The jocks on campus
There was no blogging at the end of last week because I was on annual leave having a mid-conference break. Liverpool was interesting, Manchester tomorrow – Birmingham on Monday. Keep them peeled. Below is the sketch of the Lib Dem conference from last week for the New Journal.
THE location was clever. The Albert Docks of Liverpool was a step-up from last year’s kiss-me-quick Bournemouth. Here, sand in the toes and jugs of cider on a hilly beachfront was replaced by granite skies and city centre hotels where policy – serious stuff – could be forged.
Here, it could be forgotten that the Lib Dems actually won fewer seats at the Cleggmania General Election, because, look over there: that’s Vince Cable – his worried frown is part of the government now. See that Lynne Featherstone – bit madcap – she’s a minister now. And the tall ginger one, who you wouldn’t have clocked twice on the Tube six months ago, he’s in the new politics too.
It’s big league stuff, OK, no time for donkey rides. The ones famous enough for Question Time were struggling not to strut round the conference like library monitors who’d somehow been allowed to join the jocks on campus.
That was made harder by the adulation offered for the Lib Dem heroes that saved Britain in May… or whatever it was the video of Clegg shaking hands and pointing decisively played before his speech on Monday suggested had been achieved.
One Lib Dem Youth member I saw might as well have taken off his coat and covered a puddle for Sarah Teather. Nobody curtsied for Featherstone, but it wouldn’t have been a surprising scene.
The delegates are robots controlled by a back-breaking whip or, hey, they just don’t accept the idea that Clegg risked the future of a party just to get a job worthy of memoirs.
They think Lib Dems have been underestimated, and all that talk about how they will never win another election because the party sold its soul may lead to Labour complacency.
The mood is good. But members aren’t really relishing the prospect of the London mayoral elections in 2012. The question for the local party is whether the pragmatic approach adopted by the hardy and reliable, the card-holders happy to travel to Liverpool and fight one council campaign after another, is translated into loyalty among Camden’s voters.
The core was out in Liverpool, but only another election, like the one expected to take place in Kentish Town next month, will really test whether broader support bailed out after May.