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- Nick Clegg warns of UK's "backwards-looking politics" on Europe in closing speech
- Emergency debate held on Ukraine crisis - don't rule out economic sanctions, delegates told
- New policies on immigration and electronic surveillance voted through
- Delegates vote for benefit support and review in food poverty debate
- Our best spring conference for years, says party president
- Clegg: I'd love to be Prime Minister
That’s it, then. Next year in Liverpool, after this autumn in Glasgow, although I doubt The Press will be sending to either of those; they’re a bit off-patch.
Nick Clegg’s closing address has been described elsewhere as the “Love Actually” speech. In the space of two minutes of waxing about his love of Britain, he covered the telephone, the steam engine, the jet engine, stainless steel, queuing, cups of tea, the UK’s culture industry, the BBC, the NHS, the shipping forecast, the weather, the birth of Prince George and Private Eye.
In the complete absence of anything new to say policy-wise, which was Mr Clegg’s situation here, politicians often revert to wrapping themselves in the flag. The Lib Dem leader wrapped one around each shoulder – the Union flag and the EU flag – and it could have been a piece of unbearable mawkishness.
But when Mr Clegg is on his game, as he was today, he can carry that off in the vein of the early Tony Blair and in a way David Cameron and Ed Miliband would, at best, struggle to manage. This was sincere if saccharine, and as a gateway to more earnest points about the need for the UK to look outwards rather than inwards – which is what this conference has basically been all about – it did the job. Patriotism, yep, but well-directed patriotism, and with a purpose.
How this will play in the Euro elections remains to be seen. Mr Clegg was in rallying mode when he said no assumptions should be made about those elections, but, while this wasn’t his intention, it could be seen as pleading. Much could rest on his forthcoming TV debate with Nigel Farage, not in the sense of his own argument, but how many true blows he can land on the UKIP leader, an unknown quantity in that sort of forum.
One undoubted winner from this weekend, meanwhile, has been York. The city has done itself proud, as the mood and tweets and comments from delegates prove, so good work all round, people.
Thank you for reading.
Gorgeous afternoon in #York to round off a great #ldconf weekend http://t.co/7omaxN9CNH— @GoodallGiles 09 March 2014
I had a genuinely amazing time at #ldconf this week-end. It's been great seeing friends from far away again, but now I'm bloody exhausted...— @CCKingsbury 09 March 2014
Fun few days, learnt a lot, met a load of nice people #ldconf— @ShawnImeson 09 March 2014
Just left York, fantastic staff, very helpful, may even have recruited a new member #ldconf (at @nationalrailenq) http://t.co/rExdZynVn2— @gregjudge 09 March 2014
Ah, I miss York already </3 #ldconf— @H_Bettsworth 09 March 2014
And like that...he's gone.
The auditorium stands, applauds, and then empties. This weekend's work is done.
Going to take a break now, but will be back later to wrap things up and gauge the reaction to Nick Clegg's speech and the conference in general. Hopefully in time to catch England v Wales in the Six Nations.
"If you have faith in this country, if you believe in Britain's values, if you still want this incredible island of ours to keep punching above its weight and shaping the world so that it is a better place, put the Liberal Democrats back in Government again, and let us protect the Britain you love.
"A coalition of all the people who want to keep this nation open, tolerant, compassionate and strong. So to the people out there who may not have voted for us before, it doesn't matter. That's the past. What matters now is the kind of country you want to live in, the kind of nation you want us to be.
"Open, not closed. In, not out. Great Britain, not Little England. Forward, not backward. Hope, not fear. The future, not the past."
"Between now and the election, my aim, our aim, is to build a coalition bringing together all the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love and who want a party prepared to fight for it. That's the coalition I care about."
"We will live up to our greatest traditions by keeping Britain engaged, outward-facing, a heavyweight in Europe."
"We will transfer ever more power to our cities and communities so they can drive their own destinies and we can break Whitehall's grip."
"We are the guardians of a modern, open, tolerant Britain. We are the only party which will not ask people to choose between a stronger economy and a fairer society, because they won't have to.
"In Government again, we will continue rewiring our economy so the banks are our servant, not our master. We will continue correcting the imbalance in our tax system so it doesn't just protect the wealthy."
"A weak economy, an unfair society. If that all sounds depressingly familiar, it's because most of us have lived through it before. Whichever way you look at it, left or right, if either of them get into government on their own, they will drag Britain in the same direction: backwards. I'm not going to sit back and let them sweep in and leave this nation diminished and divided because they still do not understand what makes our country great."
On inequality, he criticises "a remorseless shrinking of our public services". "A party which claims we're all in it together yet will not ask the wealthy to pay a penny more in tax."
"I don't want us ever to go back there. It cannot be right that the country goes through all that pain only to end up back where we started when it all went wrong." He says he does not believe their opponents have learned from the mistakes of the past and are not "up to the task".
"If this parliament has been about a rescue, the next will be about renewal. Britain's future cannot be like its past."
"Thanks to the heroic sacrifices of millions of people we has been able to,pull this country back from the bricks. When the history books are written, they will say the country was put back on the right track by a party which had never been in government before but had the guts and the courage to do what it took."
"Sorting out the nation's finances is essential but equally important is investing in the foundations of lasting growth. Don't let anyone airbrush out our role"
"The is still a long way to go and many people are still feeling the squeeze but after a period of grave uncertainty the British people can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. There would be no recovery without the Liberal Democrats."
"The EU is a global economic superpower," says Nick Clegg, who says thee is "nothing automatic about election results". Plenty of people don't want "anger" and "bile". They want jobs, they want opportunities and "ultimately they want hope".
"In a world where some of the biggest players are some of the biggest losers, we can only make a difference if we work together."
He says the UK does not have the same extremism, but "the fight is on for the future of our country too". Here's where the "ungenerous, backwards-looking politics" line comes in. "So I'm drawing a line in the sand". He asks whether you want Britain in or out of Europe, and says the Lib Dems are "the only party of in, the only party giving people he facts".
Mr Clegg says "an entirely understandable but dangerous urge to turn inwards" has been created, highlighting the extremist parties "on the rise" across the Channel.
He mentions Hungary, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Fronte Nationale. "These are not far-flung places. This is our backyard. There is no doubt about it, the fight is now on for the future direction of our continent."
"One of the biggest questions of our time is how we protect the liberal values of this nation."
He talks about the "shattering crash" of 2008 and a nation "plunged into our uncertainty as the thumping heart of our economy ground to a halt". But he says the world was also suffering a crisis of confidence.
"In the 21st Century, we hold our own because of our ability to embrace the future rather than cling to the past."
"Above all I love that, while we may be an island, we have always looked beyond our shores. Throughout our history, when we have seen trouble in the world we haven’t just looked the other way; we haven’t just crossed to the other side of the street; Britain doesn’t peer out at the rest of the world and shrug its shoulders. We are always at our best when we play our part."
"I love living in a country synonymous with human rights and the rule of law. I love that we are a family of four different countries, each with their own traditions and good-natured rivalries, and that is why we all want to see Scotland stay in our family of nations later this year."
"Wherever you go, one thing is clear. People don't listen to our country out of some deference to old power. They listen to us because of who we are, the things we've done and the leadership we show."
Nick Clegg is on. He gets a good ovation, but I guess it would be a bit disappointing for him if he didn't.
