The Liberal Democrat Conference closed today with party leader Nick Clegg’s keynote speech. The whole conference appears to have been a battle between those who would like to immediately disengage with the Tories in government and those who are trying to keep the focus on being part of the Coalition. Interestingly the BBC did a straw poll of party members outside the main hall and asked them who they would prefer to be in government with, Labour or the Tories. Find out the result later!
Clegg’s speech had to steer a difficult line. He bashed Labour, beat up on the Tories and made a few rather poor jokes (“everyone knows you can’t vote blue to get green – you need to add some yellow”). The interesting deliberations came before his speech, when the party was debating whether to support the easing of planning rules. Liberal Democrat policy has historically been one of pragmatic localism, but when members came to vote on recent proposals to extend planning relaxations the result was overwhelmingly opposed. Given the desperate need to build more houses, this was quite surprising, as was the subsequent vote endorsing a motion to work towards building 300,000 homes per year by the end of the decade. Quite a conundrum.
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