I have very mixed feelings about yesterday's setpiece debate on 'Make It Happen'.
The movers of the amendment had every right to seek to steer (note, not commit) the Party towards the fight against poverty and inequality. Indeed, there are few in the Party who would disagree. Those defending the language of the original document, likewise, had every right to seek to highlight the possibility (note, not certainty) of tax cuts. And, likewise, there are few who would disagree with that either.
I am generally of the view that there are areas of life where government has a core role in terms of service provision. However, there are some fields of human endeavour where unwieldy and cumbersome government dinosaurs shouls steer clear. Thus, once you have raised enough money to cover the costs of your obligations and promises, it makes sense to stop raising funds. Empowering people does mean providing them with the means to make a decision from a range of options, and part of that requires money.
I'm not clear that the debate as to the role of government has been settled yet within the Liberal Democrats and, ironically, I suspect that the debate yesterday was in part a surrogate for that debate. On one side, those whose faith rests in the ability of good government to improve lives and communities. On the other, those who believe in empowering individuals.
There is an underlying caveat to both stances, however. It assumes that, on one hand, that government is efficient, a self-evident fallacy based on the performance of local and central government, and on the other, that individuals have real freedom to make their choices, something which poverty and lack of information make a mere illusion for too many of our disadvantaged fellow citizens.
I freely admit that I voted with the leadership in the end. I'm not convinced that either side has particularly lost or won. A marker has been laid down, a reminder left, and we move on towards a General Election with a sensible degree of honest flexibility.