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16 August 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:14am

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

By Samira Shackle

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?”.

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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.

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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.