I’m in York, at the Barbican Centre, and, as I write, Julian Huppert MP has just finished a short speech at the podium on a report from the federal policy committee. It is Saturday, and not yet 10am, but there must be about 100 people in the hall listening. Yup, it’s Lib Dem conference time again.
Given the result in the Clifton North ward on Thursday in the Nottingham council byelection, you might think we should be covering the Bus Pass Elvis party, instead of the Liberal Democrats. But the Elvis lot aren’t having a spring conference, the Lib Dems are a party of government and, although their opinion poll ratings are dire, they are still standing, and still in the game. (For a sound assessment of how well they are likely to do in the general election, do read this blog post from Iain Dale.) Also, the forthcoming European elections, and Nick Clegg’s decision to go head to head in debates with Nigel Farage, seems to have energised the party a bit. Clegg explains his thinking in an interview with my colleague Nicholas Watt. Being resolutely pro-European is not the most popular stance in British politics, but is probably more popular than being a Lib Dem at the moment, and Clegg is going into the elections with a distinctive message.
Today Clegg is holding a QA, so we’ll get a sense to judge morale in the party, and what members think of their leader. We’re also getting a speech from Danny Alexander, a debate on immigration, and plenty of other debates too. The Lib Dems are the only big UK party where party policy is genuinely thrashed out in a debate at conference, and part of the reason I’m here is because democracy is a wonderful thing – even first thing on a Saturday morning.
Here’s the agenda for the day.
9am: Conference opens with two procedural reports.
9.15am: Greg Mulholland MP opens a debate on pubs. The motion includes a call for large pub companies (pubcos) to be governed by a statutory code of conduct.
9.45am: Sir Andrew Stunell MP opens a debate on immigration. The motion includes a call for EU migrants to prevented from claiming benefits before they have been in the UK for six months.
11.10am: Annette Brooke MP opens a debate on planning. The motion includes calls for the powers of the communities secretary and the planning inspectorate to be limited in planning decisions.
12.05pm: Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, gives a speech. He will say that raising the income tax allowance to £12,500 would be a key Lib Dem priority in any coalition talks after 2015.
12.20pm: Don Foster, the Lib Dem chief whip, Lord Wallace, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, and others take questions on parliamentary business.
2.20pm: Administrative party reports presented to conference.
2.50pm: Jenny Willott, the consumer affairs minister, gives a speech.
3.05pm: Nick Clegg hosts a QA.
3.45pm: Dinti Batstone, chair of the policy working group, opens a debate on democratic reform. The motion includes a call for MPs to be allowed to job share.
5pm: Ros Kayes opens a debate on food poverty. The motion includes a call for a commission to investigate the link between food poverty and delays, mistakes and sanctions in the benefit system.
5.40pm: Andrew Wiseman opens a debate on allowing local parties to send more representatives to the conference.
There are more details of the motions in the conference agenda (pdf).
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Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/37efd6ee/sc/7/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cpolitics0Cblog0C20A140Cmar0C0A80Clib0Edem0Espring0Econference0Eclegg0Eqa0Eimmigration0Edebate0Eand0Edanny0Ealexanders0Espeech0Epolitics0Elive0Eblog/story01.htm