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Daily View: Verdicts on Nick Clegg's conference speech

Clare Spencer | 08:44 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

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Commentators give their verdict on the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's speech to the Liberal Democrat conference.

Andrew Pierce doesn't hold back in the Daily Mail, saying Nick Clegg's speech was one of the dullest he's attended in more than 20 years, full of cliches and lacking in policy:

"When Lib Dem MPs were wheeled out afterwards they all parroted from the same hymn sheet that it was a serious speech for serious times. What they really meant was they could hardly stay awake it was so boring."

John McTernan is even more scathing in the Telegraph, calling the speech "vain, self satisfied and downright dishonest":

"You wouldn't have thought that you could be hailed as a hero for destroying your party's brand for a generation, reducing your vote by nearly two-thirds and selling most of your seats to the Tories. Yet that happened to Clegg this afternoon. Of course, it was all just pantomime. Boos and hisses for the ogre (Gordon Brown) and the ugly sisters (the two Eds) and cheers for Buttons. In the end it was actually Peter Pan. All that applause was to keep Tinkerbell alive, and while that works on wee kids it doesn't work for adults. All voters know the truth about Clegg - and after such knowledge, what forgiveness?"

Faint praise comes from Simon Carr in the Independent. He says Nick Clegg is a "nice chap" but "you can't agree with anything he says":

"With all the immense strength, character, determination, optimism, and real leadership that Nick Clegg talked about so loudly - he turned himself up to 11 - you'd think the country would take better note. But they reached for the earplugs instead."

More upbeat is Liberal Democrat blogger Mark Pack who says in the New Statesman that the main message is promising and just needs to be spread around more:

"The anti-establishment lines got the heaviest applause. But the themes of Clegg's speech were not ones consistently portrayed throughout the rest of party conference. Indeed, the conference slogan itself ('In government, on your side') was far more notable by its absence from most of the other conference key note speeches and in itself is not really an anti-establishment.
"So if the 'in power but anti-establishment' message is to get over to the wider public, who pay only passing attention to political news most weeks, a lot more work remains to be done. "

Another fan is the Guardian's Julian Glover who says it was an "elegant, comforting, almost endearing essay". He says Mr Clegg managed to teach the party that they have changed:

"By entering power, he said, 'we all walked through a kind of door together'. Clegg knows there is no going back to the easy centre-left oppositionalism that many at this conference still want to see. Content to be in power and therefore compliant this week, Liberal Democrats have not yet realised what has changed for them. They can't be what they once were: the party of protest. At a future conference - 2013 perhaps - there will be serious trouble for the leadership when the party confronts this difficult fact."

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