RT @LPNorthover: Thnks #ldconf for bringing me back to wonderful city of #York. And yes, I have slipped out & visited wonderful #YorkMinste…— @NsNrs1 09 March 2014
Hall is absolutely packed for @nick_clegg's soeech. This is busiest & happiest #ldconf for a long time.— @caronmlindsay 09 March 2014
Tim Farron just told the #ldconf to 'Make It Happen!' - I use the same cheesy motivation speak with my sales team! It works— @christook 09 March 2014
Donations to the party tripled from 2012 to 2013, and number of members increased. Who says the Lib Dems are down & out? #LDconf— @AbBrightman 09 March 2014
"Nobody wins by accident," Tim Farron tells the conference, "but you can lose by accident. Be organised, single-minded and targeted in your plans for your community, for your party and for your country."
It's the fundraising bit now and the buckets are being rattled round. You know what it's like when you haven't got any cash on you...
It's no longer the 1980s - I don't have any make up left @timfarron tells #ldconf in jolly round up (leadership) speech— @nicholaswatt 09 March 2014
In the main auditorium awaiting the Leader's speech to close an interesting & progressive #ldconf in York.— @themadderone 09 March 2014
Attendance at #ldconf highest for a spring conference this Parliament— @markpack 09 March 2014
Tim Farron addresses the delegates and thanks York for staging the conference. "It's such a splendid city that it feels like an insult to have spent most of the time locked in fringe meetings. The people have been incredible and we are all very grateful."
He thanks staff at the Barbican "and Wetherspoons" and says it has been the best-attended spring conference since they got into Government.
Julian Huppert MP sums up the debate, saying the problem with surveillance is that politicians wrote "rubbish law" and the online age has created risks which were not foreseen and these have now been brought "kicking and screaming" into the public domain.
The motion, calling for more transparency over data requests made by the intelligence services and other authorities, a review of state intelligence and the Edward Snowden allegations, and for people's rights for their digital information to be protected from "overreach from the state" to be enshrined, is voted through.
Ex-MP Evan Harris, now campaign director of Hacked Off, says the law should mean the Government has a duty to protect the interests of the media and politicians should defend investigative journalism, while there should also be more public interest defences in law.
Best thing at #ldconf so far: ministerial Q&A on health & social care with Norman Lamb. Impressive grasp of issues. Mental health a priority— @RuthWilk 09 March 2014
We're genuinely not sure what we're more excited for: @nick_clegg's conference closing speech or post #LDConf trip to the Railway Museum...— @ublibdems 09 March 2014
Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood says it's right to raise concerns through the surveillance motion but he opposes the line about bulk data collection as the party itself collects this data on how people plan to vote, and companies also compile it. He says GCHQ is not interested in "cat photos".
Lib Dem president Tim Farron opens the debate on internet surveillance and introducing a digital bill of rights to protect electronic communications by telling conference how he ultimately found a record he had been seeking for six years in Red Rhino Records in York, and that "now it would take six seconds".
"How many people know that something which has become so central to our lives has also become our biggest liability?" he says.
"We have ended up with a situation where even cabinet ministers tasked with the security of our nation do not even know what is being done in our name. This motion does not seek to stop the intelligence services, it seeks to ensure we can safely go about our daily lives. Blanket surveillance of any kind is not the way to combat terrrorism."
Mr Farron says successive Governments have flunked this issue and also suggests it could be a vote-winner for the Lib Dems, saying it could "unearth Liberals who didn't know they were Liberals."
Simon Hughes makes his second contribution of the morning and focuses on the European Convention of Human Right, saying a campaign will be launched in the new few days to "turn round opinion that it is a bad and dangerous foreign influence".
"We must make it clear we are on the other side of the argument to UKIP, to many in the Tory party and many in the media."
He says an "international standard of human rights" is vital for all countries, not just the UK, but there have been "siren calls" that the UK should abandon the convention and "we must strongly resist these dangerous calls."
The vote is taken and the motion on Europe is voted through.
Delegates are told Britain can use its influence to cut waste and bureaucracy in the EU if it stays in Europe, with one speaker detailing the red tape she had to go through to get a wi-fi code, and that continuing membership means the UK can push for reform.
Today's YouGov GB polling figures have put Labour on 39 per cent (down one per cent from Friday), the Conservatives on 32 per cent (up one per cent), UKIP on 14 per cent and the Lib Dems in 10 per cent (both also up one per cent).
in theory, this gives Labour an 88-seat majority, with the Lib Dems losing 36 seats and being left with 21.
Newcastle councillor Nigel Jones says being in Europe boosts trade with countries outside the EU, "but this message is not being made loud and clear and it's so important to do that, otherwise people can counter what we are saying."
MEP Catherine Bearder says it is the "green economy which is booming" and this would be at risk if Britain left the EU. "Working with 27 other countries, we can make real strides in environmental protection," she says.
Thank God everyone has name tags. Too shattered to remember even my name at this stage #libdemconf— @MaddyHeal 09 March 2014
RT @BrusselsLibDems: Europe debate underway at #ldconf, great speeches by @MartinChelt & @RTaylor_MEP so far #whyiamIN— @RachSadlerTW 09 March 2014
Yorkshire MEP Rebecca Taylor says her party is "not only pro-European, but pro-British" and the debate is particularly important for young people, who are "overwhelmingly pro-European but worried about their future".
"They like to study abroad and they can do this through the EU-funded ERASMUS project, which we secured more funding for while cutting the EU budget," she says.
"They also like to work abroad - we are the ones standing up for free movement - and leaving the EU will lead to a loss of job opportunities, not just from exports but because international companies set up their headquarters in the UK. We can say we are standing up for the future of young people."
The policy debate on the Lib Dems' European priorities has started, with delegates being told by Martin Horwood, chair of the European Manifesto Working Group, that the worst-case scenario of withdrawal is millions of job losses, and the best-case scenario is that we would have to "buy our way back in".
He says there has not been a positive message in Britain about being part of the EU for years and that Lib Dem policies such as using the European arrest warrant to fight crime are popular, but defending the EU is not enough in itself.
Federal policy committee vice-chair Dr Julie Smith sums up the Ukraine discussion by saying: "We hav to accept the possibility of action against Russia which falls short of military action but does include constraints on visas and a recognition economic sanctions might be necessary.
"It will have implications for countries other than Russia, but if the activity in Ukraine continues, we cannot rule out economic sanctions. But this is not just about taking sanctions against Russia, it is about supporting Ukraine.
"It needs financial support to regain its strength, and support for its aspitations to European values and rule of law."
The Ukraine debate is told military intervention must be ruled out, but the price the UK will have to pay is its economic ties with Russia because Vladimir Putin is "impossible to do normal business with".
On a different note, the Mail on Sunday is reporting today that Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander and Business Secretary Vince Cable are locked in a power battle.
The paper says Mr Cable is "furious" that Mr Alexander wants to be the party's main economic spokesman at next year's General Election, and MPs believe Mr Alexander is making a play to become the party's next leader if it performs badly at next May's poll.
Justice Minister Simon Hughes says he knows Ukraine well and the UK has "under-appreciated its size, strategic importance and cultural importance".
"There is a huge democratic deficit in a country struggling to come to terms with how to run a modern democracy," he says.
"There is a huge piece of work to do to make sure human rights are advanced in both Russia and Ukraine, and it's an opportunity to work with both countries to make sure we help their citizens to do that.
"Potential sanctions are absolutely appropriate. We can offer help to Ukraine to build the democracy it wants and we must not fail it in its moment of crisis. We have a long-term commitment to give."
Speakers are saying the door should not be slammed on Ukraine to ultimately become a member of the European Union as it will give the country's people "hope", and that the British Government has to address the "neo-Sovietism" of Vladimir Putin's Russia "if we want to avoid a wider war".
