Like many Conservatives, I'm spending more time looking at the Lib Dems and their internal processes than ever before.
The Lib Dem conference was always going to be an interesting one this year, and the inherent challenge of moving from opposing the government to being one of the parties in government was never going to be easy. Do the Lib Dem grass roots see Nick Clegg and the other ministers as just mouthpieces for the party or can they reconcile themselves to the idea that they will make decisions that they think best without referring back to the party as a whole?
Historically significant parts of Lib Dem policy were created in motions from the members, I have a lot of affinity with that but it is almost completely impractical when a party of government. That is one of the reasons why Conservative conferences more usually have shadow ministers (now ministers) explaining and selling their positions to the members rather than harvesting proposals from them, it's a habit that has hung over from the years of being the government.
Mike Hancock MP has fired a shot across his party leadership's bows with his open letter warning of a "dictatorship" of Lib Dem minister making decisions without referring to the party as a whole. It is a variation on the idea that Simon Hughes put forward over the Summer, the one which I .... well let's just say that I disagreed with.
Many Lib Dems seem too used to being in opposition, or perhaps to comfortable in opposition, to understand that being in government is a game changer, their ministers have to be able to make decisions at the point and time when decisions have to be made. Being part of a coalition government is what they wished for, and like most of real life, it isn't quite as good as you thought it was going to be.
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