Clegg speech: Lib Dem reactions

Prominent Lib Dems talk to politics.co.uk about Nick Clegg’s conference speech.

Former leader Menzies Campbell

“I thought this was a speech addressing three different audiences: our audience in the hall, our coalition partners and those who voted Liberal Democrat and might be thinking of turning back to Labour. There was heavy artillery turned on Labour, reminding previous Labour supporters just how bad it has been under Labour.

“We’re in this for the long term. This has been part of the Liberal Democrat approach. We’re against the short-termism of this country. It’s entirely consistent with the view politics needs to change.

“This is a reflective conference. There was no triumphalism. How could there be triumphalism in a conference like this? He’s direct, he speaks straight from the shoulder. People know where he stands. It was workmanlike and impressive.”

Deputy leader Simon Hughes

“It was a serious speech for serious times. It was saying our party is equipped and able to be in government. Life’s more difficult if you’re in power than it is if you’re out. People must bear with us. We’re not going to let them down. We’ll stick with our values.

“That was delivered to our members, saying: ‘members, don’t be nervous, stick with us’. I think generally people understand that and know we made the right decision.

“The party is not being triumphalist. Although we’re celebrating being in power for the first time in 65 years, it would be an inappropriate time for people to be jumping up and down when we know how hard the world outside is for so many people. It was a subdued speech in some ways. The conference gave a supporting, affirmative answer.”

Former MP Lembit Opik

“Nick Clegg knows there are concerns about coalition and he could have ignored them and carried the audience, but instead he took the high road which was to tackle those concerns directly. He said: ‘look, give us a chance to sort out this mess and judge us on the outcomes. Wait until we get to the destination in 2015.

“Nick Clegg gave us a hard sell today because he gave us the basic truth. You don’t solve a problem like the UK economy in six months. It’s hard enough to do it in two years. The Tories have to do the same thing, let’s face it, and Labour will keep harping from the sidelines. If we keep our resolve and do what Nick Clegg has asked us to do, we will recover. In a sense we have to put country above party.

“There’s a message to the public saying: ‘if you voted Lib Dem, give us a chance to prove ourselves in government’. But more than anything, Nick Clegg was saying: ‘stick to the programme, guys, were in government now. We’ve fought hard for many decades to get here, let’s not throw it away with the first wobble’.”