>I’m not at the historic special one day Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham, altough I would dearly love to be. There’s no way my health would have stood up to going and I’m missing my friends so much.
One of the reasons I love Twitter so much, though, is that I can follow the proceedings – and that’s the actual proceedings, not the inaccurate poison pen portrait some journalist writes the next day – as they happen. You can see all that happened as it happened here at #ldconf.
From Twitter I heard that the hero of us leftie types, Simon Hughes, got a standing ovation as he supported the coalition, saying that we “have begun to do better than we ever dreamed.”
I heard that Lynne Featherstone, Equalities Minister, assured the Conference that there would be no rollback of equalities on her watch. Given her impeccable voting record on the subject, outlined by Jennie the other day,
I heard that Chris Huhne and Tom McNally both said that they wouldn’t allow the Tories to repeal the Human Rights Act.
Daddy Alex was at his inspirational best, talking about how Liberals have been out of power for the 40 years of his lifetime and we couldn’t give up the opportunity now because it might not come back for another 40 and saying that we will make the Tories better. If they had made an unholy alliance with the DUP it would have been much worse.
These are just some of the highlights. It was good, too, that the leadership accepted all the amendments on a range of subjects including tuition fees, the Digital Economy Bill, inequality, PR, and local government. The full text of the motion passed is here.
The pain I mentioned in the headline was more to do with the fact that all the attendees now have sore backsides given the uncomfortable plastic chairs they had to sit on – I saw so many tweets about them that I was grateful for the sofa I was lying on to watch the Monaco Grand Prix.
I’ve written before of how emotional and difficult I’ve found this week – I’ve experienced every emotion, from pride to excitement to fear to sadness to anger to pride and happiness again. The only thing that really kept me going was blind faith in the individuals who were doing the negotiations and the people I know in the parliamentary parties and on the Federal Executive. The nervousness hasn’t gone – we’ve taken a hell of a risk and I have a feeling I’m going to have to watch the news from behind a pillow for the next five years, but I’m really proud to be a member of this party. We have dealt with a difficult situation incredibly well. We’ve been open in our discussions and there’s been a huge amount of mutual trust between the leadership and the grassroots members.
I appreciate the fact that the Party gave ordinary members the chance to be part of this process – they didn’t have to hold this conference at all as the Federal Executive and the Parliamentary parties had already backed the coalition agreements. They’ve heard a huge variety of views today about members’ hopes, aspirations and fears that they can take on board in their ongoing discussions within the Government.
The day ended with a speech by Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (doubt I’ll ever get tired of writing that) in which he said:
“It is five days since I accepted the position of Deputy Prime Minister.
“Just five days, and we now know there will be no ID cards, no third runway at Heathrow, no more fingerprinting in schools without parents’ consent, no more child detention.
“Changes Liberal Democrats have spent months, years, campaigning for, are happening.
“Promises we were making to people on their doorsteps just a few weeks ago are becoming realities.
“Fair taxes. The income tax threshold is now going to rise to £10,000. That is this Government’s priority, not tax cuts for millionaires.
“The best start at school for every child. Extra money is now going to be targeted to pupils who need it most. That is a huge leap in creating a truly mobile society.
“A new, sustainable economy. The banks are going to be taxed, the bonus culture is going to be cracked.
“And instead of pinning all our hopes on financial wizardry in the City of London we’ll build a new economy where we rediscover our talents for building and making things again, with green industry given new prominence as we head towards a zero-carbon future.
“Fixed term parliaments – happening.
“The power of recall to get rid of corrupt MPs – happening.
“A clean up of party funding, a clamp down on lobbying in Parliament, an elected House of Lords – all happening.
“Our Freedom Bill is going to come off our leaflets and go onto the statute book, ending gross state intrusion into people’s every day lives.
“Patients, parents, communities are all going to have a much greater say over the decisions that affect them.
“And voting reform is going to be put to the British people, in a referendum in which Liberal Democrats will fight to deliver real change.
“I know the stakes are high – for me personally, as well as the party.
“But I came into politics to change things, and that means taking risks.
“Real, big change never comes easy.
“So it would simply be wrong for us to let this chance of real change pass us by.
“The chance to transform politics, the chance to hardwire fairness into our society, the chance to change Britain for good.”
It sounds like it’s been a worthwhile day and I look forward to reading the accounts of the people who were there.