Monday, 20th September: nuclear power, free schools and Nick Clegg’s conference speech. Drama, protest and dissension or quiet compromise, careful management and enthusiastic standing ovation?
It’s no coincidence that both potential controversies are scheduled for the same day as Clegg’s speech: in the worst case situation, all the bad news would be be concentrated on the one day and Clegg will still get the final word (or rather, many words) on the day with his speech coming after the possible flashpoints*.
However, it’s unlikely to come to that as the two motions are carefully worded. Nuclear power gets a mention in the motion on green taxation, but as the motion is about taxation rather than energy it will be hard for anyone to submit a valid amendment which makes the debate into one of “nuclear, yes or no?”.
Likewise, the wording of the motion on academy and free schools minimises the chances of a direct flashpoint as the motion is clearly hostile to them, restates the party’s belief in the key role for local authorities, calls for an equal financial playing field for schools – and then goes on to urge people not to take part in free schools, rather than directly criticising the government for introducing them.
Instead, we’re much more likely to see some strongly expressed speeches, a chance to be clear about where the party would do something different if it were in a majority government on its own rather than the smaller partner in a coalition and then a warmly received leader’s speech.
As for why this is all happening on the Monday of conference rather than the final day? Nick Clegg will be in New York on the Wednesday of conference, representing the country as Deputy Prime Minister at the United Nations.
* I may be sticking my neck out here, by I don’t think there will be a counted vote in the debate which happens after Nick Clegg’s speech on amending the fourth sentence of standing order 8.3 so that rights of reply can be skipped when there’s nothing to reply to.