Conference Diary: We're lovin' it
Sunday 26 September 2010
Vince Cable may have become the figurehead of the coalition's gloomy disposition, denying he was having "fun" but some of his colleagues obviously didn't get the memo about not appearing to be enjoying austerity government too much. "I'm bloody loving it," said one Lib Dem minister. "I would be lying if I said I wasn't having the best time of my life," added another.
Sleeping on the job
It normally takes a few days before delegates start looking bleary-eyed. But new ministers arrived on day one in need of some shut eye, claiming life in the government fast lane is costing them zzzs, rising at 5am every day and not getting to bed till 1am. Ed Davey, the business minister responsible for the working time directive, is among those claiming to have lost up to two hours' sleep a night.
It's the economy, stupid
David Laws was garlanded with praise for his deft handling of the £6bn in "emergency cuts" during his brief stint at the Treasury. But it nearly didn't happen. According to a senior party figure, when Nick Clegg drew up his list of Lib Dem cabinet posts, Laws had been sent to transport. Only after colleagues suggested the party needed someone keeping an eye on George Osborne was poor old Philip Hammond shunted off to the Ministry for Potholes and Laws' place in political history was cemented – for two weeks.
Throw the book at 'im
While Nick Clegg's speech "did what it needed to do" according to just about every loyal party members, it wasn't exactly a rib-tickler. "Has anyone else lost track of the books Labour people keep publishing" he asked in a nod to observational comics of the mid-Nineties. "Never in the field of political memoirs, has so much been written by so few about so little. They went from nationalisation to serialisation. From the Third Way to a third off at the book shop." Ha, and indeed, ha.
The unions were out in force protesting against the cuts. But they might have been better off spending less time making placards and more time studying the Cabinet. "Get out of the car, Vince!" they hollered as... er... Sir Menzies Campbell, who is himself a little queasy at the scale of the cuts, drove past.
Man the media barricades
While the Lib Dem press office played down talk of grassroots rebellion, they were taking no chances with the media – there is nothing worse than a hack who sees their planned story slipping away. The party spinners employed bouncers to guard the entrance to the media operation, with a metal barrier separating reporter from reported. "They were like bullbars," said one journalist left waiting for an audience with the man who emails the press releases.
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