Since the election I’ve always felt a bit sorry for the LibDems. They didn’t actually deserve to lose 49 of their MPs, to only be left with eight. OK, I did take a little vicarious pleasure in the electoral demise of one or two of their number, I admit. However, I do think a third (or in their case fourth) party is necessary in our political system. They performed a role, which whatever its frustrations was, at times, valuable.

Since their electoral demise you’d think they’d be happy to get any sort of attention. Yes, but at a price it seems. They’ve now hit on the novel idea of charging publishers to do booksignings at their party conference. Pay them £500 and they will graciously allow your authors to sign their books. An interesting form of licensed extortion. So this is how it will work – a publisher will give the conference bookshop 55-60% discount on the cover price of the book and then have to pay £500 on top. Given all the other costs involved in the publishing process, unless a booksigning results in unexpectedly massive sales then the publisher will almost certainly make a loss. Given that I ran the bookshop at the LibDem conference for five years I know that if you sell 20 copies at a booksigning you’re doing well. Of all the different party members, I can tell you that LibDems are the most illiterate. They’re not bookbuyers. A book that would sell 100 copies at a Labour conference would sell 30 at the LibDems – and that was in the days when their conference actually mattered. So this particular publisher has told them what they can do with their demands for £500. No doubt other bigger, richer publishers will bow down and pay over the money. Well, shame on them.
Mind you, the LibDems do have an eye for a bargain. I well remember the beardy LibDem delegate who asked for a discount on a 50p postcard. He was told in no uncertain terms to go back to his constituency and … well, you can guess the rest.