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The revolution starts here

Betsan Powys | 10:16 UK time, Thursday, 8 November 2007

Thursday night? It must be Cardiff for Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg, the men who want to step into Menzies Campbell's running shoes. No time for idle chit chat. I get two minutes with Mr Clegg, about 45" with Mr Huhne, whose eyes shut down the moment I ask why he thinks Mike German has plumped for his opponent.

The news had clearly reached Nick Clegg. "I thought he was telling you that tomorrow ... but Mike and I go back a long way ..." He even managed to keep smiling as the Welsh Lib Dem President, hurrying past, got his name wrong. "It's Nick actually!" These two horse races - enough to confuse even your sharpest Lib Dem minds.

And being Lib Dems they'd thought long and hard about how things should be done. Who goes first? 'We drew lots earlier' the very full room is informed just as the bus from Brecon arrives a bit late. And there's more good news. Anyone can ask a question because 'this is a federal event'. Not us journalists though. Their 'friends in the media' would be asked to leave before the Q+A. If they're still here someone added ominously.

Two decent speeches from two men who really do seem to want the job. They both want it because being third isn't good enough, because the other parties are devoid of ideas, because they're fathers who want a better world for their children, because they know what it's like to live on the breadline (Chris Huhne once lived with a pensioner on the Peabody estate and Nick Clegg knows plenty of people from the poorer parts of Sheffield) but most of all, because they believe that there are thousands of us who want a Lib Dem revolution and would vote for them if they managed to deliver one.

If. I couldn't help myself. As Nick Clegg spoke I kept thinking about John Culshaw's impression of Tony Blair: "hand gesture, smile, tug shirt sleeves ...". It got even more confusing. He got on to the 'poorest kids'. "We've got to make sure more money goes to the poorest kids. It works. I've seen it. I've been to Rotterdam ..." Suddenly Pamela Stephenson's Not the Nine o'clock News social worker appeared before me: "Look I know these kids ..."

Chris Huhne got the longest claps but then his speech was prepared and full of 'that'll get 'em going' lines. Nick Clegg went for the off-the-cuff approach, mentioned Wales far more, seemed to think about Wales far more. He didn't even bother with the insults, having deflected an earlier "I don't want to be an heir to Blair or David Cameron's stump - or was that stunt? - double" from Huhne.

As we were turfed out, a lurid orange bucket went round - along with a plea from the new Welsh leader (did I just say 'new?) to his captive audience to get the local election campaign off to a flying start. "£10 can buy you 1000 extra Focus leaflets."

Be warned.

More news from the President as I left the room. It was all right he said. Someone had given Mick Bates a few quid so he could put his hand in his pocket.

Roll on the Lib Dem revolution.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 12:28 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Richard Harris wrote:

"Tufty shall go to Paris!"

Those were the (very liberal) days!

  • 2.
  • At 02:36 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Vern wrote:

Thursday night Betsan? So is this your prediction for how things will go and last night was simply a dress rehersal?

With this level of telepathy can you also tells us who wins the vote? That way I can forget about the 'new Lloyd George' (sic) and instead envelop myself in the hillarious Labour Party split over the Post Office closures which appears to have them running around like headless chickens in Cardiff South....

Well spotted Vern. I was obviously guilty of willing my life away ...

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