The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Nick Clegg’s Speech: Liveblog

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 23, 2009 @ 14:44

At least it was a yellow tie...

At least it was a yellow tie...

So, here we are once more… another year, another Lib Dem Conference draws to a close.

This year is rather special, however… simply because we know it is the last one before a General Election. That should have, in theory, focused minds. But will it have done so for Nick Clegg? I listed what I wanted to see in my previous post, but I’m sure Nick won’t be paying much attention to me.

Below is my final conclusion, and below that is the liveblog as it happened. Enjoy, if possible…

Conclusion: it had some policy, enough to make me a little happy. But it skipped the difficult bits. Where was the defence of his plans to axe our pledge on tuition fees? Where was the defence of the expensive homes tax plan?

Nevertheless, it dealt with some of the major issues, and how the Lib Dems would apparently be more honest with the public over what kind of spending cuts are needed (hint: public sector pensions) and what kind of change is needed in society if we’re to achieve our environmental vision.

But we’re just going to have to do better at consolidating our message into a crystal clear few sentences. There was nothing really in this speech that could be boiled down in that way, except perhaps the repetition of Tory “fake change”. Is that good enough to make voters think again about the Tories though?

It was also a bit too personal in its attacks on Cameron. He should have turned his fire more on the generic target of the party behind him. Cameron may look and sound different to normal Tories, but behind him is still the same old people, the same old party machine. That’s what we need to be wary of, that would have been an easier target, particularly for those in Con-LD marginals.

As for Labour-LD seats… playing up our genuine internationalism will help, as too will an appeal to the working classes regarding jobs, lower taxes for them, higher taxes for the rich, etc. Is it going to be enough though? We need to bang the drum extraordinarily loudly on this: in which case Nick’s idea of putting taxation policy as number one issue on the doorstep is probably a wise choice.

Finally, the delivery was good and the presentation style was typical Nick Clegg: i.e. passable but not setting the world on fire. A little sense of amateur dramatics at times, but it feels fairly sincere.

Overall… he deserves a chance. And one with enthusiastic backing. We’ll give it a go, no doubt. But I’m no less worried about our prospects now than I was before he articulated this vision.

It’s going to be a very interesting eight months!


2:30pm: The warm up act is the party awards, accompanied by extraordinarily cheesy synth. I hope they didn’t pay much for that from the music library…

2:45pm: Well, we’re still waiting. Much cheers for the latest award recipient. Polite applause. The wait goes on with great sincerity from Party President Baroness Scott…

2:48pm: I’m beginning to think I’ve started watching a home shopping channel, such is the nature of Baroness Scott’s delivery.

2:50pm: It’s like the credits list of a film now. Come on Ros!

2:51pm: A shot of Ming the Merciless looking bored out of his skin. That glassy stare doesn’t fool me.

2:54pm: Urgh. How rude of Baroness Scott to hand over to Tim Farron. But at least he’s more entertaining. And now he’s asking the Lib Dems there to stick their hands in their pockets. Apparently the Lib Dems manage to run their conferences at a profit. But that might be just an urban legend.

2:57pm: Getting closer now. And the jokes are getting worse. This isn’t getting me into a very charitable mood for the speech! And now the microphones have gone quiet. Typical Lib Dem professionalism in action, it seems!

3:02pm: It’s still not safe for Nick Clegg to emerge. This is all a distraction while they sweep the hall for sniper rifles. Very clever. Tim Farron doing a marvellous job of ad libbing.

3:07pm: Tick tock. I’ve got computers to fix, don’t you know?

3:08pm: Here we go. Opening video, cheesy music in the background. Lots of smiley faces saying they’ll be voting Lib Dem too. Not much of a surprise at a Lib Dem conference.

3:09pm: Sound levels appear to have been sorted out. BBC News Channel join the action. They’re skipping the video though, the delightful Laura K (unspellable surname) talking over it. A cacophony of voices in my headphones. Argh! Insanity will soon follow.

3:11pm: Nick Clegg in da house, accompanied by shit dance music. The crowd on their feet for a miserable 30 second ovation.

3:12pm: Clegg immediately makes the whole thing incredibly somber by talking about the deaths of British service personnel.

3:13pm: Some red meat on Afghanistan perhaps? Talking of failure, the need to change course. Says he may support troop withdrawal if we don’t change course. Not bad.

3:14pm: “You cannot win a war on half horse power”. Not going to set the media alight, Nick…

3:17pm: Starting to talk about Lib Dem priorities now. It’s all too general though. All could have been said by David Cameron.

3:18pm: on the side of the weak, not the powerful, apparently. Well. There’s a revelation.

3:19pm: addressing the disunity of the conference. Turning it into a positive, how he’s leading a democratic party, etc, etc. “We are in this together” appeal for unity. Fair enough.

3:20pm: “let today mark the beginning of real change in Britain”. Umm. Why?

3:20pm: change of tack, now listing the problems of the UK. “We need an extraordinary government”. Would that be your one, by any chance? Well, it’s certainly not Labour or the Tories, who get a good smashing.

3:21pm: criticising the old “red-blue” politics. We might call it Wispa politics. What else is red and blue?

3:22pm: attacking Labour as betraying the best hopes of a generation.

