Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nick Clegg's speech: More impressed than I expected to be

Thanks to the BBC for the tag cloud. That page also has the full text of the speech and a video of Nick giving it.

I watched Nick Clegg's speech on television in the Lib Dem News office at Bournemouth, having just helped write this Friday's front page story about it. From a purely professional point of view, I was pleased that all the passages we picked out to quote received resounding applause.

My first reaction was that it was a pleasing change that there was so little angst before the speech. With Ming and, latterly, Charles Kennedy there was so much speculation about whether they could save their leadership each year, that the occasion became fraught for everyone concerned. Not only that, but Nick looked good and sounded good.

I liked the section on children - this was not featured in the party's press release on the speech but it will be in the Lib Dem News report - and three cheers for this on education:

We can engage parents, too - giving them the power to set up schools if that's what their community needs.

Like parents did in Lambeth with help from a Liberal Democrat council.

Making education people-sized, people-shaped.

That means making sure there are different kinds of school.

To suit different kinds of children.

One size fits no-one.
That is how speeches are set out - it looks like a poem.

I think the "Labour is finished" and "I can tell you where we're headed. Government" were a mistake. The Labour government may well be finished, but I think we have had enough talk of replacing parties for a while. And the latter quotation has unwelcome echoes of David Steel.

We also need a list of spending cuts that will win public support. Nick began the process:

When government has proved itself incapable of keeping people's data secure.

Why is it spending nearly thirteen billion pounds on a botched NHS IT system?

When our soldiers need inexpensive, off-the-shelf armoured vehicles today.

Why is government spending fourteen billion on over complex tanks that won't be ready for years?

When we want local government to respond to the needs of local people....

Why are they spending more than a billion pounds filling in forms for Whitehall inspectors?
But this list also displays the dangers. Of course we are against botched IT systems, but it is hard to believe that IT will not play an increasing role in the health service and that it will not cost a great deal of money as it does. More work is needed here.

We also need to think harder about how we come to grips with David Cameron. He is a bit of an Andrex puppy, but as we have an ever more endearingly puppy-like leader of our own that may be a hard charge for us to make stick.

Overall, though, I was impressed, and more impressed than I expected to be. I just hoped we did not lose to much support by cold calling the voters afterwards.

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