Top Speech to Launch the Election Campaign
I know I’m in a minority of people who watch political speeches and amongst an even smaller number who get inspired by them. To admit to being impressed by Nick Clegg puts me in a very narrow niche indeed.
But despite being a little weary of the Glasgow conference I thoroughly enjoyed the leader’s speech.
Clegg was clear, thoughtful and passionate. He set out a vision of liberalism that was, to me at least, plausible and persuasive. Ideas like waiting targets for mental health patients show that the party still has the ability to lead on important issues that would otherwise be crowded out. This is the radical edge that has been so difficult to detect through the straightjacket of coalition. Here it was again – absolutely brilliant policy and sharp enough to cut through in the media.
It was also great to see there was ample room for the repeated commitment to the five green laws that we’ll have in the manifesto. This is a key part of the Lib Dem agenda that does not always get high enough billing. Here it was rightly ranking alongside a tax pledge and the arms race on NHS spending.
All the core strands of Lib Dem DNA were there – fighting to protect civil liberties, education and opportunity for the many not the few, tax cuts for low earners paid for by those that can afford to pay a little more. Internationalist in foreign affairs and committed to wholesale and extensive devolution of powers from Whitehall on the domestic front. Fiscal responsibility with a social conscience.
There is increasing room for a rational, reformist, centre-ground agenda in British politics. Here was a leader pitching that liberal vision for the next election with energy and determination. It was the best speech I’ve seen from him.