Lib Dem conference 'lacking buzz'
A few random thoughts from the Lib Dem conference.
1. The Lib Dems want to be known as a responsible party of government.
And by voting in favour of nuclear power and sticking to their guns on the economy, they will say they are being responsible.
But a confected row with Vince Cable that muddies the economic message does not look grown up. Nor does an errant internal email that confuses policy on tax and potentially alienates target voters. It also looks indulgent.
2. Nick Clegg has learned not to be peevish.
The Lib Dem leader has in the past allowed his entirely human irritation with silly questions from MPs or journalists to get the better of him. But he has realised that peevishness is not attractive to voters.
From his interview with Andrew Marr to the Q&A with party members, he has displayed a remarkable absence of irritation and it has been remarked upon.
3. Nick Clegg is lucky.
If British forces were being used to bomb Syria or if the Lib Dems had lost the Eastleigh by-election, this would be a very different conference.
Party members would be wandering around the corridors of the conference centre insisting that they did not join the Lib Dems to go to war. And they would also be wandering around saying: "We are doomed, we are doomed. If we cannot hold Eastleigh, how will we hold...(insert constituency of choice)?"
4. The mood at this conference appears flat despite the fact that it matters so much.
Policy is being decided here that will have a huge impact on our lives if the Lib Dems join another coalition after the next election. And yet buzz there ain't.
5. Scottish Lib Dems are in a fine mood.
And not just because their conference is being held in Glasgow (for them it is closer to home, cheaper to get to and they don't have to ask where to eat).
No, they are chipper because the independence referendum is giving them a chance to improve their dismal position north of the border. "The referendum is allowing us back in," says one senior Scottish Lib Dem. "It gives us something to talk to voters about, and then we can move onto other things."