I can honestly say that this will be the very first Liberal Party conference in my lifetime that I am utterly looking forward to.
Everything is in place for the casual observer to spend many hours enjoying reading the signs of who is happy and who is unhappy with the current arrangement with Cameron's Tories.
Oh, we will be able to find them. The only wonder is that the bulk of the party has stayed quiet for so long whilst Clegg led them down this right wing path. If they manage to get through the conference without someone breaking ranks I will be amazed.
However, the growing interest has alarmed some conference organisers who fear that disquiet among delegates over coalition policies – notably deep spending cuts – will be laid bare.
A motion condemning the creation of "free schools" will be debated, while dissent over housing, the reorganisation of the health service and nuclear power is also likely to boil over.
Party figures will strive to demonstrate the influence they are having on the coalition which Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has described as "a business, not a marriage". Liberal Democrat members of government will be authorised to make announcements in their policy portfolio.
One senior Liberal Democrat said: "If people want to go looking for splits with the Tories, they will be able to find them. But we have to be relaxed about that and not obsess about it – it is the price of the position we are in."
They used to be to the left of the Labour party; now, when one looks at their web page entitled "What We Stand For", the answer appears to be nothing. One would expect a page with such a title to, at the very least, have some stated policies and commitments. What we get is a series of vague statements from Clegg about "change". And the only real change he has brought to the party is to veer them wildly to the right. I can't believe that the whole party is going to sit by and quietly accept the position they now find themselves in.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "This year's conference will be by far the biggest in the party's history. It's very exciting and a sign the Liberal Democrats have come of age."That's very funny. They have "come of age" by rubber stamping policies which they previously disagreed with.
Even before the conference has begun, Simon Hughes has broken ranks over Cameron's proposal yesterday to evict council house tenants who are financially able to purchase on the housing market.
It's a terrible idea which no amount of persuading should be able to bring any Liberal Democrat around to. But Hughes does make one important point. This was not even in the Tory manifesto. Cameron never, ever, mentioned this to the public before they went to the polls.
Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, bluntly warned that the idea, which was floated by the Prime Minister this week, is not government policy and that it would take "a lot of persuading" for the Liberal Democrats to accept it.
"The Prime Minister is entitled to float any idea he likes but we have to be clear it is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy, it is not in the election manifesto of either party, it was not in the coalition agreement," Mr Hughes said."The message just has to get out; this is now being floated by the Prime Minister – if he wants to pursue it then there are the proper channels to do so. We're very happy to have the discussion... [but] our party would need a lot of persuading that it has merit or could work."
On what authority is he going to implement this policy? If, as I suspect, he knew it would be so unpopular that he didn't dare mention it whilst running for office.
Click here for full article.