Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Analysis: Clegg's conference speech just wasn't good enough

When LDV rave about it, you know you need to look very carefully at what a LibDem Leader says. Newsnight's Michael Crick says it was an "average effort".

On presentation, Mr Clegg clearly wants people to draw a Cameron parellel with his apparent noteless effort, wandering around the stage. I thought he sounded like a VIth Form debating student. It was then also revealed that Mr Clegg was reading from an enormous autocue being suspended at the back of the hall. Oh dear.

Now on the rhetoric. If I were Clegg, given his record in undermining Campbell and his party's history in dumping leaders, I wouldn't have bothered with the attack on Labour and their leadership problem. Ditto scrap the attempt to empathise with people who cannot afford heating - your idea of cutbacks is shopping at Sainsburys rather than Waitrose. Clegg also says he spoke to a pensioner recently; given the fact he doesn't know the rate of the state pension, why on earth didn't they cut this line? Schoolboy error there.

The attack on Conservative policies was also very very weak. On Newsnight the night before, Clegg said he wouldn't expand on policies for risk of Labour stealing their ideas (note to Clegg: not even they are that desperate). And yet what do you attack Cameron for? Yep, not expanding on policy ideas. For the Tories, Clegg says its all blue skies thinking. A bit like the £20bn LibDem cuts then? We're in favour of tax cuts, says Clegg, but not lowering the tax take. And people can have £20bn minus what we want to spend on services. This is absolute nonsense; a ridiculous policy position and next time a LibDem complains about people turning away from politics, remind them that this is why. Apparently the Tories are a "say everything, do nothing party". Pots. Kettle. Black. Ever read a FOCUS leaflet, Nick? He then blows his credibility apart with he claims the LibDems will be in government. Er, no, check the MORI poll.

Onto LibDem ideas, in which he first pledges to trust the instinct of the British people. Not on Lisbon, obviously. No, Sir-ee, that we should trust the government. On everything else you can trust the people. "Everyone we know from the last 50 years will change in the next 5." What?!?!

Nick's action plan:
1. Stop unjustified repossessions. Doesn't say how. Is he saying everything and doing nothing? Err ... Clegg clings to Cable's popularity instead.
2. Stop City bonuses. Apparently he wants to regulate the City more; are the LibDems saying we ought to regulate their paypackets too??? Isn't this the job of shareholders? Because if I owned shares in a company that did badly and still gave bonuses I'd go bananas.
3. Interest rates to take into account house prices. Haven't you just rewritten the whole government economic policy? Interest Rates are used usually to control inflation. What happens to inflation then? Or did you just not think this bit through?
4. Tax Cuts. Great, we can agree on something. Clegg does his usual line about Tory tax cuts for millionaires. I would benefit from the Tory plans on Inheritance Tax; does that make me a millionaire? Great! Clegg says all teachers should be millionaires. It is a silly claim and makes them look very stupid indeed.

All I can say is thank god I didn't get a call from Clegg tonight .... but even then, I notice they don't want to hear my views, it's an automated call and not a conversation with voters. Given their hypocrisy with complaining about other parties, I hope the OIC throw the book at them!

Overall, Clegg should be happy he got through without falling over or fluffing his lines. It wasn't a great speech and the phonecall debacle will take the shine off the speech. The LibDems still haven't sorted what their attack on the Tory Leader should be but he was more effective against Labour. His views on policy came across as waffly (odd, considering he attacked Cameron for being vague on policy) but he generalised section on liberalism was actually quite good. On tone, I think he tried to go angry but came across as wet. And for a party that is challenging Labour it is odd that the biggest claps came for his anti-Tory lines. He ought to take note.

So a mixed bag really, but for a major party leader at 12% in the polls he should have done better.

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