Look out for
Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, will be speaking at 12:20. His appearance will be of particular interest to the media, owing to his status as the Lib Dems’ most outspoken internal critic.
However, as Olly Grender pointed out in an update from the conference yesterday evening, the signs so far are that the “Simon-watchers” are going to be disappointed. In his fringe appearances, Hughes has refrained from overt criticism of the coalition, secure in the knowledge that one iota of perceived dissent could dominate headlines for days.
Nevertheless, Hughes’ speech today will be worth watching, if only to see how he treads the line between offering support to his now-ministerial colleagues and while still addressing the misgivings of his audience.
Signs of trouble?
A policy motion this morning entitled “Ensuring Fairness in a Time of Austerity” should prompt some lively debate. James Graham, founder of the Social Liberal Forum, is to propose the motion, which seeks to ensure that “those with the broadest shoulders carry the greatest burden” during economically straightened times. But with the VAT rise and welfare cuts on the horizon, quite how this goal will be achieved remains to be seen. An amendment has also been tabled on the hot topic of “progressive cuts” — it will be interesting to see how far delegates are prepared to defend their coalition partners’ proposals.
On the fringe
Following on from yesterday’s controversy over the Free Schools policy motion, the New Statesman is hosting a fringe event on this very subject: Will schools have too much freedom in a “big society”? Duncan Hames MP and Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers, join the New Statesman‘s Spencer Neal for the debate. More details here.
09:00 – 09:55 Policy Motion: Localism
09:55 – 10:15 Speech: Lord McNally
10:15 – 11:20 Policy Motion: Ensuring Fairness in a Time of Austerity
11:20 – 12:20 Policy Motion: Equal Marriage in United Kingdom
12:20 – 12:40 Speech: Simon Hughes MP
14:30 – 15:15 Question and Answer Session: Public Services and Benefits
15:15 – 15:35 Speech: Chris Huhne MP
15:35 – 16:05 Emergency Motion: Pakistan Floods
16:05 – 16:35 Topical Issue: Building A Low Carbon Economy
16:35 – 16:55 Presentation: Liberal Democrat Group on Fife Council
16:55 – 17:35 Reports: Parliamentary Parties of the Liberal Democrats
17:35 – 18:00 Constitutional Amendment: Election of Local Authority Councillors to Federal Committees, Constitutional Amendment: Substitution for the Leader on the Federal Policy Committee
Full conference timetable here.