Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Nick strikes the right note

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem leadership came away relatively unscathed from the conference at Liverpool. Delegates staged a symbolic revolt over the controversial 'free schools' issue but the real test will come at Birmingham next year when the cuts have started to bite and the AV referendum may well have been lost.

Clegg's speech was short, sober and restrained and was designed to reassure anxious delegates. It largely achieved that objective. Many of them are councillors who have experienced coalition arrangements in local government and hence are familiar with the constraints and opportunities they offer.

If the Lib Dems had not entered a coalition and forced a second election they would have suffered at the polls. As it is, they have shown they are prepared to accept the responsibilities of government. Whether they will be given any electoral credit for that is another matter.

To those who believe the Lib Dems should have entered a coalition with Labour, Clegg said that Labour had ordered the invasion of Iraq, run roughshod over Britain's civil liberties and brought the country to the bank of bankruptcy.

Clegg had one decent joke about New Labour authors: 'Never in the field of political memoirs has so much been written by so few about so little.'

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