Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Some party conferences do matter

I caught Jon Snow's interview of Nick Clegg on Channel 4 News earlier. I thought Nick was more in Deputy Prime Minister than in party leader mode, particularly in defending the coalition's record over Libya. I was hoping that he would be honest about tuition fees. He implied that he had changed his mind on the formation of the coalition. The fact is that he has been resolute in defending the student loan system. It was Liberal Democrat party conference which insisted that abolition be included in the 2010 manifesto. (To be fair to the "top table", they set to and produced a workable system for the manifesto as a result of the vote. It was not the party's fault that we were outvoted ten to one in the Commons in not only keeping the system but also raising the level of fees: in Labour's case, probably removing the upper limit altogether.) This gives the lie to Peter Hennessy's assertion on Sunday's "Broadcasting House" that conference no longer matters.

This year's manifesto shows another instance, the insistence on a balance between cuts and taxes in eliminating the structural deficit. If Liberal Democrats are in coalition negotiations after the election, I can't see the leadership backsliding on that one.

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