March 7-9 marked an important weekend in many diaries. While many throughout the British Isles sat down to watch the UK’s constituent nations (as well as Ireland, France and Italy) express their divisions in the penultimate set of Six Nations fixtures, the Liberal Democrat party faithful flocked en masse to York to celebrate these nations’ union for the Liberal Democrat 2014 Spring Conference.

Given its timing in the calendar, much of the conference focused on events closer in time than the 2015 General Election; namely the May local and European Parliamentary elections and the Scottish referendum in September. This is not to say 2015 was ignored – the eye was certainly on the prize – but the emphasis was most certainly on the immediate threats posed by both UKIP and the SNP.

Despite these looming threats, the mood of conference attendees was hopeful rather than resigned over the party’s prospects. Although there was obviously a party diktat regarding messaging and approach to counter the rise of UKIP – hope, not fear; positivity, not negativity – this essence emanated throughout the conference beyond the party machine into the activists and local party representatives. Many attendees noted that it was the most positive conference since the oft-remembered honeymoon autumn conference of 2010 (post-Government entrance but pre-tuition fees).

The party even allowed itself some boasting. Party President Tim Farron, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander extolled Liberal Democrat achievements and influence in Government: without their influence, the recovery would be uneven, unfair, and unsustainable. The party was urged to spread this message and to “tell our story.”

Yesterday’s Budget and rise in personal allowance shatters the realist pessimism of this party’s prospects and adds credence to the Liberal Democrat optimism.

Suddenly Danny’s desire, for a rise to £12,500 in May 2015, doesn’t look so far-fetched – and neither does Clegg’s appeal.

The Deputy Prime Minister closed the conference on the Sunday and set the party’s sights forward: to May’s local and European Parliamentary elections, to September’s independence referendum, and beyond to May 2015’s General Election. He offered an impassioned defence of modern Britain and emphasised that the party’s chances of returning to Government, and very survival according to some polls, is dependent on greater support than the York Barbican could hold.

Central to this message, discussed at length in York by Alexander, and confirmed by the Chancellor in yesterday’s Budget, is the further rise in the personal tax income allowance from £10,000 to £10,500. This threshold increase – touted by the party to provide every worker an extra £800 – emblazoned the front cover of the 2010 manifesto and marks a significant policy win for the party.  And as the dust settles on the 2014 Budget, this Liberal Democrat crown jewel has already been but forgotten by the media.

Immediately seeking the responses of bingo players, beer drinkers, and of course elderly and long term savers, there has been relatively little fanfare attributed to what amounts to a surprisingly substantial tax cut in a time of continued austerity.

However, rather than constitute cause for concern, the acceptance and nonchalance with which this Liberal Democrat policy has become Government policy should be welcomed by the party supporters. In the early days of the Coalition, each Liberal Democrat win in the perpetual policy tug-of-war between the minority party and its majority coalition partner was portrayed by commentators as a success against odds – a minor battle won in a war otherwise lost to bad poll ratings and Conservative policy-led government. The muted commentator response to the policy shows the widespread perspective of the party has shifted: commentators now expect Liberal Democrat policy to become Coalition Government policy.

What makes this triumph even sweeter for Lib Dems, beyond being able to claim to be putting an extra £100 back in the pockets of hardworking people, is the sheer opposition the policy elicited from the Tory backbench, and all to no avail. When claiming the policy as their own didn’t work, they fought tooth and nail for a change to the 40p tax rate rather than undergo a further rise. In the end, the Tory Chancellor, as he so fondly emphasised yesterday, delivered the Liberal Democrat policy to the chagrin of his own baying backbench.

Beyond the trench-warfare politics of this Lib Dem win, yesterday’s announcement highlights and adds extra perspective to Danny’s promise at the Spring Conference: “Every day, in the run-up to the Budget, Nick [Clegg] and I are drawing strength from our party’s campaign to press for a further rise in the allowance to £10,500… And I can tell you that a top priority in any [coalition] negotiation will be our aspiration to raise the personal allowance dramatically again in the next Parliament – to raise it to £12,500.”

As Clegg drew the conference to a close, he appealed to a loftier coalition of the electorate beyond traditional party lines. A coalition of voters who prefer hope to fear, growth to debt, fairness to inequality, and importantly money in pocket, rather than out. He appealed to voters of moderate persuasion to reject a fear-mongering UKIP in May, reject an isolationist SNP in September; but most importantly deliver a second hung parliament and the Liberal Democrats in a second coalition in 2015.

For Lib Dems in the subsequent days after Spring Conference, this bipartisan appeal and Danny’s priority seemed to deflate from heady possibility in the confines of the York Barbican to unattainable ideal in the bright light of the Westminster daily grind. But yesterday’s Budget and rise in personal allowance shatters the realist pessimism of this party’s prospects and adds credence to the Liberal Democrat optimism: what was a “campaign” just two and a half weeks ago is now Government policy.

Suddenly Danny’s desire, for a rise to £12,500 in May 2015, doesn’t look so far-fetched – and neither does Clegg’s appeal.