Clegg speech reactions: Lib Dems fall over themselves to praise Nick

Nick Clegg and wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez after his speech
Nick Clegg and wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez after his speech
Alex Stevenson By

It was, in truth, one of Nick Clegg's better speeches. He shouted more. He reinvented the sweeping hand gesture. He defended his coalition government project with the passion of a man whose career depends on it - which, of course, it does.

After not having received a standing ovation at the start of his speech - in stark contrast to David Cameron in Birmingham last week - the deputy prime minister got his audience going with a well-crafted speech which really did get the job done.

As you'd expect, the burbling enthusiasm which followed was overblown and fulsome. In order to avoid this being a basically pointless exercise, the political journalist has to have their antennae extended much further than usual. So I've added my own little notes of translation to aid the process.

Menzies Campbell, MP for North-East Fife and former Liberal Democrat leader


What he said: "This is the new Nick - impassioned, unabashed, the old Grimond dictum 'I will lead my troops towards the sound of gunfire' - if his job was to send people home with a spring in their step he's certainly done that, and with solid policy substance as well. Liberal Democrat values as well, the old-time religion."

Genuinely excited, full of vigour and vim, thoroughly inspired. For a man criticised for being tired while in the top job himself, he looks as if he'd just popped out for a quick, refreshing run

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish secretary

What he said: "He's identified priorities, especially in relation to tax cuts for working people and prioritising the NHS as an area of spending, which I think will have resonance in homes up and down the country.

"We did a difficult, possibly even counter-intuitive thing of going into a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. It's not been easy for anyone, but we've stuck with it, and as he said today we've got a record we can point to of achievements which we have rebuilt the economy and helped to make Britain a fairer place. There is still an awful lot to do and what you saw today was the roadmap for the next five years after the next election."

Carmichael is acknowledging the bleak overtones to this speech - the expectation that the 2015 election is going to be a horrendous experience for this party. Coalition may prove indefensible, but Clegg's going to give it a go. What other choice does he have?

Jo Swinson, equalities minister

"I thought it was a really inspiring speech, very rousing and laid out very clearly the alternatives there are.

"We rely hugely on our dedicated volunteers up and down the country to go out and speak to people on the doorstep and really make that campaign come to life. For so many people, having people discuss the issues on the doorstep is really important. So it's a fantastic message those doing that work have been sent home with to go and continue that campaign."

The basic point of party conference leaders' speeches is to drum up the grassroots into ecstasies of enthusiasm that will drive them to go out leafleting and door-knocking in the miserable weather of autumn and winter. Swinson thinks Clegg's done enough to get the party faithful - those that are left of it, anyway - going.

Tom Brake, deputy leader of the Commons

What he said: "I was really impressed that Nick put liberalism at the heart of his speech. He underlined the battle we've got on our hands but I think we'll be standing up for good decent liberal values in the face of what risks being a very negative campaign being conducted by the other parties.

"We know that we are in the middle of a pincer movement from the Labour party and the Conservative party, and Ukip are on the rise as well. But the fundamental values of compassion, reason and liberalism which are at the heart of our philosophy will win the day in many seats up and down the country."

Brake goes furthest in highlighting "the battle we've got on our hands" -and is convinced that his party have the right answer to the creeping cynicism which Clegg identified in his speech.

Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge

What he said: "I was particularly pleased to hear a party leader put so much emphasis on mental health. I can't imagine any other party leader bothering to make it a centrepiece, even though it affects millions of people.

"It was about values, about what we're trying to do. On the fundamental issue Nick is absolutely right. Labour are deeply flawed and the Tories will just attack the wrong things. You have to have that liberal vision and the politics of hope."

Clegg's mental health waiting times policy got a huge round of applause in the conference hall. It's a really important measure and the Lib Dems emphatically endorsed Clegg's resolve to put it "smack bang on the front page" of the party's 2015 manifesto.

Duncan Brack, former special adviser to Chris Huhne

"It was a really good speech. To be honest, Nick is not always as good on the environment. You've got to cover so much, sometimes he doesn't touch on it at all. But he highlighted our record, he highlighted our five green laws."

The man whose speech yesterday prompted the party leadership's biggest defeat has a lot of making-up to do...

Qassim Afzal, federal policy committee member

"I liked the beginning - he made clear how we differentiate from the people in Isis. They have no relationship to Islam, it was very important he made that difference. Muslims like myself have condemned it, it was an atrocity beyond comprehension.

"I liked the beginning where he said everything wasn't perfect, he's being honest about it, but then showing we're a united party, positive and moving forward, differentiating ourselves from the Conservatives.

"You can see around here, the delegates, the representatives have got a buzz in their feet."

This just about sums up the point of a speech like this. Clegg has galvanised the party supporters. Against all the odds, they're leaving Glasgow cheerful.

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