So after all the fuss, Nick Clegg did manage to win his vote on the economy: both on the amendment proposed by the left-leaning Social Liberal Forum, and on the motion itself. The Lib Dem leader put in a forceful performance when he summed up the motion at the end of the debate. Some of the contributions were rather heated, notably from Gareth Epps and Naomi Smith of the SLF, but on the whole the debate was more about the economy itself rather than the leadership’s behaviour, which will also have come as a relief to Clegg and co. And if that debate was a bitter row, as it had been billed, then the Libs really don’t have that much to worry about. It was more like a couple bickering over the washing up.
Vince Cable strolled in towards the end, and was immediately pounced upon by the television cameras and photographers. But aside from what his behaviour over this debate tells us about Cable, the victory for the leadership vindicates Clegg’s decision to stage a series of confrontations with his party over key issues. The leadership is briefing that it may lose the 50p tax vote later today, but largely Lib Dem activists have appeared far more grown up than many would give them credit. Indeed, Team Clegg were rather surprised that conference even supported a limited role for fracking in energy policy, along with nuclear power.
These votes also show that the most vocal and angry activists might not speak for the whole party, even if they shout the loudest. As I blogged earlier, the SLF isn’t the only faction in the party, and this morning’s vote showed that it doesn’t hold the only view in the party either.Tags: Lib Dem conference 2013, Nick Clegg, UK politics