Conference Diary: Clarke's plain speaking ruffles Lib Dem feathers

Kenneth Clarke used the conference platform yesterday to rally Conservatives behind the No campaign for the 5 May referendum on adopting the alternative vote (AV) system at general elections.

Safer, Tory party managers judged, than allowing him to speak about his sentencing policy. Yet the plain-speaking Mr Clarke still managed to ruffle feathers. He dismissed supporters of electoral reform as usually coming from the "fringes of politics". That will not endear him to the Liberal Democrat ministers with whom he often agrees around the Cabinet table. Declaring the Tories deserved to lose the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections, Mr Clarke said: "I really cannot recall ... a general election where I think the great British public got it wrong ." Only one problem: David Cameron's failure to win an overall majority last year. If there is one thing that the Cameroons don't like to be reminded of, it is that. Oops.





On the wrong side



Ministers declared their support for "freedom of expression" in Libya, but it seems to be in doubt closer to home. Conservative Yes, a band of Tory activists who support AV, was barred from launching its campaign at the conference. In contrast, the No to AV campaign was allowed its own stall and its propaganda was distributed by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ). Conservative Yes claims support from former MPs and candidates, Tory peers, councillors and assembly members. Although some Tory MPs sympathise, none has been persuaded to risk Mr Cameron's wrath by coming out in favour of reform, which might blight their career prospects.

Naughty list

Some ministers decided to stay away from the Cardiff conference. Warning to the absentees: Tory whips are said to be checking the register to discover the naughty boys.





Cable's mission



Spotted in the same hotel as Tory representatives: Vince Cable, the Business Secretary. He is regarded as a dangerous leftie by many Tories. But Mr Cable was not there to build bridges. He addressed the Lib Dem Welsh conference and stayed on for meetings with local business leaders. Business as usual, alas.

Don't mention...

Baroness Warsi, the Tory co-chairman, avoided any mention in her speech of the party's embarrassing third place in the Barnsley Central by-election – discussion was relegated to a behind-closed-doors session. Some activists grumbled privately the Liberal Democrats have blunted the Government's message on Europe, allowing the Ukip to come second in Barnsley. If Ukip does well in the May elections, Tory Eurosceptics will be on the march, Mr Cameron is being warned.

Tricky.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis