At least 800 people participated in the TUC march and lobby of the Lib Dem conference this morning (Saturday) in Gateshead. Meanwhile inside the Conference Centre the Lib Dem leadership are coming under pressure from their own members who are not surprisingly worried that the party faces electoral disaster.
In the North East the Lib Dem's position is particularly weak, in a recent poll they managed to scrape just 4%. Last year they lost control of Newcastle City Council while this year the Lib Dem group on North Tyneside Council have been forced to switch sides and defeat the Tory Mayor's budget after years of cuddling up to the Tories to keep Labour out of office.
But this year its the NHS Bill which is keeping the delegates agitated, This what the BBC reported earlier today:
"This year an "emergency motion" has been submitted calling for the changes to be scrapped.
The motion says the Lib Dems "oppose the further commercialisation of the NHS" by "working together to achieve the defeat of this deeply unpopular bill".
But, speaking on Friday, Mr Clegg said the bill had been changed "in a thousand ways" since it was first published, partly through the efforts of Lib Dem peers in the Lords.
He added: "If I thought this legislation would privatise the NHS or disrupt the basic foundations of the NHS, of course, we'd never have proposed it in the first place.
"But there is a simple idea in this legislation, which is that it's a good thing to give people who know us patients best - nurses, doctors and others - greater say about how the system works."
He has also promised there would be no "sweetheart deals" with the private sector and said the bill meant there would be a new duty to make sure there was more equality in the NHS, something Mr Clegg said had never happened before.
In other words Clegg is wriggling like a worm on the end of a hook. The Lib Dems are desperate to do the Tory’s bidding, but desperate to give the (false) impression that Lib Dem pressure is having a positive impact on the Tories. But, because of the crisis of capitalism – which affects all classes, the contradictions are growing.
Public anger is mounting, not least because the Coalition have ditched a commitment to debate the NHS after an e-petition generated over 160,000 signatures. Also, the pensions issue is still live and is likely to blow up again at the end of March.
That’s why this demonstration was particularly important and relevant. The last year has seen a significant increase in activity in the Labour Movement and the rhetoric from the platform echoes that, with one MP even talking about Capitalism and Socialism. One thing is for certain, the audience for Marxist and Socialist ideas hasn’t been as wide as this for twenty or more years in Britain.
Critics of the NHS overhaul hijacked a pro-reform motion at the party's spring conference. Activists voted 314 to 270 to remove a line calling for peers to back the final stages of the health and social care bill.The move demonstrates the continuing strength of opposition within party ranks to the health service reforms. But the result does not oblige the Lib Dems to "kill the bill", as opponents had pushed for on Saturday.The deputy prime minister escaped the potential embarrassment of an outright bid to enshrine withdrawal of the bill in party policy after members rejected a rebel motion on Saturday.