By Harry Phibbs
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Watching the Lib Dem conference it is easy to sneer.
There is the self importance - which despite being a Party of Government still feels absurd as the tedious procedural amendments are deliberated upon.
There are all the contortions as speakers praise the Government but attack the Conservatives. There are all those speakers combining earnestness with eccentricity. There is something about the Lib Dem Party Conference which makes the jokes especially painful and indignation especially vacuous.
Yet beneath the surface an ideological contest is taking place which - curioiusly enough - the liberals seem to be winning.
The majority of activists still lean towards state control rather than free markets. But the classical liberal fight back continues. It began with the publication of the Orange Book essays in 2004 and was boosted by the coalition agreement with the Conservatives in 2010.
This year it has been given further impetus with the publication of Coalition and Beyond: Liberal reforms for the decade ahead. It includes a mildly encouraging foreward from Nick Clegg.
It is full of radical proposals. For example Nick Thornsby calls for a regional minimum wage as "setting an artificially high minimum wage in the poorest areas, where business activity already tends to be limited, makes workers in those areas less attractive still to businesses looking to recruit: it weakens their comparative advantage."