I returned from the Lib Dem Conference in NewcastleGateshead last night. It was a good weekend – and the Conference rushed past.
It would have been good to see more of the city but all I managed was to vary my cycle route between my hotel in High Elswick (that’s “Els’ick” without a ‘w’) and the Sage Conference Centre in Gateshead (on the other side of “the water”). The bridges across the River Tyne are wonderful and I used five of them!
I had commitments in my diary as a member of Federal Conference Committee, and some of my free time was spent handing out leaflets to Conference goers about the need to keep to the Coalition Agreement. On the flyer I used the Engineering Diploma issue (see my previous post) as an example of where the Government has gone against the spirit (and I’d say the word) of that Agreement.
I also prepared a speech for the debate on the ‘Greenest Government Ever’ (see sheet 43 of image, page 41 of book), but unfortunately, although I was told I was initially being included in the line-up to speak, the Secretary of State, Ed Davy, put in a card and he took precedence… So if you’d like to know what I would have said, read it here.
In the short term at least, this will be remembered as the NHS Conference. It was a close call as to which of the two NHS motions was taken to debate in the emergency motion slot on the agenda. The decision was taken by Conference representatives from a total choice of four motions. And the final outcome – Conference giving Lib Dem peers a free vote on a further amended Health and Social Care Bill – did not feel anything like as divisive at Conference as was reported in the media.
Coalition is not easy: It wasn’t easy when I was on Derby City Council in 2003-5 either! But it does mean that many Lib Dem policies are now being delivered – like the pupil premium, raising tax allowances, rolling back some of Labour’s illiberal laws and pushing forward a greener agenda.
In six months, Lib Dems will be back at Conference continuing the fight for a more democratic and liberal country. We had perfect weather on the banks of the Tyne. Will Brighton be as kind?