26 September 2015

Lib Dems still in denial

On Monday I spent an enlightening day at Lib Dem conference.  I've been mulling over events then and the various media reports and analysis for the week and although the majority are positive about the party's future I'm less sure.

The lack of corporate sponsors and the wide open spaces of the exhibition areas might have suggested a party on its knees - but the stories of hundreds of first time delegates and new found confidence were only slightly exaggerated by party bigwigs.  But, but but...

The Trident debate was a great traditional political occasion - more than a thousand voting delegates packed into the hall, party big wigs wheeled out to speak in front of the camera - including the venerable (but increasingly mistified Shirley Williams) - and also deployed at the back of the hall  to vote down the insurgents.

The vote was won narrowly on a single and very old argument - that the Lib Dems needed to have serious policies if they wished to be taken seriously as a party of government. There were some other really silly arguments including those of Gerald Vernon-Jackson who said we needed to spend £100bn on a weapons system to stop the poor in Portsmouth going to Tory foodbanks, but they were rightly discounted.

The reality is with just 8 MPs the Liberal Democrats are a very long way from being considered a 'serious party of government' in Westminster.  They are also a long way from government in Edinburgh and Cardiff.  Tim Farron gets to question David Cameron once a month alternating with the DUP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. 

The reality is actually the Lib Dems are a long way from being considered a serious party of opposition.  So the party need to stop playing by the old rules.  Having a small number of clear positions - different to Westinster establishment - would be a good place to start.  Unfortunately the leadership flunked it in Bournemouth on Trident.