Robert Woodthorpe Brown, chair of the international relations committee, says Ukraine is currently "a basket case, but not without rescue", and that events in Crimea are "simply unacceptable" with free elections there impossible.
"Soldiers without insignia are illegal under the Geneva Convention, and I don't accept these armed men are a bunch of locals who have called in at an army surplus store," he says.
"A prosperous Ukraine is in Russia's economic interests. It could be an economic powerhouse. What Ukraine needs now is proper governance and an end to the corruption which has led to stagnation while its neighbours have enjoyed significant improvements in their living standards."
Good morning York! #ldconf #spring http://t.co/vTVT6LD7cj— @paulcotswolds 09 March 2014
Beautiful weather here in York for last day of #ldconf http://t.co/hSlLTskYys— @oneexwidow 09 March 2014
The Liberal Democrat conference in York has about four hours to go, and we have the sun this AM, which is splendid.
Heading the agenda on the last day of the Barbican gathering of all things Lib Dem is this year's "topical" motion, the crisis in Ukraine, due to begin in a few minutes.
Party leader Nick Clegg will close the conference with his speech, scheduled to start at 11.45am. See the blog entry at 12.02am for a prelim of what he's going to say.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will say an "ungenerous, backwards-looking politics" has crept into the UK in his keynote speech which closes the party's spring conference in York on Sunday.
The Deputy Prime Minister will say that while Britain does not have the "extremism" seen in other European countries, the fight "for the future of our country" has begun, and - while not naming any other party or politician - take a thinly-disguised swipe at UKIP and its leader Nigel Farage.
Ahead of May's European elections, Mr Clegg will appeal to voters not to assume the Eurosceptics are assured of victory, and say the battle lines leave "anger" and "bile" on one side, and jobs and "influence" on the other. He will claim the recession shook beliefs as well as economies and has shifted people's worldviews, making them more insular.
"The previously fashionable view that the world would automatically slide towards greater freedom and democracy now feels presumptuous and naïve," he will say at the Barbican.
"Within our lifetimes, America will no longer be the world’s biggest economy. It will be China: an authoritarian state. Taken together, in societies across the Western world, these experiences have created an entirely understandable but dangerous urge to turn inwards. An urge to reject the new or unfamiliar and to shun the outside world.
"If anyone doesn't believe it, just glance across the Channel at our European neighbours, where a number of extremist parties are on the rise. We are lucky. Thankfully we do not have the same extremism here in the UK. But that’s not to say the fight isn’t on for the future of our country too.
"An ungenerous, backwards-looking politics has emerged in Britain. The politics of blame has found an acceptable face; it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub. So I’m drawing a line in the sand. I am going to defend the tolerant and modern Britain we love, and I am going to start by showing people what’s at stake at the upcoming European elections: do you want Britain in Europe, or out?"
Mr Clegg will say that, of his party's rivals, one "wants out" of Europe, one is "flirting with exit" and "the other lot don't have the courage of their convictions on this - they're saying nothing at all". He does not say which is which, although it is hardly a difficult task to work out who each reference applies to.
His speech will claim the Lib Dems are "the only party giving people the facts" on Europe and withdrawal "is the surest way to wreck our economic recovery", saying co-operation with other European countries is the only way of addressing climate change, catching cross-border criminals and maintaining a position on the world stage - "Britain stands tallest in the world when we stand tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin".
Mr Clegg will insist he and his party do not have "some starry-eyed affection for the EU" but it cannot be reformed "with one foot out the door", saying: "You change it by taking your place at the table - which is where you protect Britain's national interest too.
"Forget the lazy assumption that, in the court of public opinion, the Eurosceptics will automatically win. There is nothing automatic about election results."
Mr Clegg will use a recent appeal where he asked people to tweet their reasons for wanting to stay in Europe to make the above point, saying responses were "in their thousands" and it was the party's most successful online campaign.
His speech will say the reasons for this response were: "Because there are plenty of people out there who don't want anger. They don't want bile. They want jobs. They want our country to have influence. They want opportunities. Ultimately, they want hope."
Full house here @RookGaskillYork to hear @Greg Mulholland1 talk about #fairdealforyourlocal #yorkpubs http://t.co/hwNTXmRZF7— @YorkCAMRA 08 March 2014
Great to be back in #York for @LibDemConf! Five great years here at @UniOfYork, always good to return! http://t.co/vyKtFtpudy— @GregMulholland1 08 March 2014
.@LordStorey advocates regional government, speaking @IPPRNorth fringe on Lib Dems in the north #ldconf— @IPPRNorth 08 March 2014
"@nick_clegg: Enjoyed meeting 9-week old Edward earlier today..not so sure he was as excited to meet me! http://t.co/UZEbCgzk57" como todos!— @donpablo 08 March 2014
@soclibforum @KellyMarieLD Very pleased #ldconf unanimously supported food banks motion ; thanks to all SLF team for hard work promoting it— @Ros4Dorset 08 March 2014
It's also being reported tonight that the eight northern Lib Dem MPs - including their president Tim Farron - have told Nick Clegg they are unhappy at the coalition Government's failure to deal with the economic divide between north and south.
The Observer says a submission to the Lib Dem leader lambasted "a gap between the Government's aspiration and delivery" for the north. It said there was "scope for more 'game-changing' action" and suggested the HS2 scheme was not enough to achieve this. It reportedly claims the Government's spending policies are unfair on the north, and has also been sent to the Chancellor, George Osborne.
Southport MP John Pugh, reported as the group's leader, is quoted as saying: "We are not a bunch of whining northerners asking for a handout, but a region demanding the financial and political powers to shape the nation's economy in a more balanced and sustainable way." He says there are "disproportionately few northern voices in the corridors of power".
#ldconf votes unanimously to condemn #foodpoverty & push our team in government to look at this in greater detail so that no one goes hungry— @LibDemLadyP 08 March 2014
As for Sunday, the last day of the conference, most attention will be on Nick Clegg's closing speech at 11.45am.
However, before that comes a policy debate on an "emergency" or "topical" issue at 9am, which in this case will be the Ukraine crisis.
The party's European policy comes next, with issues including an in/out referendum if plans for further "significant" transfer of UK powers to Brussels emerge, as well as EU reform, cross-border crime, trade and greenhouse gas emissions.
Party president Tim Farron will move a motion on a digital bill of rights after that, saying "monitoring or surveilling people without suspicion is alien to our traditional British values" and undermines human rights.
Right, just to recap what the second day of the Lib Dem conference has brought to the table:
* Nick Clegg has continued his attack on the Conservatives and Labour over immigration, describing them as "driven by panic" on the issue and saying the debate has turned "ugly".
* The Lib Dems' new policy on immigration has been overwhelmingly voted through, including allowing elderly relatives to join their families if they pay a levy towards their likely healthcare costs, a review of the income level needed to bring a spouse into the UK, and ordering Jobseekers Allowance claimants with poor English to attend state-funded language classes. It also includes full controls on entry and exit and a requirement for asylum seekers to seek work after six months.
* Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander has announced raising the income tax allowance level to £12,500 will be a key Lib Dem priority in the next Parliament - and a key demand in any coalition talks - but questions have been raised about how many low-paid workers it would actually help.
* A motion calling for a constitutional convention to draw up a federal constitution for the UK has been passed. It also includes using the single transferable vote system in all European parliamentary elections, allowing parliamentary candidates to job share, bringing back the House of Lords bill, looking at introducing overseas constituencies and a review of parliamentary procedure.
