Sunday, 8 March 2009

Harrogate Conference: The Cleggster

Conference rounded off as usual with the Glorious Leader's speech.

Overall I thought Nick deserved an A for his delivery. He is becoming an impressive speaker and, apart from one or two minor stumbles, again gave a powerful and passionate delivery.

In terms of content, though, I think it was probably a B minus. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it, and indeed much of it was good liberal stuff, including the explicit mention of Europe as being vital to the UK's interests. But I didn't really feel there was an over-arching theme to the speech and I'm not sure there were any really memorable lines. Clegg also made a point that he wasn't including many jokes in the speech, which made it a very serious and earnest affair. Perhaps a couple more touches of humour might have lightened things a bit.

I also have a couple of minor quibbles with what he said. He attacked populism, without making clear what he meant by that. Saying the Iraq war was wrong might well be a populist message, but it can also be a liberal one, for instance. And his attack on populism doesn't really sit easily with his line about the bankers - "Disqualify them now, right now" - which sounded like pure populism to me.

I would also query Nick's assertion that the UK government 'loses' £40 billion a year through tax avoidance. Let's not forget that tax avoidance is about entirely legal means of minimising tax liabilities, so the government has never been entitled to that money in the first place. He probably needed to include a line about how we would simplify the tax system to make tax avoidance harder.

But overall this was a good speech in which Nick clearly set out the main policies that we'll be fighting the next election on. If you want to read the full speech, here it is.

UPDATE: One other thing I meant to say. While the criticism of Brown's 'British jobs for British workers' line was well-made, is it really true to say that Brown hasn't challenged protectionism in Europe?

1 comment:

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