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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

Lib Dem Conference Diary: Day 4, We Are the Government of the Future

September 27, 2017 9:00 AM
By Beatrice Bass

Today is the last day of the conference and, with Norman Lamb and Vince Cable's speeches on the agenda, it will end on a high note. However first I support Kelly-Marie Blundell (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes) and Daisy Cooper (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for St Albans) in voting in favour of their 'Protecting Small Businesses' motion.

Kelly-Marie Blundell at LD Conference 2017.

The motion recognises the importance of small businesses in our communities and is critical of the current business rates system. In analogy to Scotland, it calls for a new 'Pub Cap' that limits increases in rates to 12.5% in England and Wales on pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafés. It also wants to give local authorities the ability to pilot site value rating (SVR). Supporting pubs is clearly popular in the Lib Dems and Kelly-Marie is happy that the motion easily secures a majority vote.

"I survived the Tory onslaught in June" is Norman Lamb's opening line to his conference speech. And then he asks the one thing which probably everyone in this country demands to know: "Where is it? Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox? Where is the £350m per week which you, Boris Johnson, said would be available to the NHS if we left the EU?" The alleged £350m per week that the UK pays to the EU (when in fact it is only maximum £200m per week according to the UK Statistics Authority) is now engraved into British history as the biggest yet most damaging lie told in politics. The public will not easily forget the promise that this amount will be paid to the NHS after Brexit. Norman Lamb reminds us how urgently our health care system needs more funding and reform. In contrast to empty Brexiteer promises Norman Lamb campaigns for a dedicated NHS and care tax to solve the funding problem. The Lib Dems are not just the pragmatic and economically realistic party, we are also the most progressive thinking party. The health care system is outdated and, according to Norman Lamb, we need a new Beveridge for the 21st century for "a modern, efficient, dynamic NHS and care system which treats mental and physical health equally". Norman Lamb has long called for the NHS to be digitalised - let's hope we get there eventually.

Norman Lamb at LD Conference 2017 Beatrice Bass and Norman Lamb MP (Beatrice Bass) Vince Cable at LD Conference 2017

After three-and-a-half days of passionate debating, voting and liberal thinking, the leader's speech ends another fantastic Lib Dem conference. It is Vince Cable's first official conference speech as a leader and he surely does not disappoint.

I appreciate that as the party of business, we now have a leader who draws on years of experience as an economic adviser to numerous governments. His economic expertise is evident throughout his entire speech. He reminds us how the Lib Dems predicted the economic crash but were ignored. Vince Cable had warned that an economy built on banking and property speculation was left dangerously exposed to the global financial crisis - and today Britain is still suffering from the aftermath of the crash. He emphasises the resentment of the public due to widened wealth inequalities where only the super-rich manage to flourish.

He continues to emphasise the detrimental consequences of Brexit to our economy, already felt in the fall of value of the pound, and reminds us that Brexit was described by the Brexit Secretary himself as "an operation of such technical complexity that it makes the moon landing look simple". He makes a strong case for a second referendum on the facts of "the deal" which is now Lib Dem policy and encourages us to stand up for our pro-European believes despite the inevitable criticism from Brexiteers. "We will be denounced as traitors and saboteurs. I'm half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC. But if the definition of sabotage is fighting to protect British jobs, public services, the environment and civil liberties then I am a proud saboteur." He also has a tip for aspiring Labour MPs: "You don't qualify for the Shadow Cabinet these days unless you have studied the Venezuelan guide on how to bankrupt a rich economy."

In terms of Lib Dem future, Vince Cable is very clear where we are heading: "I see our future as a party of government. Our party is not just a Coalition partner of the past, we are the government of the future. And my role, as your leader, is to be a credible potential Prime Minister."