Conference diary: Lib Dems want public to ‘calm down’ on immigration

By Charlotte Henry

This morning at Lib Dem conference started with a debate about protecting pubs. Anyone who has ever been to a party conference will realise the deep irony of a discussion on the great British boozer taking place at 9am on a Saturday morning.

The beer soaked masses did though make it into the hall for a more controversial debate, on the topic of immigration. Many delegates believed their party had carved a good liberal foothold in the debate, others, typically, rather felt the party had sold itself short. One came to the platform and declared that "our last policy on immigration was a disaster".

Vince Cable returned to the conference platform to endorse the plans, which included an annual parliamentary debate on immigration, a requirement that all working age asylum seekers try to get work if they cases remains unresolved after six months, and the proper exit checks that the party has long called for.

The business secretary said the policies "give us a platform of credibility from which we can persuade the public to calm down". He also reminded the conference of the long line of liberal leaders who had shifted the debate on immigration away from hysteria and towards compassion and supporting British business.

The policy was approved, and Sir Andrew Stunnell, who chaired the group who developed it, was "delighted that conference has endorsed the right immigration policies for Britain". He said the proposals "will give us security and firm control of our borders, make sure that migration brings growth and prosperity for our country, and treat everyone, both migrants and host communities, with fairness and compassion".

Last night chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander did a turn at a reception hosted by the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and today he gave his address to the conference, reiterating the Lib Dem aim to keep raising the income tax threshold.

Alexander has been criticised in the Lib Dems for supposedly "going native" in the Treasury, but today he took on the Tories, making it clear that income tax cuts for working people were a Lib Dem idea, and that they would increase. "There'' a big difference between doing something because you have to, and doing it because you want to" he commented.

It has also just been announced that tomorrow their will be an emergency debate on the developing situation in Ukraine. Previously such a thing could easily be dismissed as a talking shop, and it may still prove to be so. However, Nick Clegg succeeded in moving David Cameron on Syrian immigrants and his conference may give him some support in taking on this latest crises too.

Those that make it to the debate after the Glee Club tonight (yes, that’s still a thing) will certainly hope their contribution makes a difference.

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