Friday, March 11, 2011

Liberal Democrats gather in Sheffield - and ministers get out and about

I am feeling slightly sorry for myself at the moment - I'm currently about 350 miles from where I want to be. Our family budget won't stand two weekends away on the trot, but I'd really love to be amongst the hordes of Liberal Democrats gathering in Sheffield for Spring Conference today.

I think what's really good is that it's not just a question of turning up in Sheffield and hiding out in a Conference Centre. Nick's keen for people to see the city he represents in Parliament, so our ministers, and Party President Tim Farron are going to be out and about making visits in the city. Nick himself is out and about visiting a local football team. He's doing a town hall meeting with young people. He's opening a brand new post office amongst routine events like his constituency surgery.

Everyone's very well aware that times are tough - but the Party arrives in Sheffield with its head held high and at ease with itself. Yes, there are going to be a couple of robust debates over the weekend, but it wouldn't be a Liberal Democrat Conference without that. Three years ago, it was Trident that was causing the controversy. There is a motion on health on Saturday which is bound to attract some attention. When the spotlight is on us, though, we usually rise to the occasion and deliver a really high quality debate. I've just had a look on the BBC Parliament schedule, and see that there is no planned coverage, much to my annoyance. I have managed to be one of the most popular users of the ldconf hashtag on Twitter for the last 2 conferences, despite not being there but I doubt I'll manage it this time.

Not only are ministers heading off round Sheffield, but they won't be hiding in penthouse suites in the Conference hotel, out of the reach of ordinary members. I expect they'll be out and about in the bars, as Mike Moore and Danny Alexander were at Scottish Conference last weekend. They'll also be doing surgeries with Conference reps - not the big set piece staged events, but more intimate events that encourage dialogue.

Last weekend's Scottish event certainly energised the Party up here as we had the chance to look at what we'd managed to achieve in Government, from taking nearly 90,000 Scots out of income tax altogether come April, to ending child detention for immigration, to abolishing ID cards, to giving what Nick Clegg called the greatest giveaway of fiscal powers since the Act of Union.

Reps in Sheffield will all receive a little card with their registration packs which has 5 key achievements we have brought to this Government:

  • Cleaning up Labour's debt so our children don't pay it
  • A £200 income tax cut for people on middle and low incomes
  • A £4.50 a week increase in the state pension
  • An extra £2.5 billion to help our children in school
  •  £10 billion extra bank tax - to make them pay their share
That barely scratches the surface of what we've actually achieved over the last 10 months, but it's not a bad start.

Can I put a plea out to all of you in Sheffield - do let me know whatever scandal, gossip and rumour, especially if it pertains to anyone in the Scottish Party you happen to come across so I don't feel too left out and I can tease them mercilessly when they return.

If you're looking for more detail on what the party will be up to this weekend, the agenda is available here.


Jen said...

"A £200 income tax for people on middle and low incomes" - income tax cut surely?

Unknown said...

Indeed. Well spotted. Thanks, Jen - now amended.


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