Sunday, March 04, 2007


5 tests for Brown, 1 test for me

I am back from Harrogate, where I was very impressed with Sir Ming's speech this morning, in which he set out five tests for Gordon Brown. On civil liberties, climate change, foreign policy, inequality and localism, Sir Ming outlined the Liberal Democrat vision of radical and practical policies to transform Britain, and challenged Gordon Brown to meet them.

The whole weekend re-affirmed to me that the Liberal Democrats really do offer viable, credible alternatives to policies in so many fields that just aren't working under Labour. Inequality is increasing, and we have sensible plans to address it through things like cutting tax for 28 million lower and middle income families. The fear of crime is rising, but we have 5 steps to cut crime. Civil liberties are being eroded like never before - rights to protest, judicial independence, trial by jury - and we have the plans to reverse this trend. Much of our foreign policy seems like it's set in Washington and rubber-stamped by our Parliament. And we will stop it. And on climate change, the government hesitate, whilst we propose radical changes in the tax system that penalise polluters and free hard-working people from ever more punitive income taxes.

Harrogate was a wonderful weekend - my first conference, but not, I hope, my last. HJearing our parliamentarians set forth the party's vision for the future, and hearing the success stories from places where the Lib Dems are leading today (Councils like Newcastle, Milton Keynes and Liverpool, and of course the Scottish Parliament where we work with Labour) show that where we lead, we succeed.

Unfortunately, whilst Gordon Brown is challenged to meet 5 of the most pressing issues of the day, I didn't quite manage to negotiate a challenge of my own this weekend, spectacularly failing to sit down without banging my head on a ledge. Yesterday, having spent many hours in fringe meetings and discussions, I thought I deserved a well-earned sit-down. I hadn't reckoned on an errant shelf jutting out into the space that my head would naturally occupy when sat on the couch I had my eye on, and there was the inevitable coming-together of ledge and skull. Ouch. I heard that Lembit Opik MP had a similarly painful collision with the same ledge when slumping down on the sofa today but, as we know, he gets comforted by a Cheeky Girl, which I imagine is somewhat of a compensating factor.

Back to work tomorrow where, unlike this weekend, I will be the only Lib Dem in the room. Ah well, never mind.


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