Sunday, 19 September 2010

Rally for Reform

Conference Rally was a bit weird. Instead of being the usual confidence raising, Tory-bashing session it actually had a defined purpose. We were there to see the launch of the Yes to AV campaign with the referendum due on May 5th next year.

And so we had a celebrity host - Art Malik - who was sublimely suave and professional. We had speakers from the campaign partners - Keith Sharp from the Electoral Reform Society and Pam Giddy, the Chair of the Yes campaign. And we had Martin Bell, former MP and anti-sleaze campaigner, who spoke about the benefits that the new system would bring.

We also had a smattering of Lib Dem speakers - Jo Swinson, Tim Farron and Nick Clegg.

It was great to see the Lib Dem speakers relaxed and still making the same sort of jokes. Tim made jokes about Andy Coulson, of course, but it was Nick who seemed the most relaxed. When Art Malik made the joke that under an AV system the Lib Dems would never have to produce a wasted vote focus leaflet, Nick was overheard to say 'Don't bet on it'. When his turn came to speak, he told the story of Eric Pickles stalker and receiving admonishment from the Maltese Embassy about his oft-told tale of their centralised government system.

So conference has started in truly relaxed style. There is only a background level of grumbling and complaint. The Telegraph claims that we need a good row to get conference going. I pretty sure we don't. The media might just have to get used to the fact that we are relaxed and happy to be in government. That doesn't mean that I (and others) won't be lobbying on individual issues such as Devonwall. But government is not binary. We are allowed to be generally satisfied with small gripes here and there.

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