Dispatch from the Lib Dem conference: Impact of votes on business and the fate of the 'ginger rodent'

Arriving on Monday morning in Glasgow, I was met by the inevitable grey drizzle and chill winds of the North.

Tamora Langley: Acting head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick
Tamora Langley: Acting head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick
I had missed the Liberal Democrat 'family fun' of the weekend due to my own family responsibilities but quickly caught up on the weekend's news. 

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael won the DJ competition but less fun were reports that Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander had been threatened by locals in the hotel bar.  

Strange that the conference bar is outside of the secure zone, given the aggressive behaviour seen in the recent referendum campaign.  

Still, the 'ginger rodent' is known for his resilience and good humour and reportedly emerged unscathed.
What is interesting for businesses about the Lib Dem conference is the impact votes and decisions taken on the conference floor can have on their bottom line.  

The volume of policy being debated and voted upon at conference is enormous and some of it may find its way into the next Government's legislative programme.  

On Tuesday conference voted against an amendment supported by the leadership that would have lifted the party's opposition to airport expansion.

On Monday, business minister Jo Swinson delivered a compelling account of the impact she and colleagues have made upon working practices, citing Lib Dem flagship policies to tackle all-male boards and increase the right to flexible working.  

After thanking her colleague Jenny Willott for covering her maternity leave, Swinson railed against newspapers that focus on the family situation of professional women, rather than their professional accomplishments.

Citing recent newspaper reports about the new BBC Trust chair as a "mum of three", Swinson's pleas took on greater significance, given the increasing support in the party for her to succeed Nick Clegg as leader.

Overhanging the upbeat anecdotes from the platform about achievements in Government is the party's dire poll ratings out in the country.  

While national polls are pretty useless at predicting parliamentary seats, constituency polling commissioned by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft in 22 Lib Dem target seats is worrying.  

These polls predict Lib Dem MPs, including Tessa Munt, Duncan Hames and Lorely Burt, will lose their seats, although true levels of support may be higher than reported since the Ashcroft polls failed to name candidates.

Gossip in the bars in the face of this dismal political outlook is all about who is going to hold on in May.
Reports of stand-up rows between cabinet ministers and the campaign team HQ abound and MPs are being hauled in to prove they are campaigning hard enough.  

If the party is privately chewing its nails, Clegg did a good job of coming across as relaxed during the leader's Q&A on Monday.  

In stark contrast to the strict choreography of Labour and the Tories, Clegg took unvetted questions from party members on topics as diverse as drug policy, assisted dying and the environment.  

Wearing a distractingly crumpled pair of green trousers, Clegg asked his party to permit him his "minority view" of opposing assisted dying, which he believes should be an issue of conscience for MPs. 

There were positive messages for business too, with Clegg saying only his party is committed to public borrowing from 2017/18 (when the deficit is in check) to fund investment in infrastructure.  
Tamora Langley is acting head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick

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