Lib Dems reclaim initiative on green politics

The Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference will focus heavily on the environment as the party tries to stake out a distinctive position in the political battlefield.

Delegates will debate Lib Dem policy on climate change, green taxation, packaging and how to make businesses greener, in an agenda heavily dominated by environmental issues.

The newly published brochure for the conference bares the slogan The Environment, Action Now and prominently features Menzies Campbell, offsetting the recent criticisms of his leadership.

MPs and activists will also debate women in prisons, an immigration amnesty, bullying and Israel, as well as the party’s proposed tax policies.

Commentators warn the Liberal Democrats risk losing their traditional claim to environmental issues as David Cameron attempts to reposition the Conservatives as the green post.

Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten also remarked this week that Lib Dem MPs increasingly find themselves voting with the Tories on civil liberties issues.

With an erosion of their distinctive policies and increasing shadow boxing between Mr Cameron and Gordon Brown, this summer has seen the Liberal Democrats squeezed in the opinion polls.

Their approval rating now hovers around 16 to 18 per cent and is at its lowest since Charles Kennedy resigned as leader nearly two years ago.

Party MPs and activists have so far resisted emulating the Conservatives in publicly attacking their leader, but commentators increasingly speculate about Ming Campbell’s future.

Lord Rennard, Lib Dem chief executive, reportedly said this week that Charles Kennedy would take a leading role in any election campaign, recognising his popularity with voters.

He also revealed the Liberal Democrats are preparing for a possible snap election, saying there is a “one in three” chance Mr Brown will go to the polls in October.

Writing in the Times this week, Mr Oaten said the Liberal Democrats should not rule out a coalition with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament.

He called on Mr Campbell to publicly state the Lib Dems would work with whichever party wins the most votes, arguing they increasingly appeared to have more in common with Cameron’s Conservatives.