UK Politics

LibDem Conference Diary: Day 1

18 Sep 2011 at 20:20

  • Listening to many of the speeches both on the platform and on the fringe at this conference, you could be forgiven for forgetting that the LibDems are in government. Their whole attitude indicates an oppositionalist attitude which may make them feel better, but won’t go down well with the electorate which knows full well that they have been part and parcel of every government decision.
  • I didn’t go to the LibDem conference last year and I had wondered if this conference would be any different to the others I had been to in recent years. In a sense, I am rather relieved that it isn’t. It’s still the usual mix of the weird and wonderful. I know I have said this before, but the LibDems really do have more than their fair share of very odd looking supporters. I saw a woman yesterday, who was about 5’ 1, weighed about 18 stone and worse shorts and a T shirt which failed to cover her amply proportioned midriff. I am afraid you could not help but stare. And what about the man whose whole body seems to be covered in tattoos. And… No, I must stop. But it’s why these conferences are a fascinating study in social anthropology. At least, I think that’s what they are.
  • The constant attacks on the rich at this conference are a little odd and totally populist. It’s all you hear. Vince Cable wants to curb bankers’ pay. Danny Alexander is recruiting 2,000 more tax inspectors to make sure the rich pay their tax. All well and good, and I am sure it will go down well with the readers of the Daily Mirror. But have we heard a peep about how the LibDems want to create economic growth or create jobs? Well, if we have, I must have missed it. At the next election people will cast their votes based on who they think is best equipped to run the economy – not who can utter the most extreme insults to the rich. They forget that most people aspire to be rich.
  • Let Them Eat Carbon is a most unlikely book to find on sale at the LibDem conference, but there it was on the LibDem Image stand. I was rather pleased, especially as I published it, but it’s hardly a book Chris Huhne would approve of. I was even more pleased t discover that they had sold several copies of it. Just as it is possible to find the odd LibDem Eurosceptic, it seems there are a few LibDem climate change sceptics too.
  • Talking of Chris Huhne, he addressed the Total Politics Nuclear Power v Sustainability fringe last night. I can’t say I agreed with all that he said, but if ever there is a cabinet minister on top of his brief, Chris Huhne is it. Rather against my instincts I found him enormously impressive. Conservative friends in the cabinet also think highly of him. Initially they had been very suspicious of his reputation as a bit of a slippery customer, but what they tell me now is that he is the one LibDem they feel they can really trust. If he promises something he delivers on it.
  • Vince Cable has every right to give his views on private sector pay. He has every right to criticise the bonuses bankers receive. But he can’t pretend that he is actually going to do anything about it, because we all know he isn’t. Unless he’s going to introduce some sort of 1970s pay restraint type law (and we all know how effective that was) all he can do is play to the gallery and bluster. Having worked in the private sector, you’d think Vince would know that the people who can do something about excessive pay and bonuses are shareholders. Perhaps he ought to look at giving them more powers of oversight. One thing I would do is legislate to restrict the number of non executive directorships any one individual can have. Some people have 8, 10 or a dozen. Sorry, but there is no way a non executive director with a dozen of them can do his or her job properly and monitor exactly what is going on. There are too many quid pro quo non execs too – people who sit on each other’s boards. That’s where Mr Cable should be directing his fire.
  • This evening from 7pm I am broadcasting my LBC show from the press centre here in Birmingham. I suspect it is going to be an “experience”. Everything that can go wrong, no doubt will. But that’s the joy of live OBs. So I am told. I’m hoping we will be able to keep the whole show conference related, but I suspect Dale Farm (no relation) might upset my plans. Anyway, do tune in from 7 if you can for a LibDem-tastic show.