Tim Farron And Nick Clegg To Rally Lib Dems At Spring Conference

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The Lib Dem Spring Conference In Gateshead Could See Rows About The NHS
The Lib Dem Spring Conference In Gateshead Could See Rows About The NHS

Nick Clegg and the President of the Lib Dems Tim Farron will open the party's spring conference on Friday, urging the party to put the past behind them and fight for every seat in May's local elections.

Tim Farron, who has been openly hostile to some of the NHS reforms likely to be debated this weekend, will tell activists that the party has much to be proud of in terms of getting its policies into law.

“We got three quarters of our manifesto into Government policy, so I hereby allow you to stop saying sorry for the quarter we didn’t get," he will tell delegates in Gateshead.

“And if people wanted that missing quarter, well they should have flipping voted for us shouldn’t they?”

This year's spring conference takes place under the shadow of resentment by many Lib Dems at Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill, which is still stuck in the House of Lords.

Nick Clegg and the senior Lib Dem Peer Baroness Williams insisted at the end of last month that they had secured changes to the Bill to ensure that profit was never put before patients.

However many attempts in the House of Lords to weaken Lansley's aim for greater competition in the NHS have failed to pass in the Lords, and the Bill remains more or less in the same state as it was before the letter was signed.

There is a risk that delegates - who within the Lib Dems have much greater powers than similar activists than in other parties - could pass a motion this weekend demanding further changes to the Bill.

Huffpost UK asked the prominent Lib Dem blogger Mark Pack whether he expected a motion calling for the Bill to be dropped.

"That’s an outcome," he said. "I think the most likely outcome will be that because of the respect that Shirley Williams is held in, they’d push for a number of changes but not oppose the passing of the Bill."

But Pack said it was misleading to see any grassroots motions against coalition policy as a defeat for Lib Dem members of the Cabinet.

"I think the thing to bear in mind, Lib Dem parliamentarians quite like being pushed by the grassroots. If you go into negotiation with a Tory opposite number to try and push them on an issue, if you can publicly demonstrate to them that you’re under pressure – that makes your negotiating position stronger.

"The party’s experience after the last spring conference was hugely helpful in terms of strengthening the party."

In his speech on Friday Nick Clegg is expected to say: “We’ve made some difficult decisions, not all of them popular. But we made all of them with only one test in mind: What was the right thing to do for the country?

“And now it is time to move on. To stop justifying being in Government and start advertising being in Government. To stop lamenting what might have been and start celebrating what is. To stop defending our decisions and start shouting our achievements from the rooftops.

“So let’s tear off that rear view mirror and look straight ahead. Let’s get on with the job that we all came into politics to do. Making this a more liberal nation.”

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