Several of your local Liberal Democrats were able to get down to the Lib Dem Spring Conference in Brighton over this last week-end and engage with government ministers face to face. One should not underestimate the influence that the Lib Dems are having as a Government party and the ability of local parties, like our one here in Greenwich, to benefit from that.
The conference looked at issues vital to our local area such as the quality of teachers across our schools; Conference voted for calls to further recognise the professionalism of teachers through a requirement for all teachers to have Qualified Teacher Status or be working towards them. Amongst many debates, speeches and fringe events we heard from the Minister for Pensions Steve Webb MP, about the ground breaking improvements in pensions provision for the retired and those currently in work. The Lib Dems passion for justice saw us vote for the protection of legal aid provision for complex social security tribunal cases, our belief in fairness saw Conference put pressure on our ministers to tighten up corporate tax avoidance legislation and our drive for a stronger economy was behind a robust call for more help for our manufacturing industry.
One of the big differences between the Liberal Democrats and the other big parties is the democratic nature of our conference and as a party we are comfortable about debating our differences openly, such as our vote to continue opposition to secret courts. Overall the mood was upbeat with the Eastleigh by-election win fresh in our minds. Nick Clegg rammed the message home in his closing speech when he said
"You can't trust Labour to build a strong economy. You can't trust the Tories to build a fair society. Only the Liberal Democrats can deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life."
In Greenwich, we agree with Nick.