* Emergency hardship payments for those whose benefits are sanctioned but cannot meet their needs to be introduced, as well as a review of links between food poverty and benefit sanctions, errors and delays.
* Justice Minister Simon Hughes has said he still hopes civil and faith weddings can be separated.
* In a Q&A with activists, Mr Clegg says he would love to be Prime Minister but the only way to drive through his party's policies and values is by being in Government; that Britain cannot "pull up the drawbridge on Europe" without harming the economy; that he wants to see the City Deal extended; that more new homes are a must; that Labour believes it can walk the next election; that universities should become more involved in apprenticeships and the "snobbery" over them should end; that the income tax allowance pledge is "progressive, big, bold and popular"; and that the choice between Labour and the Tories is a choice between "economic incompetence and social unfairness".
Excellent motion unanimousley passed to tackle food poverty. Urgent Review called for. #ldconf— @garthharkness 08 March 2014
RT @EMLibDems: Excellent contribution by @LibDemLadyP on Food Banks at #libdemconf, spkg from the heart #fairersociety— @LibDemLadyP 08 March 2014
Just spoken about food banks. Cannot replace the Welfare State.But the welfare state must complement food banks. Conf supported.#libdemconf— @mjgerman 08 March 2014
RT @LeedsKONP: RT @yorkdefendnhs: One of our favourite placards from #betterwaydemo against #libdemconference by @YorkProtest8Mar http://t…— @YorkProtest8Mar 08 March 2014
'In our great northern cities we are doing disastrously' says @LordStorey 'people feel let down' #ldconf— @IPPRNorth 08 March 2014
That's the end of the main business for the day, although there are still several fringe events this evening which delegates are heading off to.
Quite a lot of them have been saying they want to have a go round the Bar Walls. Can't remember what time they close, which is pretty poor.
Anyway, I've done the Walls several times in my life and the opportunity to do so again will no doubt present itself, so am taking a break for a bit and will wrap up today's events in Lib Demville later. Hope you all have a pleasant evening.
The amendments are voted through, meaning the proposals to provide emergency cash to struggling claimants rather than a grant system for food banks are included in the motion, which is then approved.
Mike German, who co-chairs the Parliamentary Party Committee on Work and Pensions, has tabled an amendment to the motion, including hardship payments for some benefit claimants who have been sanctioned and do not have enough money to pay for their needs, benefit advances and budgeting loans.
"Food banks should not replace the welfare state - they should complement it, but they should not be the alternative," he says.
"If you are caught up in benefit sanctions, you need quick access some replacement cash, and this amendment does just that. It allows swift action so a safety net is quickly put in place."
Dorset county councillor Ros Kayes has moved a motion on food poverty, which says welfare reforms, delays in benefit payments and the rising use of sanctions, and higher food and energy prices have "undermined the principle of the welfare safety net".
It calls on the Lib Dems to "robustly" challenge and assess the impact of welfare reforms "to prevent people being left in abject poverty". It wants research into food banks, commissioned by Defra, to be published, an "urgent independent review" into any links between benefit mistakes, delays and sanctions and food poverty, and ring-fenced money to provide short-term support to vulnerable people. It also says a new grant system should be made available to food banks.
"If we do not support vulnerable working people in this country, why do we exist as a party?" says Ms Kayes.
"The policy is not asking us to leave the coalition or abandon welfare changes or provide carte blanche for those who don't want to work. But nobody in the 21st Century should be dependent on charity for the necessities of life."
RT @cobbles_end: @YorkProtest8Mar great turnout pleasingly noisy outside Barbican with orange onlookers standing at the windows http://t.co…— @ListerRossy 08 March 2014
Thank you @nyorkspolice for all your help in ensuring a safe & smooth #betterwaydemo today.— @yorkshumbertuc 08 March 2014
Thank you to @cityofyork for enabling the #betterwaydemo to have safe passage through the streets of York.— @yorkshumbertuc 08 March 2014
Walked down the corridor & came across Nick Clegg coming the other way, singing. Sounded operatic, he has a surprisingly good voice! #ldconf— @zoeimogen 08 March 2014
Mr Alexander has also accused the Tories of sparking a "poisonous" debate on immigration while defending his decision to employ a Portuguese cleaner.
"It is a sorry situation where we have got to be asking those sort of questions because it is based on an assumption that somehow a business or individual who is employing someone from another European country is doing something wrong," he told Today.
"As a country, our reputation for tolerance, our reputation for being open-minded, is incredibly important to us, and when you get to a positcom where people and businesses who employ people from other countries are criticised for doing just that, I think that is getting to a pretty poisonous position."
Meanwhile, Danny Alexander has rejected claims by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that raising the income tax allowance will mostly help the middle class and will do nothing to help the very poor.
Speaking on the Today programme, he said: "It is quite right to say that this policy benefits people who are paying tax at the basic rate, who are earning £15,000 or £20,000 or £25,000, as well as the people earning £11,000.
"I think those are all people who are working incredibly hard. Those are the people who powering our economic recovery forward, who have been hit hard by the mess that Labour made of our economy.
"What the analysis that you referred to ignores is the effect this policy has on work incentives. Because one of the things that we have tried very hard to ensure, through our work in this coalition government, is that there are much better incentives for people to get off benefit and into work."
Reaponding to Danny Alexander's speech earlier, Labour's shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said in a statement: "Danny Alexander can make all the manifesto promises he likes, but nobody will believe a word the Lib Dems say
"They backed the Tories in giving a huge tax cut to millionaires while breaking their promise not to raise VAT on everybody else. That’s why, despite changes to the personal allowance, families are worse off under this government.
"A personal allowance of £12,500 would cost billions of pounds a year. The Lib Dems should come clean about how they would pay for it. Will they just hit families and pensioners by raising VAT again?"
Asked why the Lib Dems don't campaign for outright victory rather than to be part of a coalition, Mr Clegg replies: "I would love to be Prime Minister."
There is a slightly awkward silence after he says that, then a burst of laughter. I'm not sure what that's supposed to signify.
Anyway, Mr Clegg continues: "Now let me explain how to get there!
"I would like us to campaign for Liberal Democrat values, policies, principles and people in Government. I don't want to go around campaigning for this coalition or that coalition. But all of these things, right now, are going to be done in power with another party.
"The alternative is a Conservative or Labour Government which, in my view, would be very, very bad for the country indeed. On one hand, you have economic incompetence, and on the other, you have social unfairness."
Asked why the conference is focusing on Europe when "nobody on the doorstep cares", Mr Clegg says: "People do care about work, about money in their pockets, they do worry about crime, they do worry about climate change, and we will not do anything about these things unless we work with other countries.
"We don't like Europe for Europe's sake. I think we should be members of the European Union for Britain's sake. If we're not part of the club, you can't stand on doorsteps saying you are fighting for jobs if the Tories and UKIP pull us out. You can't stand on doorsteps saying you're fighting to keep communities safe. You can't stand on doorsteps saying you're doing everything you can to fight flooding and other climate change events."
On apprenticeships, Mr Clegg says he believes there is still a "snobbery" in the UK and the idea that "the only thing you should aspire to after leaving school is to have your face in a book in a university library".
He says he would like to see more universities become involved in offering apprenticeships, but that "poor-quality apprenticeships" need to be "weeded out". "There are cases of some youngsters being called apprentices, but they're not, they are just handy and cheap alternatives."
On housing, Mr Clegg says: "We have not built enough homes, including affordable homes, for a very long period of time.
"We desperately need to shift the dial towards more sustained housebuilding over a prolonged period of time. We have to get local councils to make the case that we need to build more homes."
