Hit or Miss?

Nick Clegg's first Lib Dem party conference speech as Deputy PM.

Slick Nick Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg urged anxious party members to hold their nerve as he delivered his first party conference speech as Deputy Prime Minister. In an address cleared by David Cameron, Clegg sought to reassure his party that spending cuts were not part of an ideological agenda. The Times' leader column praised the 'serious, well-judged speech', but The Guardian's Polly Toynbee was reminded of 'Tony Blair in the Iraq war debate'.

How I see it


This was a reasonably bold speech aimed squarely at Clegg's rebellious troops. It was an appeal against insurrection. And it worked, for the time being.

It was not remotely concerned with the outside world. For the media, he delivered a strong hook, which made a single headline in every newspaper from the Daily Mail to the FT. That was 'keeping faith'.

But Clegg has two serious headaches. His party members hate being in power with the Tories and he is polling rock-bottom support among the public. This speech helped cement his leadership of his party and will keep the coalition on track. He got a warm response, not an ecstatic one. Where was the celebration?

It will have done very little to boost the Lib Dems' standing with voters. Long term, that's a big problem for Clegg.


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