The Liberal Democrats might be in the single digits in the polls, but they were distinctly chipper this week. There’s one simple explanation for this, the political landscape gives them hope that there will be another hung parliament and they will be in government again after 2015. But I think there is another factor behind this Lib Dem cheer: they’ve come to terms with what they’ve done in government.
Large parts of Clegg’s speech today seemed designed to prepare activists with lines to use on the doorstep. When it came to the tuition fees, the tone was—despite Clegg’s earlier apology—strikingly defiant. He said, ‘when you meet people who still aren’t sure about us, ask them this: How will you judge us? By the one policy we couldn’t deliver in government, or by the countless policies we did deliver in Government?’
At this conference, the Liberal Democrats were more united and more comfortable with themselves than they have been in previous years. There was no impassioned debate about the party’s economic policy, no lamentations about what the party has done in government and when Clegg took questions from activists there were far less hostile than they have been on past occasions.
Both the Liberal Democrat leadership and grassroots are moving into campaign mode. They are now unapologetic about their role in government.