[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Lib Dem fringe round-up
Away from the main hall at the Liberal Democrat conference, dozens of fringe meetings take place every day. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting debates.

PARTY 'TOO OLD AND WHITE'

A panel of young people has told the Liberal Democrats they are too old, too white - and that they need to do more to capture voters' imagination.

At a fringe event organised by MTV and the Electoral Reform Society, six people faced Lib Dem MPs Simon Hughes and Norman Baker, along with Mark Gottleson from Liberal Democrat Youth and Students.

Their political experience ranged from two who admitted they didn't vote, to one who had previously attended a Labour party conference.

The group - Kendall, Zeynab, Alexandra, Philip, Orlando and Lewis - gave their first impressions after watching the conference all day.

Kendall said the amount of grey hair in the audience was "a surprise", adding he was "stunned" by what he saw as pre-prepared questions and answers.

Zeynab said Sir Menzies Campbell was "far more down-to-earth than was let on in the media."

Philip, who works with young people in Lewisham, south-east London, said he was struck by the "positive mood".

Subjects discussed included how to include women in politics. Alexandra argued female voters were turned off by the "public schoolboy" attitude in Westminster.

Told that his party "flip-flopped" on issues by Zeynab - Norman Baker argued their policies weren't always "the easy option" - saying that taxes on cheap flights, for example, weren't an easy message. But he conceded that if people didn't understand the Lib Dems' message, that was the party's fault.

Kenzie said the Liberal Democrats were responsible for getting their own message across, and the party couldn't just blame the media for the way they reported its message.

Mark Gottleson, from Lib Dem Youth and Students, admitted the party's representation of the black and minority ethnic Mps was "shocking". All Lib Dem MPs are white.

Joanna Shinn

COALITION CALLS DISMISSED

Two Liberal Democrats identified as possible successors to Sir Menzies Campbell have dismissed Gordon Brown's "big tent" politics and played down the possibility of entering into coalition with any other party after the next election.

Environment spokesman Chris Huhne and home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg were speaking at a fringe meeting organised by the Independent.

Mr Clegg said the prime minister "projected an image of pluralism" but kept a "firm, sweaty grasp on power".

Both men defended the leadership's call for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European union but not for one on the new EU treaty.

Mark Sanders

ARMED SERVICES 'DESERVE BETTER'

Party defence spokesman Nick Harvey accused the government of presiding over a "breakdown in the duty of care" owed to the armed forces.

A meeting heard that accommodation for servicemen and women was poorly maintained, while combat equipment was not good enough.

Mr Harvey said: "It's important that we think about and support and recognise the commitment, bravery and dedication and professionalism of servicemen and women."

The call comes after the British Legion launched a campaign for the Military Covenant - which guarantees soldiers fair treatment in return for forgoing other rights - to be upheld better by ministers.

Justin Parkinson

GREEN TAXES 'MUST CHANGE BEHAVIOUR'

Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said one of his biggest challenges was "how to sell environmental taxes to the general public".

He said green taxes must not contribute to higher levels of tax, adding: "This is not to raise money but to change behaviour".

Mr Cable also said the Lib Dems could offer "more challenging" policies on vehicle excise duty, and think about doing more to give people driving old cars an incentive to replace them with greener ones.

Rajini Vaidyanathan

EATING DISORDERS

Relationships with friends and families are a bigger factor in creating girls' eating disorders than the influence of celebrity role models, research suggests.

A Liberal Democrat conference fringe meeting organised by Girl Guiding UK heard that children as young as eight were suffering problems.

Rajini Vaidyanathan




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific