On matters of policy and strategy, the Liberal Democrat conference is turning out to be rather more good-natured and unified than journalists were expecting/hoping (as Sky’s Sophy Ridge has had the grace to admit).
When it comes to matters of party business, however, there is rather more spark than usual. It’s not only the attempt to suspend standing orders – related to how the NHS is being discussed at conference – or the passing of a critical motion about the security checks for conference this morning.
There has also been a noticeable surge in questions to party committee and two pieces of internal party business reform are to be debated later in the week – one about relaxing the party’s internal election rules and one about improving the party’s Federal Appeals Panel (why yes, it is from me). Those sessions usually timetabled for 9am will turn out to be rather more lively and important than usual.
And added to that list now is 9am Monday morning, when a proposal to cut the federal (central) party’s share of membership subscriptions. Party membership fees are split between different levels of the party and Monday’s proposal essentially would cut the current federal party share by £150,000.
It’s a proposal that the federal party will oppose, and I suspect that in making the case against it will be pointed out how much of what has been discussed about campaigning during party conference, such as improving the party’s data systems, making more extensive use of the internet and a stronger Lib Dem policy team to develop Lib Dem policies, are about spending more, rather than less, money via the federal party.
I suspect too that those supporting the move will make reference to liberal beliefs in decentralisation. They will need to overcome the equality question, as the hugely varying membership between different parts of the country means that cutting the central part of party spending will mean bigger variations in overall party spending between richer and poorer areas, much like the controversies over local government funding…
Set your alarm clocks for Monday morning.