Welsh Lib Dem leader denied party conference platform


The signs that the end of summer is near are unmistakeable: the nights are drawing in, football has returned to the back pages, and my Liberal Democrat conference pass has arrived.

This year, the Lib Dems are bucking the trend in British politics and heading, not for a city centre, but for the seaside - Brighton.

It is potentially the most newsworthy conference of the lot (not a phrase I write every year), given poor opinion poll ratings and grass-roots mumbling about the party leadership.

The conference agenda has been published and it may already be time to spot the first "snub to Wales" of the political season.

Delegates will hear speeches from both the Scottish secretary, Michael Moore, and the leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, Willie Rennie.

Fans of Kirsty Williams are destined to go home disappointed as the conference organisers have failed to find a speaking slot for the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Lib Dems

Ms Williams did speak at the last two Lib Dem autumn conferences, so why the snub this time?

Except, the Welsh Lib Dems insist that it is not a snub. "As you may remember," says a spokesperson, Kirsty was invited to speak at the rally in Gateshead with Simon, Nick and Tim in our spring conference".

I confess that particular gathering on Tyneside had passed me by - perhaps I was busy that weekend.

Welsh voices will be heard in Brighton, but not in a way the UK government may appreciate. The Welsh Lib Dems are backing a motion that would oppose the introduction of regional or local pay, an idea being considered by ministers.

Their motion warns that "regional or local pay could adversely affect many regions and nations of the UK especially those with relatively lower incomes or relatively weaker private sectors".

It claims regional or local pay could reduce economic productivity and undermine public services in areas that offer lower rates. The text of the motion points out that Nick Clegg himself has previously voiced opposition to the idea (not always a guarantee that something won't happen).

The motion calls on Ministers to rule out any further expansion in regional or local pay - a call I imagine delegates will be queuing up to endorse.

Wales is also represented on the key party committee organising the conference - although the Welsh member is depicted as a silhouette in the agenda.

This sparked a brief flurry on twitter as tweeps wondered whether this was for security reasons - is he a member of the security services? - or simply out of embarrassment.

The real reason is sadly more prosaic. "I didn't get a photo in in time," admits the silhouette known to his fellow Liberal Democrats as Elgan Morgan.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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