This week marks the start of the political conference season kicking off with the Lib Dems in Liverpool. I recently met the Political Editor of a major national newspaper who informed me that he was attending the Lib Dem conference for the first time ever and the same is true for many others too.
For the first time in almost a century, the Lib Dems are part of the government and what happens at their conference is of significance. Journalists who, just a few years ago, would have scoffed about the Lib Dems and their resolutions to ban goldfish and the like, this year take the party far more seriously and will be there in many cases for the first time in their life.
The advent of coalition government has created its challenges for both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. As a Conservative, I firmly believe that we should renegotiate our relationship with the EU and scrap the Human Rights Act. My views on these things have not changed but the new coalition government has had to compromise and delay such policies for the time being.
But I am also conscious that, for the Liberal Democrats, there have been compromises too. Some of the traditional support for the Lib Dems in Cornwall comes from voters on the left of the political spectrum and there will be some nervousness about the priority the new Liberal Conservative coalition has placed on getting to grips with the budget deficit. But I think this judgement will be proved right in the end and, in a few years time, people will look back and realise that the action being taken today was necessary.
I think a Liberal-Conservative coalition is what the country voted for and certainly what Cornwall voted for. Although there was no outright winner on election night, there were some clear messages from voters. People wanted Gordon Brown and the Labour Party out. But they were not willing to give David Cameron full control. What they actually wanted was David Cameron as Prime Minister but working together with a third party and that is what they got. It’s proof that our electoral system is capable of delivering the will of the people and one of the reasons why I will be protecting our current voting system in any referendum.
In Cornwall, well over 80 percent of voters supported either the Conservatives or Lib Dems. Now we must work together to deliver for our duchy in a way that has not been possible for years. It is undoubtedly awkward for all the Cornish MPs to suddenly work together having just come through tough election campaigns against one another, but I detect that the will is there. There has been a gradual warming in relations between the Liberals and Conservatives and a clear sense of common purpose on many fronts such as water charges. Above all, it is what the voters asked us to do.