Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

The Liberal Democrat conference has been in Brighton over the last few days.  Don’t worry if you didn’t know that, as ITV’s Phil Hornby found that few locals seemed to be aware of it either – even when they were standing outside of the venue. But it’s worth checking in on them as their leader, Tim Farron, is set to update his party in his keynote speech this afternoon on how it will come back from last year’s electoral battering. They may have just 8 MPs (an “elite cadre” as Alistair Carmichael once described them), but they still have over 100 peers so are not to be sniffed at as a Parliamentary force.

Voters tend to think that the Lib Dems’ best days are behind them after their time  in coalition, with YouGov finding that roughly half thought the party would fade from politics. But Farron will take this in his stride, having previously compared the party to cockroaches in their resilience (“just a bit less smelly”). Gallows humour aside, what point do they have these days?

Farron threw the Liberal Democrats behind staying in the EU during the referendum campaign, and now seems to be making the most of it as an issue with which he can define his party. This has led to him pushing for a second referendum which would give Britons the option to vote on the terms of a Brexit deal or remain in the union. But he hasn’t carried his entire party with him on this, we report, as Sir Vince Cable has called the proposal “seriously disrespectful and utterly counterproductive”. Farron will also call for SATs testing to be scrapped in his speech today, arguing that exams are a distraction from teaching. But will that get him as much attention as his fight to stop Brexit meaning Brexit?

The Liberal Democrats may not be in a position to sweep back into government at the next election – they had a debate on whether 2080 would be “the year  we get the next Lib Dem minister” – but the party could reap rewards from Labour’s infighting under Jeremy Corbyn.  For now, Tim Farron will be happy if he can persuade voters that – in the words of party supporter John Cleese – the Liberal Democrats haven’t ceased to be, they’re just resting.

Judge Constance Briscoe arrested for ‘lying to police’ about role in exposing Chris Huhne

Ms Briscoe, 55, regularly briefed journalists over several months about how Huhne, 58, had forced his former wife, Vicky Pryce, 60, to take his penalty points so he would not lose his driving licence, it is alleged.

The high-profile lawyer was interviewed by Kent Police last year over allegations that she lied in a witness statement when she said she had not spoken to the media about the episode.

A statement from a police officer read to the jury at Miss Pryce’s retrial today set out the fact that Miss Briscoe was not being called as a prosecution witness because she could not be relied upon as a “witness of truth”.

She has not been charged but remains on police bail.


Nick Clegg: public spending is out of control

Britain must accept “further belt-tightening” beyond the next election as public spending is out of control, Nick Clegg said today.

The Lib Dem leader told party members that the country must deal with its debts or potentially face an economic crisis like Greece.

Throwing his weight behind austerity, Mr Clegg warned voters to confront the “inconvenient truth” that high welfare spending and borrowing is unsustainable.

He said the Government is facing a fundamental challenge to “regain control of public spending, but also to completely redirect it so that it promotes, rather than undermines, prosperity”.

If Britain fails to rescue its economy, it will lose power in the world and risk a falling standard of living, he said.


Nick Clegg must go, warns senior Liberal Democrat

Lord Oakeshott, a close ally of Business Secretary Vince Cable, said it was time to review the party’s “strategy and management” after it lost more than half its “market share” in the polls.

Protest voters and Labour supporters who chose to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 have since abandoned the party and its support has slumped from 24% at the general election to around 11%, figures suggest.

Lord Oakseshott, a former Treasury spokesman, called for an analysis of how the party could maximise its vote next time, stressing that elections were “not just about the message, they are also about the messenger”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he hinted that it should look towards coalition with Labour in 2015 and also urged colleagues to “fight very hard” to get their policies implemented in Government.


Does Nick Clegg know what he’s talking about (literally) when he demands a wealth tax?

Could Nick Clegg really mean what he is saying about a new wealth tax (details yet to be announced)? Or, more to the point, does he understand what he is saying? The key quote from his interview with the Guardian – and presumably aimed very precisely at its readership – follows, with my notations:


A September reshuffle?

I read speculation in the press about a Ministerial reshuffle. I think Mr Cameron has been wise not to hold an early one, or to make them annual events. Ministers need to time to master their brief and to learn to work well with their departments. For everyone a Prime Minister makes happy by promoting, he makes another miserable by sacking them.

Clearly Mr Cameron is aware of the difficulties of managing the party and the expectations of many MPs when he does not have a majority and when Lib Dems take a larger share of the Ministerial posts than their Parliamentary strength would justify on its own, to ensure they have representation in every department.

Some people have been briefing the press that there will be a September reshuffle, but only Conservative MPs who have always voted with the government will be considered for promotion. Some have also suggested that there could be a further reshuffle before the 2015 scheduled General Election.


Is Nick Clegg a bit stupid?

ask the question (is Nick Clegg a bit stupid?) not to be gratuitously offensive, although I acknowledge it could be read in those terms, but in a genuine spirit of inquiry. If the man is not stupid, why does he repeatedly behave as though he is? For the leader of a political party, his grasp of politics seems quite limited.

In 2010 Clegg built an election campaign on a pious “no more broken promises” mantra, and promised no increase in tuition fees. He did this even though privately he was opposed to giving such a guarantee on fees, and knew that the polls showed that it was a close election in which he was highly likely to end up in a coalition in which promises would have to be broken. Was this an intelligent approach? Incredibly, he then acted hurt and annoyed when people felt they had been misled, which they had been.

And then there is Clegg’s reaction to yesterday’s glorious events. What a wonderful day it was for those who enjoy seeing Parliament boosted, bad bills undermined, the over-mighty executive diminished and Nick Clegg made to look a twit.

Read more….