Oh for the enthusiasm of a Liberal Democrat. The quote that comes to mind when sitting through their conference is that of Mr Micawber ‘Welcome poverty!..Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!’
Well they certainly have ’˜mutual confidence’ by the bucket load. And perhaps the fact that they’re in government for the first time since the days of Lloyd George it does give them a feeling of confidence.
This was evident from the outset in their Autumn conference.The first debate of the conference under the catchy title ‘a radical manifesto in an age of austerity’ speaker after speaker after the ritual blaming of Labour for the mess the country finds itself in , intone a mantra that all is being done for the national interest. And with glazed eyes have a messianic belief that all will be right in the end.
Now with over four years until the likely date of the next general election it is possible that something will turn up but by next May! – scarcely believe.
In a different age and a different country you could almost imagine them waving little red books and willing you to vote for them. Alas, if the polls are right whatever the colour of the book it looks as if it will all end in tears at the Assembly elections.
Roger Williams MP as deputy leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats did his level best to raise spirits. He had a vision of the proud nations joining together on the basis of common goals and values. Like in the days of Lloyd George he clamed that”this government takes forward Welsh Home Rule to give Wales more freedom and power than ever before, it is right that we review the arrangements [of MPs in Westminser]. So less MPs can be blamed on Lloyd George, Nice one Roger. Mmm Yes Peter Hain was once a Liberal but taking credit for the Government of Wales Act is pushing it a bit.
He finished by urging delegates ‘to step up to the plate again and get the message across.’ Well, they may or may not step to the plate but they failed to get on their feet to give him the ritual standing ovation that leaders usually get. Although there was one delegate who stood up looked around and promptly sat down. Clearly, his oratory not up to Lloyd George’s standards.
Kirsty Williams their leader said she was going to stand up for Wales.”The people of Wales have had thirteen years of a Labour government in Cardiff that wouldn’t say boo to the Labour government in Westminster. They don’t want a nodding dog. They want to elect a leader who will speak up for Wales”
Show me a leader that will not. But the people of Wales would understand the need for the cuts. She intends going round Wales pushing the line that Labour did not help in their thirteen years of office.
Her most audacious line though was that “every cut that comes our way is a Labour cut and we shall not let the country forget it”. If she can pull that one off she’s a better magician than Tommy Cooper.
Now their fortunes as a party depend on the Welsh voter understanding the argument and being a forgiving lot. As Lembit Opik found to his cost the milk of human kindness doesn’t often flow through the veins of the typical Welsh voter.