I bet a few eyes will light up in City of York Council's Labour group when they see those comments, given the current debate over York's Local Plan and building houses in the green belt...
On extending devolution of powers beyond cities and to rural areas and market towns, giving them more responsibility for local decision-making, Mr Clegg says: "I have been constantly pushing for greater power and control to be devolved down.
"I want to see the City Deal extended across the country, whether it's cities, rural areas or urban areas. That bottom-up approach to decentralisation is much better than waiting to have some great ideological blueprint."
Taking questions on immigration and Europe, Nick Clegg says the Conservatives and Labour are "deeply split" on the European issue.
"A significant part of the Conservative party, in effect, agrees with UKIP and wants to withdraw, but the party does not quite have the courage to say so," he says.
"Another part of the Conservative party has never really stood up to the isolationists and is now scurrying around trying to stitch it all back together. They cannot speak with any clarity on the issue.
"For Labour, any opportunity for them to make opportunistic points seems to trump their better instincts about standing up for internationalism and standing up against xenophobia. I think they have an assumption that Government will just drop into their lap, they don't have to work for it and the public will simply hand them the keys to No.10. I think they are totally misjudging the public."
He says it is "deeply dispiriting to see the two largest political parties in Britain driven by panic" over immigration, with a recent speech by Immigration Minister James Brokenshire described as "irresponsible" and Labour criticised for "losing touch with their finest traditions". "Instead of trying to reduce the temperature, they're trying to stoke it - it's a dismal day for Labour."
Not sure whether this is an inspired advertising strategy or somebody having a laugh, but there are flyers knocking about on the press bench at the Lib Dem conference advertising Cleggs - a family-run business "committed to supplying a wide and eclectic range of home and gift items".
Always wise to have something to fall back on etc.
Q&A session with Nick Clegg is next in line - that starts in 25 minutes or so.
Short cut from conference centre to Novotel found courtesy of Danny Alexander. @hmatthews92 is insisting on calling it the #dannycut— @stackee 08 March 2014
Crisis in Ukraine selected as topical issue for tomorrow morning at #ldconf— @hmatthews92 08 March 2014
Damn you York, for your thriving secondhand book sector. You're distracting me from #LibDemConf http://t.co/N9DMlB08FS— @cdundas 08 March 2014
Can anyone who's planning to vote against the food poverty motion tell me why? Genuinely curious #ldconf— @RichBJC 08 March 2014
Photo: At the rally after the #BetterWay march in York. @YorkProtest8Mar @YorksHumberTUC @NorthernTUC http://t.co/uab6noLfic— @TeessidePA 08 March 2014
During his speech earlier, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said: "People ask 'what have the Liberal Democrats ever done for us?'"
The group sitting behind me chipped in with: "The aqueduct...sanitation...the roads..."
Lib Dems everywhere you turn in York! #libdemconf— @EmRose914 08 March 2014
The anti-cuts march through York attracted about 3,000 people who started and finished at Clifford's Tower, where a mass rally has been held this lunchtime.
Bill Adams, regional secretary of Yorkshire and Humber TUC - which organised the protest - said: "It's been very good-humoured and we've had a lot of support from the people of the city.
"A strong message has been sent out about trying to find a better way to do things, rather than through austerity and attacking the most vulnerable. We've reminded Lib Dem delegates who were happy for their party to get involved with the Tories that they are complicit in what has happened.
"We are saying that there must be a better way than pushing back workers, driving down living standards and attacking the poor. There must be a more just and fair society. People here today didn't cause the financial crisis. Everybody realises the country has to pay its way and I don't think anybody has an argument with contributing to that, but when you have tax cuts for millionaires at the same time as people are relying on food banks, it does not cut it.
"It's not about demonstrations, it's about people being organised and working for each other to protect themselves and their communities."
RT @YorkTUC: Here's @UniteintheNEYH showing their support for a #betterway. http://t.co/uNJh14E6oy— @YorkProtest8Mar 08 March 2014
RT @jessbelmonte: Loads of people still behind us @YorkProtest8Mar and brilliant PCS samba band #betterway #york http://t.co/SI7Nt1QMD3— @YorkReTweet 08 March 2014
Red's the colour here. #BetterWay demo in York. @YorkProtest8Mar @NorthernTUC @CraigFarlow http://t.co/BCDRO6WVXl— @TeessidePA 08 March 2014
Danny Alexander accuses the Conservatives of "playing chicken with our biggest export market" with their stance on Europe.
Closing his speech, he tells delegates: "This Government has seen our values and policies made real - think what more we could do with a second term in office, where we can protect Britain from the irresponsibility of the left and the unfairness of those on the right."
"After all the stresses and strains since the crash of 2008," says Danny Alexander, "we can feel confidence returning. But there is still much more to do, and there are risks ahead."
On the Scottish independence referendum - he's from Scotland; you'd never know it to listen to him - he says: "We are literally better off together - there are economic and political arguments, but this is more than an argument about self-interest. It's about our joint heritage, it's about this being a time to come closer together to face challenges rather than moving further away."
He says 95 per cent of Liberal Democrat-run councils are freezing 2014/15 council tax. "We are demonstrating we can be trusted with people's money."
Danny Alexander says a cut in income tax is something the Lib Dems have had to fight for at the last election "and every Budget and Autumn Statement since 2010, and what a fight it has been."
Danny Alexander's on now. "We aspire to build a stronger economy and fairer society, but building a fairer society on a weak economy is like trying to build a house on foundations of sand.
"In taking the difficult decisions, our priority has always been to ensure the wealthiest contribute most."
RT @YorkTUC: Clifford's Tower seeing plenty of action today #betterwaydemo http://t.co/KwuyZlHRUz— @YorkProtest8Mar 08 March 2014
RT @DrNMistry: TUC march in York city centre http://t.co/cUxvBsPVaT— @YorkProtest8Mar 08 March 2014
The TUC anti-austerity march has gathered outside the Barbican, with the bands in full flow as demonstrators stream back through Fishergate Bar towards the Eye of York. The throng is chanting "Shame on you!" which would appear to be mainly directed towards the Right Hon Nick Clegg.
You get a good view from the smoking terrace. What happened to the sun today, incidentally? I read somewhere it was meant to be hotter than Ibiza here.
The band out in full swing! #betterwaydemo @YorkProtest8Mar http://t.co/1RIZeH3on4— @YorkTUC 08 March 2014
Summing up the motion, Sir Andrew Stunell says it will "put us on the front foot on immigration for the first time". He says: "We know it's going to be tough, dirty and noisy, but it already is, so what we have to do is spell out to the British people exactly how we deliver results for them.
"This is making migration work for all of Britain, not just the economy, not just the metropolitan elite, not just the well-heeled and insulated. We will deliver compassion and fairness for our home communities and migrant communities."
The motion is overwhelmingly approved.
Great that the @LibDems have formally adopted @FairDeal4Locals #marketrentonly option as party policy! Thank you! #fairdeal4yourlocal— @FairDeal4Locals 08 March 2014
Breaking news from #York @LibDemConf: the @LibDems adopt @camra_official #planning reforms to close loopholes re #pubs as party policy.— @GregMulholland1 08 March 2014
Business Secretary Vince Cable has just spoken in favour of the motion, saying the UK needs a party "willing to stand up on this toxic issue and address it from the point of view of realism and fact."
"We must defend the rights of asylum, and it is perfectly reasonable to say, after a period of time, asylum seekers should be asked to work," he says.
"This motion gives us a balanced platform and a platform of credibility from which we can persuade people to calm down and see that immigration, properly managed, is good for our country and it is right that we accept the obligations which come with European membership."
