What the pundits say

by Stephen Tall on September 20, 2007

Ming can breath a sigh of relief. It’s not just the Lib Dem conference delegates and blogosphere which have lauded his speech – even the media, which has delighted in reporting a conference taking place in an alternative parallel universe all week, has been forced to admit his speech was pretty damn good:

… the moment he stalked onto the stage, dropped the niceties and got stuck in to the state of Britain under Labour, the Lib Dem leader reminded his party why they had chosen him 18 months ago, and why they would be mad to drop him now.

If the catch-all criticism is that he’s too old, then he was right to declare that he would make a campaigning virtue of his 66 years. That wisdom and experience come with age may be a truism, but the point remains valid. On stage he looked more relaxed and at ease with his party. This time he avoided the awkward change-a-lightbulb waves. The speech was fluid, built of complete sentences, and even if some of passages were hackneyed beyond belief, the overall effect was a powerful answer to the doubters. He remains true to himself, has a plan, a set of liberal beliefs in an illiberal age, and some policies.

Ben Brogan, Daily Mail

Sir Menzies is not a natural tub-thumper, but he is evidently decent and has gained in both experience and confidence. This was a better performance than last year. … Ming is a happy warrior and will go home content. It has not been a bad week after all.

Michael White, The Guardian

Today [Ming] reminded his party that they picked him not despite his age, but because of his experience and judgement. … [he] spoke today of his energy and determination, of his anger, and his unwillingness to be silenced. His party responded. … [and] he spelt out detailed policies on the environment and taxation, and his commitment to protect civil liberties.

Nick Robinson, BBC

This was a business-like Leader’s speech from Sir Menzies Campbell. He kept his audience applauding for all 50 minutes (too long), because they liked what he was saying not because they were propping up a dead-man.

Well delivered, he used large teleprompter screens set far back in the audience. He did the job for the Liberal Democrats, positioning them as “the only alternative” to Labour and Tories scrapping for the centre ground.

Adam Boulton, Sky News

Well he did it, and did it well. Ming’s speech – and for veterans of this party conference it has been long time coming – was worth waiting for. It went down well in the hall, not least because of the jokes, just one of the several key contributions of Sir Menzies young but clearly talented speechwriter Euan Roddin.

They included:

On John Redwood’s tax commission: “Would you believe it?Advice from the Vulcan First Officer. Ideas straight from the bridge of the Starship Free Enterprise. Policies, Dave – but not as we know them.”

On Boris Johnson: “The blondest suicide note in history”

It was a step change from last year, and some of the passeges were particularly fluent. They pleased the crowd, were delivered well, and lifted the mood in the hall. Delegates will go home happy.

Sam Coates, The Times

Ming blasted apart expectations and delivered an extraordinary speech. But here’s the thing. Ming’s speech wasn’t just good by comparison to previous performances. It was good in its own right; as a piece of oratory it stands out, deservedly so. Far from the dithering, tired, bumbling and mumbling performances of recent pasts Ming Campbell looked strong, resolute, dynamic, tough, tenacious and not simply ready, but spoiling, for a fight.

Shane Greer on Iain Dale’s Diary

Nothing yet in from The Times’s Daniel Finkelstein – doubtless he is, even now, working out a way to write up Ming’s speech as a disaster in his customarily impartial way.

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Don’t think it was a disaster. A kind of triumph for not being a disaster? Newsnight’s rat fink Crick gave it 7/10 as Leaders’ Speeches go. Which is fair. Fair to middling.

But I do like Ming. Far better I’d say than the two front runners for what comes next. Ming is aloof from the fibbing and dodginess that goes on at local level. Huhne and Clegg are there doing it.

by Chris Paul on September 21, 2007 at 8:25 am. Reply #

Even some Conservative blogs are saying he did a pretty decent job in his speech, but it didn’t exactly set the political scene on fire.

by Letters From A Tory on September 21, 2007 at 9:32 am. Reply #

You forgot to include me as one of the pundits (you need to scroll down).
The report is a bit inaccurate. What I said to the reporter is that the next more difficult stage is to get the message out to the country as a whole, despite the efforts of cynical journalists.
I did not say that I was personally going to get the message out to the country as a whole – after all Hackney is a difficult enough challenge as it is…

by Geoffrey Payne on September 21, 2007 at 9:39 am. Reply #

A good speech by Ming and the hacks have written it up very fairly. i was amazed that Nick Robinson in his evening package was even nice about Ming’s slightly bizarre final gesture to the hall to rise to their feet – very evangelical. still, he was empassioned, personal and on the offensive. bits of the delivery still looked a little awkward and Ming should fine tune some of his body language but this is all peripheral stuff: on the substance of what he said, thankfully he was as critical of cameron as he was of brown. there was no repeat of the bungle last time round with confused messages over whether PR was a red-line in any coalition and Ming has made it unambiguous that the Lid Dems are forging a radical maifesto that has social justice and fairness at its core. I still don’t feel there was enough of a theme at conference. most voters will remmeber only a handful of LD policies so they need to be sold bigger picture ideas as well as striking policy initiatives. I thought breaking the ‘cosy consensus’ is a great theme and i only wish that it had been repeated endlessly thorughout the past four days at conference. still, all in all ming answered his detractors. great stuff.

Equally, one swallow does not make a summer: Ming needs to take his new found zeal and make sure every time he is in a position to do so, he demostrates this energy and passion. no one wants to see ming doing the whole yaboo thing, but we want to see the fire in his belly.

by Olly Kendall on September 21, 2007 at 9:44 am. Reply #

Decent speech – certainly better than in the past.

Only trouble was no one was paying any attention. Even the ten o’clock news did not run it as a headline and gave it one minute at 10.20.

Been a bad conference really because so many other things were going on in the news that no one was paying the slightest attention

by Libby Dem on September 21, 2007 at 11:43 am. Reply #

It was a good speech – well delivered – he looked much more confident and worked better with his notes in front of him as well as the long range autocues (he hates these and it cuased problems in the past).

The main thing is that the press have written it up well even if people didn’t see it the message was all good about him giving a good performance and had some great sound bites.

For the rest of us the content is excellent – he certainly took Brown apart.

by Paul L on September 21, 2007 at 12:36 pm. Reply #

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