The mood of the Liberal Democrat conference is matched by Birmingham’s leaden skies

An air of gloom hangs over the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference in Birmingham. And like the grey skies overhead, it doesn’t show much sign of shifting. The mood really took hold when trade secretary Vince Cable made his speech yesterday morning and admitted he couldn’t see any “sunny uplands”. To clear up any confusion, he wasn’t looking out of the window but was speaking metaphorically, about the economy.

Apparently the minister’s speech writers had tried to make his address to conference more upbeat. But Vince tells it like it is, as he reminded us. He had a few warm words to share with us on investing in infrastructure and the Green Deal but the only moment of genuine joy came when he mentioned the large media firm currently having a spot of bother and reminded delegates that unlike Labour and the Tories, the Lib Dems had never sucked up to Rupert Murdoch.

Planning is clearly one area of particular angst for the party

Planning is clearly one area of particular angst for the party as a fringe event held by the RTPI and Savills proved. MP Stephen Gilbert listened as activists lamented the “privatisation of the planning system”, the growing power of Tesco and the way the National Planning Policy Framework was being “rail roaded” through. On the other side of the debate though, there are many who think it does need to be railroaded through - and fast.

Mike Leonard of the Modern Masonry Alliance told the meeting that something needed to happen “this autumn” in order to prevent job losses, people moving abroad and the industry being left with “no capacity for the future”.

You do feel for the Lib Dems. They’ve waited all this time to get into power and when they finally make it, the world’s in a mess.