There’s always an after the Lord Mayor’s show feel at conference the today, after the leader’s speech. Adding to this feeling today is that the programme is relatively light; Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne are the star attractions.
Last night at the various parties one sensed a certain satisfaction among those close to Clegg at how the conference has gone. They feel they have got though it without any serious trouble and that the leader’s speech has warned the party of what is to come. But I do think that it is next year’s conference, when the cuts are biting, that will be the real test of what the membership is prepared to accept. It has been telling that the most popular event on the fringe was a discussion of how Labour and the Liberal Democrats can rebuild relations.
Having said this, I find it hard to imagine circumstances in which Clegg might leave the coalition. Decididng what to do after that inconclusive election result was the biggest political call of Clegg’s life, he has to show that he got it right.