In a week when apologies and plebeians dominated the headlines Keene thought it appropriate that I write a blog about the Lib Dem’s week in Brighton. The policy announcements on a government bank for SME lending and accessing pension pots for first time buyers to get collateral for house buying are of interest. Steve Webb and Vince Cable’s teams will be working on the detail. Both will need to be thrashed out in Cabinet yet further and industry will need to see a lot more detail.
There was a lack of rebellious mood as delegates dropped their usual seditious talk in favour of knuckling down and thinking of
re-election in Parliamentary and Local Elections. The ranks have been closed. When Caroline Lucas MP, the former Leader of the Green Party, told one fringe meeting that she would be sending each of the 57 Lib Dem MPs a copy of Polly Toynbee’s, the Guardian columnist, latest book she was unanimously booed by the audience.
It is clear that the party’s strategy is shifting to one of differentiation. But like a football team on the last day of the Premiership facing relegation its destiny is not entirely in its own hands. People don’t vocally ask talk about how Ed Miliband will fair at his own gathering in Manchester but it is of huge importance.
How do the Lib Dems position themselves with an electorate knowing that to give them power means doing so through a coalition? Interestingly the coalition has pushed the grassroots not half as much towards the Labour party as some might expect. The party needs to begin to turn towards not just avoiding oblivion at the next general election but what it might want to do after that and then avoiding total destruction in 2020.
Regardless, the Lib Dems need to competently deliver in Government as well as triangulate against Ed Ball’s Plan B and George Osborne’s austerity. The danger is that the flagship policies announced in Brighton have the feeling of having been announced too early – dreamed up in a Westminster School dormitory? Of course, as one Lib Dem pointed out Eton has nothing so plebeian as dormitories.