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The Merseyside Mingle

Betsan Powys | 10:35 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

It's going down better than party officials might have feared here in Liverpool but Liberal Democrat AMs will find out before most how the message of "we had to go into coalition" and "we have no choice but to cut" will go down on the doorsteps.

No wonder, then, that some are jumpy. Take Eleanor Burnham, the Lib Dem who topped the party list in North Wales last time round. She's hoping she'll top it again this time and make it back to her seat in the chamber.

She won't have failed to notice that with Aled Roberts - "the leader of the best council in Wales" to quote one senior party source - putting his hat in the ring too, she has a fight on her hands. And when you have a fight on your hands, you need as much support a you can get. If you don't feel you're getting it from all parts of the party, you start to worry.

At last night's 'do' - a chance for Welsh and Scottish party members to chat to Nick Clegg as party leader, rather than Deputy PM - Eleanor Burnham was getting worried. So worried that she executed a short but not unnoticed "verbal half nelson" on one party grandee who's turning into quite a cheerleader for Mr Roberts. She intends to fight for her place on the list and is confident her supporters at grassroot level will get her there was the message.

They parted friends and colleagues, of course but she's done nothing to change the elder statesman's mind. "Aled's an excellent candidate for us in the North" he said to me this morning.

Ms Burnham won't fail to notice the present tense, which by definition, puts her in the past.

But one bit of news will certainly cheer her up. Aled Roberts has been busy swelling the local party ranks with young supporters who are very much in camp Roberts. Only now has he realised that party rules say supporters must be party members for twelve months before they can vote for list candidates.

The present tense might be a touch more conditional than he'd thought after all.


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