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Liberal Democrat conference: Five things to look out for

The Liberal Democrats collect for their annual convention in Bournemouth on Saturday with an actual spring of their step.

The venue could also be acquainted – it is their third go to to the south coast prior to now 5 years – however in each different respect things look quite totally different.

The resurgent get together has a brand new chief, fairly just a few extra MPs, rising political momentum and a new-found hope of taking part in a pivotal function within the unfolding Brexit drama.

So what can we anticipate over the 4 days?

1) Jo Swinson’s huge debut

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jo Swinson will probably be within the highlight on Tuesday

Whatever else occurs, the occasion will in the end be outlined – when it comes to press protection anyway – by Jo Swinson’s chief’s speech on Tuesday.

Her predecessors – Tim Farron and Vince Cable – struggled to obtain an actual breakthrough past the convention corridor, because the get together languished within the doldrums.

This is unlikely to be the case this time, when Ms Swinson takes the stage at about 14.30 BST.

The 39-year previous is a contemporary face – regardless of being a relative veteran in Westminster. She is the get together’s first feminine chief, in addition to its youngest.

There will probably be lots of curiosity past Lib Dem circles as to how she performs, the diploma to which she reaches out to different events on Brexit and her positioning on key points.

After all, many individuals suppose a basic election is inevitable earlier than the tip of the 12 months – an election which may supply the get together one of the best likelihood of progress in practically a decade.

2) More defections?

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Image caption Will there be a shock defection?

Following the 2015 election, the jibe that you may match all of the Lib Dem MPs into the again of a taxi was heard for the primary time in a era.

After 5 years of governing in coalition with the Conservatives, the get together had been diminished to a rump of eight MPs in Parliament.

But now things are transferring in the other way, with the get together’s ranks swelling to 17 (or 18 when you embody one MP who has misplaced the whip).

Since June, two former Labour MPs, one former Conservative and a serving Conservative, Phillip Lee, have joined the get together. Mr Lee’s defection, which got here as Boris Johnson was addressing MPs in Parliament, was notably dramatic.

Could we see others be part of them this week? There’s an inexpensive likelihood, as events love to unveil high-profile converts with a flourish within the glare of the TV cameras.

There are greater than 20 ex-Conservative MPs sitting as independents within the Commons who’re opposed to a no-deal Brexit and, in some instances, opposed to any sort of Brexit.

As it stands, they’ve been informed they can’t characterize their previous get together on the subsequent election. Will some be tempted to throw their lot in with the Lib Dems?

3) Stop Brexit calls

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Stop Brexit is ready to turn out to be the get together’s election slogan

The get together’s robust opposition to Brexit – it has supported one other referendum for the previous two years – has hardened in latest weeks.

Ms Swinson now says that if the Lib Dems win energy after the following election – a protracted shot admittedly – they might revoke Article 50. This would halt the authorized course of underpinning the UK’s departure, and nullify the 2016 Brexit referendum vote.

The management will ask get together members to endorse this place in a debate on Sunday.

It may also search a mandate to marketing campaign on a Stop Brexit ticket on the subsequent election and for the get together’s backing for giving all EU nationals within the UK settled standing routinely.

Expect the movement, which states there’s “no negotiated deal that could be more beneficial than continued membership”, to obtain overwhelming backing.

But it is going to be fascinating to see what number of dissenting voices there are, maybe anxious concerning the message it sends to Leave voters.

Among them may very well be Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, who misplaced the whip after backing Theresa May’s Brexit settlement, and ex-minister Norman Lamb, who’s standing down on the subsequent election however who has joined the cross-party “MPs-for-a-deal” group.

4) Hellos and goodbyes

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Image caption Chuka Umunna will make his convention debut for his new get together

This is a celebration in transition and this 12 months’s occasion will mirror that.

This is probably going to be Vince Cable’s final convention as a Lib Dem MP, the previous chief having mentioned he will not contest his Twickenham seat on the election.

It may also be Chuka Umunna’s first as a Lib Dem. The former Labour politician has been given the plum Monday morning speech slot – second solely in status to the chief’s closing deal with – and he is probably going to command loads of consideration.

There are additionally talking slots for Jane Dodds, the newly elected Brecon and Radnorshire MP and Welsh get together chief, and Siobhan Benita, the get together’s London mayoral candidate.

There are probably to be just a few tears and fairly just a few cheers throughout the get together’s tribute to its beloved former chief Paddy Ashdown, who died final December.

Expect some huge names on the perimeter, though it’s not clear whether or not ex-deputy PM and now Facebook exec Nick Clegg – usually one of many week’s greatest attracts – will probably be amongst them.

5) Making coverage

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Image caption The get together will debate a ban on single-use plastic

Unlike different events, Lib Dem members have a say in policy-making, which makes debates – even on obscure topics – price keeping track of.

Activists will debate motions calling on the federal government to cross a regulation to scrap the “gender price gap” on all shopper objects and prolong equal marriage to Northern Ireland.

Far-reaching reform of the tax system may also be on the agenda, with a proposal to scrap company tax in favour of a brand new British enterprise tax, whereas measures to sort out poverty and job insecurity embody a 20% minimal wage for staff on zero-hours contracts.

Increased concentrate on prisoner rehabilitation would see solely girls convicted of essentially the most critical and violent crimes despatched to jail, and an finish to custodial sentences for private drug use. There would even be tax reductions to encourage companies to make use of ex-offenders.

On schooling, the get together needs to prolong the pupil premium to 16 to 19-year-olds and – on the atmosphere – to ban all non-recyclable single-use plastic inside three years.

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