Liberal Democrat campaigners have returned to St Albans from the party’s conference in Brighton with a spring in their step. We had a considerable number of our members there and we all agreed that It was a great conference. I spoke on the threat to the St Albans Green Belt and the contemptuous response by Gordon Brown’s office to the Hands Off Herts e-petition.
I also spoke in the debate on better government for Britain. I discussed the role of the internet and how governmental reform had to recognise it. I felt the party had not sufficiently recognised the challenges posed by e-campaigning becoming part and parcel of the Westminster model. One commentator was rude enough to suggest that I “did the rhetorical equivalent of a dad deciding to dance at the school disco” by talking about the internet.
A bit unfair since I have been speaking about these issues since I initiated BT’s sponsorship and support of the Hansard Society’s work on e-democracy... The conference also agreed policies that put the Liberal Democrats way ahead of the other parties on the environment. We voted for radical changes to the tax system to cut national income tax. This will be paid for by shifting the tax burden onto those who pollute – for example by increasing car tax on gas-guzzlers and raising the duty paid on the most polluting aircraft.
And we committed to tackling head on Gordon Brown’s policies that have led to greater dependency on benefits for some because of means testing and a bigger gap between the rich and poor than there was even under Margaret Thatcher. We will be taking our message of greener policies, fairer taxes and a better society to the people of St Albans and the surrounding villages. As Ming Campbell said in his leader’s speech, British politics is now one against two. With Labour and the Conservatives agreed on so many of the big issues, from Iraq to taxes, we are the only alternative to the cosy Lab-Con consensus.