So, the final day of Autumn Conference this year. The final day is largely taken up by the party awards and the leader’s speech. In a funny twist I found myself sitting in the front row on the stage behind Nick Clegg for his speech (I’m writing this on the train home, so have yet to find myself on the TV)!
I thought Nick did well. It was clearly a speech aimed at the viewing public rather than those sitting in the auditorium, but then Conference speeches always are. Really, it’s the classic case of “it’s the economy, stupid!”. It will of course be the key issue of the next General Election. But it was of good to see him point to green policies as an essential part of Lib Dem involvement in Government, and key to creating growth .
You do get a very different perspective of the speech from being behind and very close. When Clegg finished and went for the usual handshake with key Ministers, the mass of photographers was incredible, both in numbers and sheer aggression; almost trampling each other to get in the right place for the shot.
Earlier in the day, the Lib Dems passed three motions. The first, ‘Addressing Underprovision in Mental Health’, built on excellent work by now former Care Services Minister Paul Burstow, and was passed unanimously by the hall.
The second, an emergency motion (where members get to choose two from a list of four topical motions to be debated), saw members overwhelmingly vote in favour of calling on the Government to scrap Conservative plans to unnecessarily loosen planning laws.
This motion was brought by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors (ALDC) and is a good example of how members or groups within the party can bring their own motions to challenge a leadership decision (or in this case Coalition partner’s) if they feel it incorrect. This also happened on Tuesday with the Secret Courts motion.
Thirdly, the members approved a new housing policy, drawn up by the policy working group over the last year, which called for, amongst other things, a house building programme to build 300,000 houses a year, give local authorities more powers to target rogue landlords, and promote longer tenancies to give renters more security.
Three very worthwhile motions, and three areas where Liberal ideals on localism and equality of opportunity can take a lead, although it was rightly pointed out that good work on mental health provision started under the last Government.
Back to work
So back to office work now, helping local constituents with personal problems. It’s satisfying and worthwhile work, but also good to approach it with the renewed wave of optimism and motivation which Conference always brings.