James Forsyth

Preparing the ground for conference

Preparing the ground for conference
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Nick Clegg has been taking advantage of his week in charge to do a series of high profile events. But at nearly every one — his speech in London, his town-halls in Newcastle and Bristol — he has encountered Lib Dems wanting to express their anger about the coalition and its policies. As I say in the Mail on Sunday, the worry for the Lib Dem leadership has to be that this is a preview of what they could face at conference. This danger has been compounded by the fact that Clegg will leave it early to attend the UN summit in New York, Cameron will be staying at home as he and Samantha’s baby is due then.

Knowing what we know about how the coalition works and Cameron’s sensitivity to Clegg’s needs, we can expect some Liberal Democrat wins in the mini session of parliament that precedes Lib Dem conference. The leadership will have a much easier time if it can show activists some recent examples of how the party is achieving its aims in government.

Being a junior coalition partner is a difficult job; the government will always reflect more the policies of the larger party. But Clegg has, generally, played his cards well - the Lib Dems are punching well above their weight. His party should be patient with Clegg as he performs this role.