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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Lib Dems Conference Diary: No bullying, but Lib Dems talk around the subject


The Liberal Democrats put aside half an hour at their conference Sunday to discuss a worthy addition to their party constitution, which lays down that “you must treat others with respect and not bully, harass or intimidate any party member, member of party staff, volunteer or member of the public.” During the debate, the party President, Tim Farron, mentioned “revelations” and “events that have unfolded”, which brought about the amendment, and admitted “we as a party have not always lived up to our values.” Two words that no one uttered were ‘Lord Rennard’. He denies any wrongdoing.

* In the exhibition hall at the Glasgow centre there is a stand called Liberal Democrat Image where you can buy more Lib Dem related paraphernalia than you ever dreamed of, including a badge with the face of the Liberal Democrat MP of your choice. The badges are all displayed in alphabetical order, pinned to an upright board. But what is that? The ‘Sarah Teather’ badge, bearing the photograph of the Brent East MP who is quitting in 2015 because she does not like the direction in which Nick Clegg is taking the party, is pinned on the board upside down. Who turned her upside down? I am told it was the Lib Dem MP for Colschester, Sir Bob Russell.

* Making his first ever appearance at a Lib Dem conference, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, told a fringe meeting that being in opposition is “bloody awful” – as if the Lib Dems did not know that already, from decades of experience.

* Away from the Lib Dem conference, Jerermy Clarkson is thinking of causing Ed Miliband a bit of grief in 2015, according to a tweet he sent out on Sunday, which said: "I might stand in the next election as an independent for Doncaster North, which is where I'm from. Thoughts?"

Clarkson did, indeed, grow up in Doncaster, and it was not long before the message had been retweeted or favourited 5,000 times but since Miliband is sitting on a 10,909 majority, and may yet increase his vote because he is better known than in 2010 A race against a renowned speed freak could be fun, but the chance that Clarkson could overtake him is nil.

John Prescott tweeted an alternative: "Why not stand in Chipping Norton, where you live now? You've got lots of mates there.”

* And more grief for Ed Miliband, from the Labour-supporting Rochdale pensioner who received a public apology from Gordon Brown at the last general election after he was caught on a microphone calling her a “bigoted woman”.

In an interview, to be broadcast on Tuesday on Radio 4’s One to One programme, Gillian Duffy says she remains loyal to the party but is less than impressed with its current leader.

Asked whether Mr Miliband could make it to Downing Street, she says: “He’s going to have to pull his finger out, isn’t he, and get moving, get some policies out. They’ll be very lucky if they get in, Labour.

“Ask anybody in the street, I bet they can’t name who they are. They’re not doing well up North, there’s nothing happening up here at all.”