3:23pm: The country wants change. So what change is on offer? Criticises Cameron, and the message of “fake change”. Britain deserves better, says Clegg. Point made, now move on.

3:24pm: Wants the Lib Dems to “earn power” as opposed to the easy route for the Tories. Well, there’s no other route for the third-party in British politics.

3:25pm: It’s Nick’s wedding anniversary. Easy round of applause.

3:25pm: Back to Cameron. “There’s less to him than meets the eye”. Spending too long on the Clegg v Cameron comparison now. It’s not going to win any votes I’m afraid.

3:26pm: Listing historic achievements of the Party now. Possibly a useful thing to do to answer the age old question of “What is the point of the Lib Dems?”. We need to remind people that the third-party does have some influence. And runs councils the length and breadth of the country.

3:27pm: easy round of applause by praising Vince Cable. But where’s the beef?

3:28pm: attacking the Tories again. Has he been looking at that dodgy Daily Politics poll? Or is it those numerous Tory-Lib Dem marginals that are going to fall at the next election?

3:29pm: “there is only one party that will bring real change to Britain” – but what is the change, Nick? We’re waiting for the actual narrative, not vague promises.

3:30pm: rejects immediate spending cuts, but “tight spending” in the future. Not quite the “savage cuts” of previous speeches/interviews.

3:31pm: trying to emphasise that fiscal discipline has a purpose, no other way to build a fair society if the country is bankrupt after all.

3:32pm: attacking Conservatives again. “We remember and we say never again” as he talks of their previous spending cuts. Lib Dems will do it differently, he says.

3:33pm: Obama-like rhetoric. I recall during a presidential debate Obama talking about how he would save money by a line-by-line examination of the budget and removing programs that don’t work. That’s what Clegg has promised. Nothing too ground-breaking though.

3:35pm: laundry list of cancellations to save money. Decent stuff.

3:36pm: talking starkly to the public sector workers about the difficult times ahead. I like this. It’s what the country needs.

3:37pm: discipline on pay is the way forward rather than mass redundancies. No one could disagree though.

3:38pm: addressing my generation now and youth unemployment. It’s a very good issue. But the youth just won’t vote, the ungrateful bastards. Trying to get there by-proxy by appealing to their parents though.

3:39pm: decent rhetoric though, but is he not going to let the young people down by supporting tuition fees? That’s been glossed over so far. Instead, it’s all about how to get youth unemployment down. Expect most of these ideas to be stolen by the next election by either Labour or Conservatives. Why? Because they aren’t ideological.

3:41pm: getting more aggressive… attacking the useless VAT cut, money could be better spent elsewhere. Indeed.

3:42pm: “to build a fair society you have to start with children”. Fairness is the better theme to this speech. But it needed to run throughout the whole thing, not just picked up now.

3:43pm: tax system now under the microscope. same theme of fairness. Policy being re-emphasised, which is good. It’s only by continuing to repeat it again and again will the media finally realise what we’re saying.

3:44pm: the rich now getting a hammering. The affluent are only going to vote Lib Dem at the next election if they have some sort of social conscience, it seems!

3:45pm: “taking these difficult decisions is the price of fairness”

3:46pm: the one policy that he wants to emphasise? “We will deliver fair taxes”. OK – so he’s decided the key message. He’s targeting the back pocket. Higher personal allowance thresholds.

3:47pm: turning now to the expenses scandal… and he’s right. We’ve had a disaster in the political system and nothing really has changed. Will political reform resonate on the doorstep? Or is this just to placate the audience?

3:48pm: First Past the Post now getting attacked. “Nearly half of Britain’s constituencies have elected the same party in every election since I was born?” Is this rhetoric about electoral reform turning into a pre-condition for coalition or confidence negotiations?

3:49pm: now praising all his Shadow Cabinet. Imagining what would happen if the Lib Dems won power in their own right. It’s just all a liberal wet dream, Nick!

3:51pm: an attempt to make people realise what the Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet would be like in power is an interesting idea. But this is all going to end up on the cutting room floor.

3:52pm: turning now to climate change. Easy territory for the party. But is he going to be honest about the serious challenge ahead? Reckons no one but the Lib Dems will be the best to represent the party internationally. Attacks Labour: “has undermined Britain in the world”. May persuade some Labour voters.

3:53pm: Now the Tories turn… what would they be like on the international stage? “the most insular and self-defeating of modern times”. This is good for us Lib Dems, but I don’t think it will be winning Tories over.

3:54pm: Getting to the point now… Lib Dems would be better at it, of course. International law, heart of Europe. Real change for Britain. Fairness? It needed a link here!

3:55pm: now trying to appeal to the voter directly. “if you like what you hear, if you share our vision… then go with your instincts. Vote Liberal Democrat”.

3:59pm: “choose the party that is different. Choose the Liberal Democrats” is the final rallying cry. You’ll have to excuse me, I missed the last couple of minutes due to a phonecall. Bah!

4:01pm: As the customary standing ovation begins, the BBC News Channel have moved to the UN. Such typical bad timing for us Lib Dems.

4:02pm: Well… unless I missed something spectacular in those three minutes, I’d rate it at no more than a B+. There were some good moments, some knitting together of the key themes. But fairness ought to have been the central issue, and referenced in every single bit of policy discussed.

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