Party business sessions are usually fairly thinly attended at Liberal Democrat federal conference, except back in the days of disaster and near bankruptcy immediately after the merger which formed the Liberal Democrats.
They can, however, play an important role, particularly where well-chosen questions tease out information or get commitments on the record. James Graham’s question this morning about the Digital Economy Bill was a good example of this (and would have been even more crucial has the emergency motions ballot not decided to debate the topic on Sunday morning).
And so, here I am back in the conference hall for part two of today’s business blogging hattrick: the reports of the Parliamentary Parties (Commons, Lords and Europe).
Paul Burstow (Chief Whip) repeatedly emphasised the party’s achievements in Parliament at stopping or chipping away at authoritarianism and promoting liberalism. (A welcome echo of the comments I made last night at Lib Dem Voice’s conference fringe meeting where I emphasised the importance of these issues, not just in their own right but also to appeal particularly to potential future activists.)
Paul Burstow said:
We stand on a proud record of liberal action … We have two authoritarian parties in our Parliament and one liberal, progressive party.
Chris Davies neatly encapsulated the European Parliament’s role – not the mother of Parliaments, but more like the mother-in-law of Parliaments whilst for the Lords, Lord Shutt emphasises the group’s record at getting legislation altered week in, week out – a task which their colleagues in the Commons can only achieve much less frequently.
Next up: check back later for what has now become a tradition – live blogging the Federal Finance and Administration Committee report. Will there be another one-person standing ovation? Time will tell…