The Liberal Democrats are holding our Spring conference in Birmingham, to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, family life and an appointment at Oxford United meant that I was unable to get there but I have been encouraged to read and listen to the positive coverage the conference has received.
Unfortunately the tired issue of a hung Parliament has been raised and is being flogged to within an inch of its life by the media. I have for many years been concerned whenever hung Parliaments and coalitions have been raised as this is considered by most media commentators to be the height of our ambition as a party. I'd like to point out the truth from the point of view of this PPC.
I voted for Nick Clegg as party leader precisely because he alone of the two candidates set out his ambitions to win an election, not to come third or even second. I previously supported Paddy Ashdown for the same reason. I am a Liberal Democrat because I want to deliver Liberal Democrat policies, not watered down, tired Labour pledges or whatever the Conservatives stand for in any given week.
The Liberal Democrats remain the only truly democratic party whose members directly elect the leader and president and vote on all our policies at our democratic conference. That is why the membership sometimes annoys the leadership - because that's democracy and we're demonstrably for it. It is therefore a source of great comfort to me that in the event of any coalition talks after an election we have what is known as the 'triple lock' system which would require the leader to get the approval of the Parliamentary party, then the federal committee then the party membership as a whole before he or she is able to agree to a coalition.
I am standing for Henley on a Liberal Democrat ticket, not anybody else's. I will promote Liberal Democrat policies throughout this campaign and then in Parliament if elected. If asked to vote on a formal coalition with the worn out Labour government or with the ephemeral Conservatives I will oppose the idea.
This Lib Dem is 100% committed to being a Liberal Democrat, not anything else.
The good news for me is that what I hear from Nick Clegg tells me that he agrees but that he is being prodded and pushed by the media into giving all sorts of Svengali-like answers to ever more tautological questions. They are fishing and, happily, he is not biting.
I hope you will vote Lib Dem on May 6th because we are a strong, democratic party which has 'called' most of the major issues in politics correctly in the past decade and which will be the only party to go into the campaign with a fully costed programme for economic recovery, deficit reduction, lower taxes for 99% of the population, the abolition of the hated Council Tax, a sensible, deliverable green agenda, and a commitment to democratic renewal.
When the other parties sign up to that I'll support them but it is my guess that on that day the Devil will be wearing thermal underwear.
So, for the record, it is a categorical, unequivocal no to any coalition from me.