James Forsyth

Votes and jokes at the Lib Dem conference

Votes and jokes at the Lib Dem conference
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The pro AV rally at Lib Dem conference demonstrated the problem with the AV campaign: they don’t think it is the best system. Pam Giddy, chair of Yes! To Fairer Votes, described it as "a small but important upgrade to our electoral system"; hardly the most inspiring campaign slogan. The Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson declared that "in an ideal world … there’d be a majority for STV".

Nick Clegg received a standing ovation and his speech went down well. He joked that one benefit of being in coalition with the Tories was "that he could no longer be accused of being the poshest man in the room" and that "Eric Pickles was the only Cabinet minister you can see on Google Earth." His serious message was that they were making the country "fairer, freer, greener."

But the star of the show was Tim Farron, a last minute stand-in for Charlie Kennedy whose train—the organiser said—had been delayed. Farron caught the conference’s mood about the coalition. He joked that he had one thing in common with his Tory colleagues, "I joined my party because of Margaret Thatcher" and that, "Now Nick is deputy PM and a few yards down the corridor from Andy Coulson he doesn’t need to check his own phone messages".