Speakers against the immigration motion have told the conference that it has been "fudged", warning it will be "used by our enemies against us". Proposals to allow elderly relatives to join their families as long as they pay a healthcare levy are described as "unworkable" because of the huge costs involved, with similar criticism of plans to ensure immigrants are given English lessons.
Supporters say the health costs of elderly relatives will be covered and the proposal is not a "throwaway line" or "proposing open doors".
Immigration is next, with the policy motion moved by Dr Julian Huppert, chair of the Parliamentary Party Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities.
He says: "We should be honest about the problems, whether it's people cheating the system, choosing not to speak English, or too many people going somewhere and putting a strain on infrastructure.
"There are issues, but our proposal is strong, balanced and compassionate. It fixes the problems which really exist and ensures the UK stays strong."
He says that for a system to work, "we need to know who is coming in and who is going out". "We have been banging on about exit checks for years and they need to come back in.
"Immigration makes us a stronger, more diverse and richer country, and we should be proud of that."
The motion - calling on the Government to introduce a statutory code of practice including a market rent-only option for tenanted or leased pubs for all companies with 500 pubs or more, changes to the planning system, ensuring community pubs are advertised for sale for at least six months, and bringing in a right for tenants to be given the right to buy a pub which goes up for sale - is carried unanimously.
It also says enforcement measures should be put in place to ensure pub companies comply with these rules.
Camden licensee Ken Wright says he runs an independent pub which sees him work 80 hours a week, until 4am, and cannot borrow a keg of beer from another pub if he runs out because the kegs are chipped. He says his turnover last year was more than £500,000 and he made £10,000 profit. "It's a nightmare out there - please support the motion," he tells the conference.
Mr Mulholland says that while York is famed for having a pub for every day of the year within its city walls, "there will certainly not be that number now because of the threat to the great British pub". He says 28 pubs and bars across the UK are closing every day.
"The reason we support pubs is not because we enjoy a pint, but because this is a liberal issue," he says. "We are the party of the community, of real localism, of small business and enterprise, not the party of out-of-control big business and irresponsible capitalism.
"Very often, wanted, viable and valuable pubs are sold behind the back of the community to developers, because the national planning system allows a pub to be converted to a supermarket, betting shop, payday loan shop or solicitors' office without planning permission, which is absurd.
"Some of the behaviour of the large pub companies would make even the most hard-nosed banker baulk. It has been a disaster for licensees who have been unable to make a living and has closed pubs up and down the country."
First bit of business today is a debate on the future of British pubs, with a motion proposed by Leeds MP Greg Mulholland.
Good morning conference and welcome to glorious York! Conference has begun with F1 - The Report of the FCC #ldconf— @LibDemConf 08 March 2014
Lib Dems want to raise personal allowance to £12,500. Their main think tank, Centre Forum, think they are wrong. http://t.co/Cv24rl3MUt— @patrickwintour 08 March 2014
For updates on today's #betterwaydemo in York follow @YorkProtest8Mar— @yorkshumbertuc 08 March 2014
It's been confirmed this morning that the Lib Dems' spring conference next year will be held in Liverpool.
York will obviously want to build on securing this year's conference, which was a big coup for the city and for the Barbican. We'll be speaking to various players over the weekend about how they plan to build on it.
Have a great day if you're marching on #betterwaydemo in York. Particularly if you're in yellow marching for youth #YWM14— @TUCYoungWorkers 08 March 2014
Off to the #betterwaydemo at #ldconf in York with @WNYPplsAssembly LibDems must break coalition & stop this govt's cruel austerity measures— @Niccola1 08 March 2014
Good morning. I trust we slept well.
It seems like only yesterday that the Liberal Democrats began their spring conference in York. Today's business starts just after 9am and, as well as Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander's lunchtime speech - of which more previously on this blog - talks about party policy will be the main focus of the day.
Immigration is on the agenda later this morning and the Daily Express has latched onto this today with a story headed "Outrage over plans to create easy entry visas for new migrants". It talks about the introduction of a "grandparents' super-visa" and a cut in the amount a migrant must earn before their spouse can join them.
The policy motion, entitled 'Making Migration Work for Britain' and moved by Sir Andrew Stunell MP, says migrants have "enriched Britain's culture, language and society" for generations and "increased prosperity for the whole country". It calls on the conference to reject "damaging and counter-productive language and policies which undermine Britain's ability to grow and prosper, that sow division and prey on ignorance and insecurity".
Proposals include improving the visa system, increasing the number of foreign students and taking them out of future net migration targets, and state-funded language courses for migrant Jobseekers' Allowance claimants who speak poor English. They also include asking the Migration Advisory Committee to review the income level needed to bring a spouse into the UK "to avoid unnecessary family separation", and allowing elderly relatives to join their families "where they can be supported and on condition of a levy to cover their likely health costs".
The motion rejects the use of "Go Home vans" and "other attempts to create a hostile environment". It says an "intelligence-led approach" to tackle illegal immigration is needed instead.
Fantastic rally at #ldconf in York listening to great speakers talk about #whyiamIN— @nick_clegg 07 March 2014
And so it begins! :) Great way to start @LibDemConf with stand up from @timfarron :) http://t.co/CCBsGqEjon— @Melv92 08 March 2014
Stayed up to give you a preview of what Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander will say in his conference speech on Saturday. This just in, as they say.
The minister, who will lead the party's negotiating team with the Conservatives and Labour if nobody wins an overall majority at the next election, will tell his audience at the Barbican that raising the personal income tax allowance to £12,500 will be a key Lib Dem demand in any talks over a new coalition.
Mr Alexander will confirm increasing the threshold will be written into the party's election manifesto, and a rise of at least £500 - giving a tax cut of £100 - would be earmarked for the first Budget or Autumn Statement of the new Parliament.
In his keynote speech, he will say: "We will fight the next election with our own ideas, our own policies, our own values - no-one else's. And I can tell you that a top priority in any negotiation will be our aspiration to raise the personal allowance dramatically again in the next Parliament.
"To raise it to £12,500...that would be a further tax cut for working people of £500. At our first fiscal event in the next Parliament, we would deliver another tax cut of at least £100.
"A two-term Lib Dem government would then be delivering a tax cut for working people of £1,200 - that's £100 a month."
Party leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg has called for this month's Budget to be used to signal a "workers' bonus" £100 tax cut by raising the threshold to £10,500. Mr Alexander will say in his speech: "Every day in the run-up to the Budget, Nick and I are drawing strength from our party's growing campaign to press for a further rise in the allowance to £10,500
"That would be another £100 tax cut for working people on top of the £700 [already delivered]."
Mr Alexander will also state the economic recovery was a Lib Dem achievement, saying: "Britain is on its way back. We know that Governments don't create jobs and growth.
"It is the hard work of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses that does that - but Government can and must create the right conditions for this to happen.
"Be in no doubt that the right conditions for this recovery would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Government. Every job that's been created, every apprenticeship opened up, every pension boosted has our Liberal Democrat DNA running through it."
He will say the rise in the tax allowance was "forced through" in the face of opposition from the Tory wing of the coalition, but the Conservatives were now "lamely" and "belatedly" trying to take the credit for the policy.
"Don't get me wrong, it must be hard to be a Tory in a Treasury delivering so much Lib Dem policy, so it's no surprise if some of them have gone native," Mr Alexander will say.
