Blogging the Lib Dem hustings…

by Stephen Tall on January 14, 2006

Sir Ming Campbell

A sound speech, emphasising his deeply-rooted liberal credentials. The references to Joe Grimond signalled clearly his intentions – that’s a good thing – but Ming could do with emphasising more the future, or else he risks self-defining his stereotype as a 1950s’ patrician Liberal out-of-step with modern Britain. He could also do with loosening up his speaking style – read less and extemporise more – to freshen up his message, and avoid looking like he’s delivering the encomium at a memorial service.

Best quote: of David Cameron – “This is the man who was Michael Howard’s conscience. Now he expects us to believe he’s experienced a conversion on the road from Notting Hill.”


Simon Hughes

An inspiring speech, as you might expect from our most inspiring speaker. The pitch here was explicitly aimed at tickling activists’ g-spots: fighting poverty, safeguarding our liberties, and achieving social justice. We all know how passionately-held are Simon’s beliefs, how much he so clearly cares, and how well he could campaign against Labour. What was missing here was the corrective to what some of us fear is Simon’s weak point: can he prove that the Liberal Democrats, under his leadership, could be trusted with the economy? I want to hear more from him on that in the coming weeks.

Best quote: “I want the Liberal Democrats of 2006 to be as courageous and principled as the Liberals of 1906. Just as it was, a century ago, the Liberal hour; this century I want our time to be the Liberal Democrat hour.”


Chris Huhne

A thoughtful, sonorous speech that will have dispelled any notion that Chris is the Lib Dems’ answer to David Cameron (both positively and negatively). Chris needs to learn that a leader’s speech must have both light and shade: the Lib Dems will not be able to lecture ourselves into power. More positively, the content was meaty, and flagged up a green, localist agenda that could make the party’s appeal distinctive from both Labour and the Tories. But such an approach must be shown to be ‘carrot first’; Chris’s passion appears to be for the stick.

Best quote: “The sugar on the pill of higher eco-taxes must be lower personal taxes directed at the bottom end, and fulfilling our fairness agenda. It’s a nonsense that we set a minimum wage, and then turn around and charge income tax on it.”


Mark Oaten

Mark got off on the wrong foot with me today, with his “let’s win for Charles” pitch for the loyalty vote. More frustratingly, though, is the fact that Mark can be very good. He is a relaxed speaker, can tell a good joke, and appears to enjoy the opportunity of parading his views. Equally his defence of civil liberties against New Labour’s onslaught is welcome. But his delivery manages to be both earnest and lightweight: it’s a killer combination. Two quick suggestions for improvements. First, lose the wristband (way too try-hard). Secondly, if you’re going to ape Cameron’s ‘look mum, no notes’ approach, don’t retreat to the lectern half-way through your speech.

Best quote: “We’re going where the country is going. The future is Liberal, and the future of this Party is Liberal. Twenty-first century Liberalism is about realising our potential.”