A Fresh Start
The Liberal Democrat manifesto for the next General Election is likely to go through some tweaks between now and next May. It will need to be able to respond to the changing economic situation right up to that magic moment when Parliament is dissolved.
Which leaves the Party with a dilemma. The Liberal Democrats are the only major party in which all policy is decided by Conference. Voting delegates are sent from local parties in proportion to their local membership, so it is the members who decide policy - not the Leader, not the MPs, and not the Federal Policy Committee. This can make for some pretty edgy debates.
Much has been made in the media of the 'challenge' to our Leader, Nick Clegg. He is a Liberal, of course, and knows that whatever he proposes has to subjected to the scrutiny of the members - and all in the very public glare of the press and with full TV coverage.
But that's how we do things. It's called democracy.
So, today the party's Policy Committee put forward a set of proposals that would form the framework for the manifesto for next year, under the title 'A Fresh Start for Britain'. It was basically a summary of key policies that we already have, and an indication of some of the priorities.
In the meantime, Nick has been warning everyone that we must be prepared for cuts. And we must be honest with the electorate about what we propose, even if it is a little too early to be specific right now. He is right, but party members were getting jittery about their favourite bits of policy. No sacred cows? - well, Conference made it very clear that that there are some policies that they really do want to keep, however challenging it might be - to abolish tuition fees, in particular, and no means testing for child benefits, for another.
One early election slogan was mooted: Vote for the Liberal Democrats and get Vince Cable as Chancellor.