Danny Alexander and the Lib Dem motion

Those of you who haven’t got their hands on a copy of Tribune this week, or who looked at the website and found some stories missing (slight technical hitch I believe) may be unaware of some developments in the run-up to the Lib Dem annual conference in Liverpool next month.

As I reported for Tribune this week – and as has been reported elsewhere – there are two motions which particularly challenge the direction of the government: one which criticises academy schools and totally rubbishes free schools as “wasting precious resources”, and one which calls on the coalition to:

“continue to work to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are not disproportionately affected by the government’s austerity measures and to ensure that the wealth and inequality gap does not widen.”

A nice way of warning them off doing anything regressive in the autumn spending review, due a few weeks later. The motion also calls for conference to:

“Insist that Liberal Democrat ministers are given the freedom and resources to commission research to fully assess the viability and practicalities of increasing taxation on wealth – including land values.”

What hasn’t been reported elsewhere is that when Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander saw the motion, he picked up the phone to the party policy office, who then got on the line to James Graham, the motion’s proposer. Graham isn’t just anyone: he’s a former member of the party’s federal executive and the secretary, website manager and press officer of the Social Liberal Forum, a group on the left of the party.

Graham says that after an “amicable” discussion, he agreed to insert an extra clause praising the coalition for preparing to make the Office of Budget Responsibility more independent – but did not take out any of the bits warning them not to beggar the poor. Look at the motion: it doesn’t praise all the budget, jut the bits it thinks are Lib Dem.

These sorts of motions could cause pro-coalition Lib Dem ministers a headache, because a) they don’t look confrontational and so are less likely to be opposed by the party chiefs; and b) once a motion is passed, it stands a fighting chance of getting in the party’s manifesto. Party rules require the federal policy committee to base policy on motions agreed at annual conference.

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