Great here in York for Lib Dem Confce. Stunning architecture, beautiful river setting, friendly folk, pubs everywhere. Wish you were here !— @JulianHeather1 07 March 2014
LGA Council Group of the Year awards with @nick_clegg #ldconf http://t.co/whvKBitfxB— @benrathe 07 March 2014
Of course, it's not all one-way traffic for the Lib Dems this weekend. There are plenty of people who will never forgive the party for about-turning on tuition fees and for being part of an austerity Government, regardless of who you blame for the recession. And many of them will be on the streets of York on Saturday lunchtime for a mass demonstration organised by Yorkshire and Humber TUC, to coincide with the conference.
Lendal Bridge is being opened for one day only to cope with that, by the way, so that's one for the nostalgics among you.
It's unlikely UKIP will have nothing to say about the Lib Dem message which has been sent out tonight. Whatever you say about UKIP - and people do - they have clearly got right up the Lib Dems' noses. Whether that's because they are seen as a genuine political threat, simply opportunistic isolationists who need to be brought down, or a bit of both, they were probably mentioned directly or referred to in some way as many times tonight as the Conservatives and Labour put together. That would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago. And you get the feeling UKIP don't mind how they're talked about as long as they're talked about.
As for coalition harmony, Vince Cable got the best dig in tonight when he said the Conservatives' idea of "representing the oppressed proletariat" was to form a five-strong committee to prepare for the next election comprising "four Old Etonians and George Osborne". Oof.
Listening to how Guy Fawkes night is VERY un-environmental :) @LibDemConf #LDconf #cllrdarrenfower http://t.co/icDspob5a2— @BoroLibDems 07 March 2014
RT @NHSConfed_RobW: Looking forward to representing @nhsconfed at roundtable @LibDemConf tomorrow morning with @normanlamb @benendenhealth— @benendenhealth 07 March 2014
Not complaining earlier about tomorrow being a long day, incidentally. National politics of whichever stripe on our doorstep? We love it.
Anyway, tomorrow's activity begins at about 9.15am with a subject very close to the hearts of many people in York, including a certain Mr Gavin Aitchison, beer aficionado at The Press. Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland will move a motion on a "better, fairer, more sustainable future for British pubs". I understand there will be no samples; it's a bit early.
Other motions during the day will include migration, planning reforms, electoral reform and food poverty, while party leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will be holding a Q&A session during the afternoon ahead of his closing speech on Sunday. Saturday's keynote speaker is Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, who's up at 12.05pm.
There are also a scattering of fringe events, covering issues including social housing, International Women's Day, where new homes should be built and the housing crisis in general, zero hours contracts, Heathrow Airport, green policies and whether the Lib Dems can win more seats in the north.
We will, of course, be keeping you up to speed and letting you know whether tomorrow's sausage sandwiches live up to the marker laid down today.
Survey by @CBItweets showed 8/10 UK businesses want to stay IN Europe says @emcmillanscott #whyIamIN #ldconf @LibDemConf— @SeanDaveyEsq 07 March 2014
We're looking forward to welcoming @LibDems @nick_clegg & @vincecable to York this weekend as they support great local business #LibDemConf— @YorkCocoaHouse 07 March 2014
Today's main action over, the Lib Dems are heading off in various directions, either to fringe events, to unpack properly, or to the pub. Tim Farron did say York had some of the world's greatest pubs tonight, so he's done his bit for the local hospitality industry.
We'll be back shortly to look at what's on the cards for tomorrow, a long day for the conference, and probably for this reporter as well.
Rapturous applause for Mr Farron and the other speakers. Vince Cable probably stole the show, but then he usually does. Edward McMillan-Scott, generally regarded as a very decent man, also cut an impressive figure.
Of course, it's one thing getting your home crowd on side, quite another to convince the voters. May 22 is the real date that matters, with Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage going head-to-head on telly between now and then. What you can say is that there's a definite edge and intrigue to these European elections which we've rarely, if ever, seen before.
Party president and Euro election chairman Tim Farron, who is pretty effective as a raconteur, rounds off the rally. He says Britain had to "live with the shame" of having British National Party MEPs for years, saying: "There is no better incentive to vote on May 21 than to keep the racists out."
He says tough economic times have "bred extremism" on both the left and right wings. "People look for easy solutions, and across Europe extremists are looking to exploit the circumstances and deceive voters."
He says uncertainty about Britain's future in Europe is "killing British jobs and killing British influence.", and that while he will not be an "apologist" for the EU, "three million British jobs, including thousands in York, and our ability to fight crime, tackle climate change and maintain peace and security are at stake."
Penultimate speaker is Yorkshire MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, a former Conservative who joined the Liberal Democrats four years ago after clashing with the Tories over Europe. He said he could not stay with the Tories because they had become "increasingly extreme" on Europe, and he is now in a party which is "internationalist, not nationalist".
He says: "Despite the national interest, the Tories have moved further to the extremes on Europe. They used to be a party of 'in'. It's a tragedy. Having Liberal Democrats in Government in this country has tamed their extremists, while Labour just sits on its hands"
Mr McMillan-Scott says there is a need for reform in the European Parliament, and it was "a talking shop" when it started. He says: "We are not just the party of 'in', we are a party of reformers, and we're very good at it."
Sarah Ludford MEP says Europe is about "values, decency, respect for others and human rights, not finding scapegoats and whipping up fear". She says businesses are "sounding the alarm" about an exit and brands the Conservatives the "please will Europe go away party", saying Britain cannot afford "a return to the 1930s".
MEP Catherine Bearder, president of the Green Liberal Democrats, says UKIP are the most nationalistic party seen in Britain for a century and claims they would deliver "unscientific madness and xenophobic nonsense" if they won European seats.
"As the warning goes, if you're not sitting at the table, you're probably on the menu," she says.
"I want us to be in Europe for our country, for our jobs and for our environment."
Vince Cable addresses conference @LibDemConf #ldconf http://t.co/aF5FHQ0i0C— @aazmaale 07 March 2014
Lib Dem Conference in York is the 4th top Twitter trend in the UK #ldconf @LibDemConf @VisitYork— @nloveactually 07 March 2014
Outstanding personalised speech from @vincecable at #LibDemconf in York making case for Britain IN Europe, boosting trade and saving jobs.— @swilliamsmp 07 March 2014
RT @LibDemWomen: Rousing words from @MayorDorothy on lib dem work in Watford and beyond at the lib dem conference #libdemconf #whyIamIN— @LibDemInternat 07 March 2014
Dorothy Thornhill, the elected mayor of Watford - the first Lib Dem to have such a role - is next up. She speaks about the number of companies in her town who thrive on European trade links and says "UKIP and the Tories would put all that at risk by undermining our membership of the EU."
She says: "We can bang in doors with our heads held high and be proud of our pro-European stance."
Vince Cable closes his speech by saying he believes that if Joseph Rowntree, "the great Liberal reformer produced by this city", was looking down, "he would be cheering us on for what we are doing".
He speaks about why he decided not to accept advice from Treasury "mandarins" to cut funding for adult education - because it helped his mother get her life back after she suffered a nervous breakdown - and leaves the stage to a standing ovation. He's used to those, but whether you're Lib Dem or not, that man knows how to work a room.
Dr Cable says the European debate is not just about jobs, but there is also an "existential" element. "Just imagine if you are Scottish and are being told you should not be listening to nationalism and separatism, while down here, the same people are promoting nationalism and Euro-separatism."
He says leaving Europe will "do very serious damage to this country" and also defends the Lib Dem record in Government. "The economy is turning round, we have helped to make that happen, and we have made absolutely sure there will be no return to the boom and bust cycle of banking-led irresponsibility we have had in the past."
