It's conference season, as such anyone who's anyone in a political party wants to be at their respective conference - it seems that almost all of the bloggers and all of the politically related Twitter users I follow have been at the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham. Unfortunately for me, I've been in work. This has left me scrabbling around to follow what I can from a distance - which has been remarkably easy thanks to social media.
I spent large chunks of my weekend following BBC Parliament online, watching the conference live although I missed most of the speeches by the people you really want to hear from - I can't be the only one, so I've scoured the net to see what I can find as reading the text just isn't the same! I know that they are all available on the BBC's iPlayer, however you have to go out of your way to find the location of each one and they are only available for a week - so where possibly I've found longer lasting clips.
First up, of course, Nick Clegg with his speech on the opening Saturday:
I am pleased that he took the opportunity to honour Andrew Reeves who sadly passed away this year. I didn't know him, however I had read his excellent blog a few times and from the reaction it was obvious how much he meant to the Liberal Democrat community.
I think he was pretty right with this speech, it wasn't his key note speech, but he managed to sum up many key points whilst adding plenty of humour. I wonder how long it will be before the Daily Mail uses those headlines! The line that stuck out for me that I would emphasis is "We are not here to make things easy, we're here to put things right". I also like the fact he does bring up the fact we could have bottled it and stood on the sidelines - I always felt that this would have been the easiest and worst thing to do. I hope that this is a key message in the election campaign for 2015.
His key note speech however was a little more serious (a transcript can be found here), part 1:
Firstly, I'm not sure about the purple tie... He started the speech brilliantly. I love the fact he threw in the tweet by Alex Cole-Hamilton from May:
If losing was part payment for ending child detention then, as he said: “I accept it, with all my heart."
Then throwing in what I feel should be the key theme: Not doing the easy thing, but doing the right thing. Not easy, but right. However I'm not sure if for liberal's should only do something if it is "in the national interest" - I think it is much more than that, as often the national interest interferes with what is right. The national interest may be to protect our markets from overseas competition, it may be to not give international aide, it may be (in an extreme case) to oppress minorities so that their voices can't be heard, but these are neither fair nor liberal.
I think he was spot on with "Labour would have offered too little too late" - maybe this should be more of a response.
The section on tuition fees is what was needed last year, now I fear is too late as the perception is ingrained in the countries psyche.
I am pleased to see that the shared paternity leave was mentioned, I had assumed this had been kicked into the long grass as I hadn't heard it mentioned for a while. Definitely good news.
Hopefully Ed Miliband will answer his call to reform party funding - I can't see it happening though.
The section on his passion I found rather moving, most Liberal Democrats know how passionate he is about a fair start for every child but I find that it rarely get good media coverage. It is an impossible dream:
"Because this will not be a liberal nation until every citizen can thrive and prosper, until birth is no longer destiny, until every child is free to rise."
Just because it impossible though does not mean that we shouldn't try! If people aren't fighting the good fight then the gap will just get wider. Someone's circumstances will always influence their future, people born wealthy expect to be successful, but we should not stop trying to break down walls and open up as many options as possible.
I think the two week summer school for 11 year olds between Primary and Secondary school is an absolutely brilliant idea. It was amazing just how big the gap is even then. Those two weeks could really change their futures.
Overall I think he is excellent, the way he memorises his speeches is really impressive and to then speak with such passion. I think it should have been a good moral boost for Lib Dems - most of the messages in the speech reminded me of just why I am so proud to be a Lib Dem. The summation afterwards by Andrew Neil is unfortunately why it probably wont make a difference to the wider public, those who wont watch it in full, out of all of the positive things Nick said Andrew/the BBC picked up on the:
- Lack of an apology for joining the coalition (he was unrepentant - as if he should be).
- The anti Labour sentiments (the backroom boys - the Ed's).
- A strong message to the Tories on the human rights act (to be fair this is a positive from the speech but it was said just to create friction points with the Tories).
- They then glaze over his excellent social mobility section, the riots and then a doubting comment on the two week summer school which they don't even sound as if they were listening to.
Hopefully though, some people will have seen it.