Daily Archives: September 18, 2013

Kiran Stacey

Nick CleggOne of the interesting things about the new fixed-term parliamentary system is that it gives leaders a time period of several years in which to frame a narrative. Before 2010, parties existed on a constant war-footing, ready to go to the polls at any time if the circumstances dictated it.

Now, those both in opposition and government know that the election is years away and they can wait before going into election mode. That, coupled with the fact that most of the coalition’s central policy platform is now under way, gave Nick Clegg a rare chance to be circumspect today.

We were told that the Lib Dem leader’s conference speech would be “his most personal ever” – usually words that make the stomach turn. But for once, this part of his speech was handled well, if a little too lengthily. He told the hall: 

By John McDermott

Nick Clegg wants all primary school children in England to receive free school meals. On Wednesday, the deputy prime minister will announce that from September 2014 an additional 1.5m kids will be eligible for free food. He would eventually like it if all school children aged 11 or under were eligible.

The policy is being viewed as a response to the “cost of living”, a refrain that will become familiar throughout the party conference season. Of course, there is politics involved; a common occurrence in political speeches. But to see free school meals only through the prism of living standards is simplistic. Quite a lot of policy announcements concern living standards.

 

Elizabeth Rigby

Most of the political class have spent the past few days watching a Vince Cable and Nick Clegg battle for position at the Lib Dem conference. But when they return to Westminster tomorrow they will find another fight underway over who becomes deputy speaker of the House of Commons.

The post, vacated by Nigel Evans after he was charged with a series of alleged sex offences
against last week, must be filled by a fellow Tory. Those poised to throw their hats in the ring include Brian Binley, a right-winger and leading light in the 1922 backbench committee; Sir Roger Gale, a grandee who has spent three decades on the benches as MP for Thanet North; and Eleanor Laing, Downing Street’s preferred choice. (Also Nadine Dorries is said to be interested.) 

Kiran Stacey

David Laws stood up this morning and reminded the Lib Dem conference about the first party conference he went to, in 1994. That gathering was quite a bit more turbulent than the last week has been, he reminded delegates:

Some of you may well remember it : a debate on legalising drugs, then another backing provision of state regulated brothels; followed shortly by a row over plans to abolish the monarchy, all culminating in Paddy Ashdown doing what the media called “storming off the stage.”.

This week has been characterised more by a series of set-piece showdowns between Nick Clegg and either his members or Vince Cable, almost all of which he has won. One interpretation of this is that the Lib Dem leader has moved his party decisively to the right, and that they are now a serious party of government willing to accept the compromises that the leadership says come with that.