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19 September 2011

Lib Dem conference lookahead | Monday 19 September

The who, when and where of the Lib Dem conference.

By George Eaton

Look out for

Vince Cable’s keynote speech this afternoon which is scheduled to start at 12:20pm. The Business Secretary stole the headlines last year with his attack on free-market capitalism, so what can we expect this time round? Cable will have more to say about his plan to give shareholders new powers to block excessive pay packets for FTSE 100 chief executives (£), and will support calls for companies to publish pay ratios revealing the gap between the highest and lowest paid employee.

Also look out for any reference to the need for greater taxation of land and property, a key theme of Cable’s speech last year. The Business Secretary is willing to support the abolition of the 50p tax rate but only if it is replaced with a version of his “mansion tax”. He told party members on Saturday that the idea was “out there as a proposal”.

“The argument for that has increased because of the way the property market has worked, particularly in high value areas like London,” he said. “So that is out there as a proposal. It is not in the coalition agreement but if the Conservatives were willing to run with that then one could be more flexible with the 50p rate.”

But while Cable will throw plenty of red meat to party activists, expect him to mount a strong defence of George Osborne’s deficit reduction strategy on the grounds that a slower pace of cuts would lead to a disastrous loss of confidence in Britain.

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Signs of trouble?

A proposal to cut the central party’s share of membership subscriptions by £150,000 will provide a flashpoint this morning. The Lib Dem leadership argues that the national party needs more to spend on campaigning and policy-making but activists want local parties to receive a larger slice of revenues.

On the fringe

In conversation with Danny Alexander. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury talks to the New Statesman about the economy, cuts, and life in the coalition for an hour from 1pm. More details.

Conference timetable

9:00 Party business: membership subscriptions and federal levy.

9.30: Debate on phone hacking

10.30: Speech by employment minister Ed Davey

10.50: Debate on ‘Facing the future’ policy agenda

12.20: Speech by Business Secretary Vince Cable

14.30: Debate on violence against women

15.15: Q&A with Nick Clegg

16.00: Debate on digital economy

17.10: Speech by transport minister Norman Baker