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.