An awkward day for the Liberal Democrats

The Monday of conference will see motions on free schools and nuclear power, as well as Clegg’s spee

If you're looking for days likely to prove awkward for the coalition, you might want to circle Monday 20 September in your diary.

It is the Monday of the Liberal Democrat party conference, and also happens to be the day that motions on both nuclear power and free schools are scheduled. Both are areas of tension among the left of the party, and the matters on which many feel the Lib Dems have compromised the most.

Over at Liberal Democrat Voice, however, Mark Pack explains that it is unlikely to blow up, as the sore points have been cleverly buried:

Nuclear power gets a mention in the motion on green taxation, but as the motion is about taxation rather than energy it will be hard for anyone to submit a valid amendment which makes the debate into one of "nuclear, yes or no?".

Likewise, the wording of the motion on academy and free schools minimises the chances of a direct flashpoint as the motion is clearly hostile to them, restates the party's belief in the key role for local authorities, calls for an equal financial playing field for schools -- and then goes on to urge people not to take part in free schools, rather than directly criticising the government for introducing them.

The 20 September is also the day of Nick Clegg's speech, which has been moved forward from its usual slot on the final day of the conference because he will be representing the government at the United Nations on the Wednesday.

There might be a strategic reason for jamming this all into one day, says Pack:

In the worst-case situation, all the bad news would be be concentrated on the one day and Clegg will still get the final word (or rather, many words) on the day with his speech coming after the possible flashpoints.

Will it erupt? If nothing else, expect to hear some strongly expressed opinions from those in the party who do not agree with all the coalition's policies.

UPDATE: The New Statesman will also be hosting a fringe event at the Lib Dem conference on 20 September, with Vince Cable discussing the economics of progressive austerity. It will take place between 1pm and 2pm at the Liverpool Hilton, and could be another chance to hear a senior party figure express concerns about the coalition.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.