Lib Dems use Ryanair tactics to raise money for their high-flying party

Village People at the party conferences

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Indy Politics

The Liberal Democrats have resorted to "Ryanair style" tactics to raise money for their financially beleaguered party. At the last election Nick Clegg promised that if the Liberal Democrats ever came to power they would "clamp down on unscrupulous airlines who charge unreasonable fees" for paying for flights using credit cards.

But now in power they've decided to copy them. Delegates attending the party's annual gathering in Birmingham who tried to pay by credit card were charged up to £8 in "administration fees" per transaction for the privilege. Meanwhile delegates who managed to lose their flimsy paper passes are being charged £25 to replace them.

Even the party's MPs are not immune. They have been told that if they want to bring a researcher along to conference to help prepare for debates and speeches they will have to pay £33 each from their own pockets for accreditation.

That was too much for Bob Russell, the Lib Dem MP for Colchester, who decided to boycott the conference altogether as a result. He described it as a "raid on his pocket too far" and will spend the week at home with Mrs Russell. Apparently she is "delighted".

Hugh’s still seriously hacked off

Hugh Grant's appearance at the conference caused a stir. He accused the Metropolitan Police of behaving in a “worrying and deeply mysterious” way after invoking the Official Secrets Act to demand journalists reveal their sources. He said politicians appeared to have “grown balls”' over phone-hacking, but expressed “slight disappointment” with the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s performance in general.

Grant singled out the performance of Rupert Murdoch at the inquiry as “dodgy”. “Speaking as a bad actor myself I thought Murdoch’s performance was dodgy. Many of my sources tell me he was a hell of a lot sharper than that a week before – people who had met him. I didn’t buy the long pauses.”

In a characteristically verbose mood, Grant also questioned the decision to include broadcasters in the terms of reference of the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking in the media, saying it appeared to be a “Tory plot against the BBC”.

So, was the actor about to swap Hollywood for a political role? He soon put any rumours to rest – he had no “Ronald Reagan

plans”. How about playing a party leader in a film? How would he interpret David Cameron, for instance? “Don’t be ridiculous,” he shot back. “I only ever play one role.”"

Surely they're joking...

Liberal Democrat activists can't resist giving authority a good kicking – even if that means kicking themselves.

Members yesterday passed a motion condemning conference accreditation, saying it affected their human rights.

Of particular concern was a requirement for delegates to reveal "previous identities" they may have had which discriminated against transgender people. Transgender people? Surely it's a problem facing the whole party?

Who said there's no such thing as bad publicity?

They may have power for the first time in their history – but still no one wants to be associated with them. A tragic plea on the back of every conference pass reads: "Want to see your ad here? Sponsor our conference passes." That really is the wrong sort of advertising.

Danny's no trump card

Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander has the lowest "fanciability" rating of any politician featured in Sky News' promotional Top Trumps handed out by the broadcaster at the conference venue. He gets 18 to Nick Clegg's 67. But then again, Business Secretary Vince Cable is not featured.

Clegg has swipe at paper over claims

Nick Clegg's hatred of the Daily Mail became clear after claims were made in the paper that he will exit politics at the next election. Mr Clegg was asked about the story – which came from a biography by Jasper Gerard – on the Andrew Marr Show. Mr Clegg said: "Can I put this mildly? I really wouldn't believe a word you read in the Daily Mail. This is the paper that called me a Nazi. They come up with drivel every single day." Rumour has it that Mr Gerard has written to Mr Clegg disassociating himself from the serialisation and apologising. We wonder if he'll donate his fee to party funds?