Perhaps the tide is turning for Liberal Democrats

Steven Gauge

As Nick Clegg sends the Liberal Democrats home from Glasgow with a deeply personal speech and a carefully crafted defence of coalition government, his party activists are just tentatively beginning to hope that they have hit the low water mark for their popularity.

Maybe, just maybe the tide is beginning to turn. After three years of negative headlines and falling ratings, Liberal Democrats are sensing a tiny bit of grudging respect from voters for surviving in coalition long enough to see the economy turn the corner.

Last night, behind the scenes at the party conference in Glasgow, Nick Clegg gave two other speeches that explain a little more about his apparent resilience and optimism.

At a reception for Diplomats and overseas sister parties, where several expensive looking molluscs were sacrificed in the interests of international liberalism and the Mojitos were dispensed rather too freely, Nick Clegg spoke passionately about the internationalism at the core of his politics and how tolerance, openness and celebration of world cultures makes for a truly United Kingdom. In his key note end of conference speech the Deputy Prime Minister made it clear that he will use his position to promote liberal and democratic values on the international stage.

Shortly afterwards though, over a more modest glass of Pinot Grigio, the Party Leader met with what I believe will be his secret weapon in the next election campaign. In an attempt to improve the diversity of future parliamentary teams, Nick Clegg has created a well funded “Leadership Programme” within the party, where 40 or so political hopefuls from underrepresented groups have been coached, mentored and groomed to within an inch of their lives in an attempt to create a new team of eminently electable Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates. These elegantly turned out women, disabled, black and ethnic minority politicians have been quietly getting themselves selected for winnable constituencies and are being given the support they need to win them. Things only need to go ever so slightly better in the polls for the next batch of Lib Dem MPs to be significantly more representative of modern Britain than the last lot.

So whilst the stereotypical beards and sandals brigade debate at length the optimal ordering of the words Stronger, Economy, Fairer and Society (no really, they did) hidden away in breakout rooms around the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, Clegg’s crack team of super candidates are flexing their political muscles for the long battle ahead.

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