Vince Cable is first up and in top, Have I Got News For You form. He points out that if you dug under the Barbican, you'd probably find the bones of ancient Greeks, Italians, and "probably Romanians and Bulgarians as well". He tells the audience he has no doubt that "somewhere near here, the first Yorkshire branch of UKIP was formed".
Let's play darts! Oh, sorry, wrong gig.
Nick Clegg's voice booms out from the Barbican speakers asking you to vote for "the Liberal Democrats, the party of 'in'" and we are off.
You get brass band music piped over the speakers when waiting for Liberal Democrat rallies to begin, or you do at this one, anyway.
I don't know whether that's because we're Up North or because somebody forgot to bring their Massive Attack and Foals albums.
Anyway, it means we've been treated to parping versions of Funiculi Funicula and, er, Take A Chance On Me by ABBA ahead of kick-off.
The auditorium is now open at the Barbican, and very yellow it looks as well. The topic of tonight's rally is In Europe, In Work, and will lay out the case for the UK to remain in the European Union.
Speaking to The Press earlier today, Business Secretary Vince Cable spoke of his fears that leaving the EU would see major companies invest elsewhere and deal the UK's economic revival a massive blow at a time when it needs confidence and investment. He is not keen on the idea of a referendum on Europe after the next election, to say the very least.
Here's the scene inside the auditorium a few minutes ago:
Looking forward to opening @LibDemConf rally in York at 18h30 today - follow live blog to hear #WhyIamIN http://t.co/4NLDeD76ce @LibDemPress— @emcmillanscott 07 March 2014
Delegates are catching up with each other ahead of the main event of the first day of the conference, tonight's rally on Europe, which starts in about 35 minutes or so.
Oh, and the Barbican does really nice sausage sandwiches, in case anybody wondered.
Politics gets everywhere at times, even places you wouldn't expect it to get. The password for the free Liberal Democrat conference wi-fi at the Barbican is basically a microcosm of their stance on Europe.
Presumably it was either that or the name of Danny Alexander's first pet or something.
#York looking lovely in the spring sunshine @LibDemConf #ldconf http://t.co/t334SzMzjD— @GoodallGiles 07 March 2014
MOST of the puns have probably been done already, but there's been a bit of a blow for the Lib Dems in the conference build-up after an Elvis impersonator drove them into last place in a council by-election.
David Laurence Bishop of the Bus-Pass Elvis Party won 67 votes in the poll in the Clifton area of Nottingham. Lib Dem candidate Tony Marshall got 56.
Mr Bishop told local media he intends to fight a Commons seat next year. York's very own Presley doppelgänger, Eddie Vee - no stranger to waging election campaigns while dressed as the King - will no doubt be watching with interest in case this is the way the political wind is blowing.
IT’S not all plain sailing for the Lib Dems this weekend. Their arrival in York has prompted the organisation of a huge anti-austerity rally in the city-centre on Saturday, with thousands expected to attend.
The ‘Better Way’ demonstration, organised by the Yorkshire and Humber TUC and including unions, anti-cuts groups, health and environmental campaigners, people with disabilities and students, will start at 11.30am at Clifford’s Tower and march past the Barbican and into the city-centre before returning to the Eye of York for a mass rally at 12.30pm. An all-female line-up of speakers to mark International Women’s Day includes environmental campaigner and author Kate Lock, poet, comedian and writer Kate Fox, the TUC’s assistant general secretary Kay Carberry and disability campaigner Sue Marsh, and donations will be taken for local food banks.
Yorkshire and Humber TUC regional secretary Bill Adams said: “Ministers claim ‘we’re all in this together’, but coalition MPs have voted through income tax cuts for the richest earners, have cut most to councils in poorer areas and demonised people in need of social security. There is a better way than austerity, which involves investing in industries of the future, cutting tax avoidance, ensuring people have enough money to spend on the high street, while supporting those in need of support over those who don’t need it.”
Leigh Wilks, York and District TUC president, said York was a “prescient” choice for the Lib Dems to hold their conference, saying: “As a centre of academic excellence, their shameful U-turn on tuition fees has seen them despised by most students in York, and their education policy has shown just how desperate this party is to cling onto power.”
Meanwhile, the Green Party is running a “field hospital for traumatised Lib Dems” near the Barbican tonight, complete with a couch, operating tables, bandages, first aid kits and white-coated medics. Andrew Cooper, its lead Yorkshire candidate for the Euro elections, said his party was “the natural home for disillusioned and betrayed voters” who previously plumped for the Lib Dems and the field hospital would offer “much-needed therapy to any broken-hearted Lib Dems”.
Denise Craghill, who chairs York’s Green Party and is also standing for election in May, said: “We are the only main party committed to free access to higher education for all, whereas the Lib Dems went back on their promises on tuition fees, and we are also serious about working for the common good while the Lib Dems talk about fairness but are propping up a coalition destroying public services and putting huge burdens on the poorest members of our society.”
@nick_clegg of @LibDems arrives in #York in style!! see @yorkpress 2m for more pics of the conference... http://t.co/2TL93f8fwx— @AnthonyChappelR 07 March 2014
IT’S a sedate-ish start to the conference tonight, agenda-wise, although the Barbican is already filling up with delegates. New venue for them, of course, so there will probably be plenty of working out where the toilets are, for starters.
The main order of business tonight is the conference rally, ‘In Europe, In Work’, at 6.30pm in the Barbican auditorium. Dr Cable will be at this one as well, along with party president Tim Farron (who is also chairing the Lib Dems’ 2014 Euro election campaign) and MEPs Catherine Bearder and Sarah Ludford. The line is that millions of British jobs depend on trade with the EU and being in Europe gives the UK more clout in trade negotiations, so leaving would not be the wisest of moves.
The rally will look at what's riding on May’s Euro elections and the importance of campaigning, the Lib Dems being the most pro-EU of the parties. There have been rumours that a “special guest” may appear at tonight’s rally. No idea who, but I doubt it’s going to be Nigel Farage.
Dr Cable is expected to say at the rally that it is “right to take the fight to UKIP” but the Tories are causing “as much damage” because of their commitment to an in-out referendum on Europe during the next Parliament. He will say jeopardising access to the EU market would mean firms will “look elsewhere” to invest. We’ll be updating you on the rally as it unfolds.
EVEN before the conference gets under way properly, one Lib Dem with a particular affinity for York has been out and about in his home city today.
Business Secretary Vince Cable was the star turn at a business lunch at the Novotel today, and The Press got the chance to catch up with him afterwards to ask him about Europe, York’s economy and the prospects for one of its key development sites, Lendal Bridge and what it’s like to be back home for a party conference as one of the Government’s main men.
You can read the full story in Saturday’s edition of The Press and at thepress.co.uk
BRIGHTON, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bolton (OK, maybe not the last one) – all places which come to mind as venues for political conferences. But York?
Well, it is this weekend, as the city’s Barbican centre stages the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference, which starts from now and runs until Sunday lunchtime, when it closes with a keynote speech from the party’s leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
It’s a big coup for the city’s visitor and business tourism industry, with about 1,000 delegates attending, and is expected to bring about £600,000 into York’s economy. On the political side, there will be rallies, Q&A sessions with ministers, fringe events, policy discussions and a spattering of speeches from Lib Dem big-hitters.
We’ll be covering the conference throughout the weekend and you can keep up with how it plays out on this live blog from now until Sunday afternoon (apart from the time when The Press’ political reporting corps need to get some sleep, of course). You can also email your views to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, and tweet them, as well as any pictures, at @yorkpress using the hashtag #LDconf.