by Stephen Tall on September 21, 2010
There’s a tendency after party leaders’ speeches — and this applies across the political divide — to term them “uplifting”, “inspirational”, or “his best yet”. Partly it’s unavoidable: the media wants an insta-reaction. Any senior or grassroots Lib Dem sounding less-than-orgasmic will find their words spreading virally like wildfire, as the media picks up on the slightest note of dissent.
I stand by what I wrote yesterday about Nick’s speech to conference. But there were a couple of things I deliberately held back until the news media had moved on. When I called it “sober”, this was of course a euphemism for “a little bit dull and worthy”. The speech was policy-list-heavy, and lacking in any real driving narrative. There was no story underpinning it; its optimism felt forced; my whelm was undered.
Perhaps the Indy has ESP, for despite saying none of these things when asked my opinion, I find myself labelled in today’s paper as:
The worried blogger
Stephen Tall: “It was a sober speech overall, without the usual knockabout stuff that you would usually get in a Nick Clegg speech … This was Clegg acting in his role as Deputy Prime Minister – it was naturally different in tone.”
Personally I think I’m better sticking with this site’s sub-title, The Collected Stephen Tall… The Worried Blogger just doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid.
In any case, I’m not (that) worried. Though Nick’s leader’s speech didn’t set my pulse racing or my heart on fire, it was okay: a bit workmanlike, a bit stodgy… but fine nonetheless. But it was his speech to the party rally on Saturday night which I’ll remember. The last of six speakers, he came out and rocked the hall… following a Tim Farron barnstormer is never an easy gig, but Nick has acquired both stature and gravitas in the past year, and a real self-assurance.
For all that we liberals — with our deprecation of celebrity politics and personality cults — have a suspicion of our leaders, there’s no doubt that being Deputy Prime Minister has given Nick a certain aura, a certain mesmeric ability to win over a crowd. But more than that, Nick seemed at ease: he made jokes at his own and colleagues’ expense, and he sold a postive vision of Lib Dems achieving things right at the heart of government.
The crucial line for me was: “Last year I said I wanted to be Prime Minister. For the record, I still do.” A simple but brilliant way of demonstrating quite how far he (and we) have travelled in the past year; demonstrating our ambition, despite disappointing general election results, isn undimmed; and bigging himself up in a deliciously understated fashion. The result? We all left uplifted and inspired, and I thought it was his best conference speech yet.