand coalition government, and evidence for this could be easily found across the course of the conference. It was typified by the pre-conference comment by the wonderful Shirley Williams that the Liberal Democrat’s and Conservative’s are in ‘two beds’ as opposed to being in bed together. Coalition government doesn’t create a new party, it is two parties working together.

So yes, Liberal Democrats do need to continue to be brave and get on with being in government, instead of continually discussing whether they are happy with how they got there. However, the mutiny the media was desperate for, and tried to dig up, was not evident. It would be nice if come spring conference in Sheffield, journalists could report the actual conference they are at, instead of trying to invent a new one.


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