National and Local politics from a Liberal Democrat from Gillingham, Kent
Monday, 14 March 2011
Nick Clegg's speech 13-3-11 a response
My biggest regret so far this year was that I was unable to go to the spring conference in Sheffield. I would have liked to go as this was the first conference since the Indian summer of the Coalition ended with the debacle of Tuition fees. I wanted to see first hand how the party members would react, how the media reacted and what Mr Clegg and the parliamentary party had to say for themselves.
As i said though I missed it. From what I have gathered from news reports and the "Twittersphere" it appears to have gone really well with only a few demonstrators, an epic speech from my party president Tim Farron and of course the closing speech by the Rt Hon Mr Nick Clegg MP.
It would take far too long to review every speech and every motion but I am going to talk about Nick's speech.
Again, annoyingly I missed the live version but I did spend my train journey home from work reading a transcript with highlighter in hand.
So what was it about? Well in a nutshell it was designed to reassure the party faithful that the parliamentary party is carrying out the manifesto promises, giving examples of promises that have been carried out by the party in power including the removal of control orders, child detention, the cuts in income tax, the pupil premium and many more. Did he take credit for these accomplishments?
Do you know who did that?
You did that- everyone in this hall.
You did it. You designed the policy.
You voted for it at a conference like this one. You campaigned for it and now it's happening.
The Speech also encourages Libdem activists to go out and tell the voters what we have accomplished, encourage people to vote Libdem and hold our heads up high again.
He talked about why the Libdems were at the forefront of the new politics and the ones who truly represent the "Alarm clock Britain." a soundbite that had many meanings but something Nick went onto describe and basically means most of us who are at the bottom rung and working classes.
They have been failed for generations. Failed by the tired tribalism of left and right.
There were also sly digs at their coalition partners, outlining that without the Libdems the Government would not have had so many warmer fuzzy policies such as the pupil premium, removal of control orders etc whilst also reinforcing that they made the right decision to go into power and not absconding from the responsibility. He also paints a picture of Coalition life has not been easy and that he had not been kidnapped by David Cameron and that the party were still distinctive although declining requests to fight out in the open.
The deficiet figured highly within the speech and Nick told the crowd that it was not why he went into politics and that the decisions were going to be hard and times tough but we can't carry on spending £400m a day in interest. These soundbites may sound tired and over used but at the same time they are painfully true. The country's deficit is immense and Labour's sniping and quibbling about cutting too deep and fast is not constructive. They have the warm comfort blanket of opposition to cling onto and do not have to show us their plans or implement them. Party tribalism aside though.... We HAVE to deal with the deficit and as Nick says: It is what we have to do - So we can do what we want to do.
There was even time to discuss the pros of AV with a witty comparison of the two sides and who stood for what. Encouragement to activists to go out and get people to vote yes in May and encouragement to bring in the new type of politics, from the middle to the middle. Providing responsible, caring, listening government and a stronger economy that we can all benefit from.
Clegg grasps the nettle of tuition fees and says university WILL become fairer. The Government will take steps to make top universities to open their doors to students from poorer backgrounds or lose their funding altogether. Unfortunately the media is still happy to portray the party as betraying its promise often at the cost of Liberal victories.
Other commentators have said, as Caroline Flint MP has, that the whole speech was totally meaningless.
After all, with the betrayal over tuition fees can Mr Clegg's word that any Government that he is part of would not privatise the NHS, or that the Government is listening to the concerns of the Libdems or even the voters?
I would like to believe so. I want to believe him, I want to agree with Nick again and for me this speech shows the strength and Liberal fire that he had last May -Lets hope it wasn't all hot air.