One of the best things about being a member of the Lib Dems is that twice a year you get to have a blazing row with your leadership about why they don’t know their arse from their elbow and that time is shortly upon us once again. Yes folks, conference season starts next week.
And as per normal there’s no shortage of rows on the horizon as the leadership suggests the party faithful back Osbornomics, ask us to agree that they were right all along about tuition fees, and invite us to keep Trident. Oh, it’s going to be a corker this year…
But one of the other nicest things about being a member of the Lib Dems is that from time to time, the leadership listens, holds its hand up, accepts it go it wrong – and changes stuff. And one of those occasions will also happen next week. It seems the leadership has accepted that the party faithful may have had a point over what was THE row of Spring Conference 2013 and is prepared to reverse the legislation on Secret Courts.
You’ll have to hunt hard for proof of this, but fortunately I know a man with both a magnifying glass and the inside track. And in the penultimate debate of conference, a motion is being proposed by David Laws and seconded by Duncan Brack (each representing, I think it’s fair to say, opposite ends of the party) inviting conference to endorse the manifesto themes paper.
With a foreword by Nick Clegg, hidden away on Page 22, it says:
We will find practical alternatives to the use of closed material proceedings within the justice system, including the provisions of the Justice and Security Act 2013, with the aim of restoring the principle of open justice.
Now, while the party will argue endlessly with itself over various aspects of policy on health, education, defence or the economy, give it a civil liberties issue and it will unite in a moment. Because that’s the main reason why most people join the Liberal Democrats. And as a result Secret Courts is probably the thing that’s happened in government that makes folk unhappiest.
And joy of joy – Nick’s held his hand up and concurred. Hats off.
Now, there’s a way to go yet. Conference has to vote for it, the full manifesto has to be written – and we’ve got to be part of the next government to repeal the current legislation. There’s a way to go yet.
But at least we’re on the right road.
Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference