As it happened: Wednesday at the Lib Dem conference

Key points

  • Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg delivers his keynote speech on the last day of the conference
  • He defends the government's economic strategy and says his number one mission is to give every child a fair start in life
  • Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams also address delegates
  • Party members hold a second debate on the controversial NHS Reform Bill
  1.  
    0916:

    Good morning and welcome to final day of our live coverage of the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham. After four days of warm-up acts, the headline performer, Nick Clegg, will give his leader's speech at about 1445 BST.

     
  2.  
    0917:

    We're also expecting speeches from Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams, and there'll be a debate on the ever-thorny issue of NHS reform.

     
  3.  
    0918:

    We know Nick Clegg is going to defend the government's economic strategy - and in the light of gloomy predictions from the International Monetary Fund yesterday, it might need some defending. A 0.4% downgrade in predicted UK growth and a one in six chance of us falling back into recession was not music to anyone's ears.

     
  4.  
    0919:

    There's no changing course on spending cuts, Mr Clegg will say, but that's doesn't mean the government is powerless to help with growth and unemployment. Read more about what we're expecting from him here.

     
  5.  
    jaggythistle

    comments on the BBC story: The Lib Dem brand is currently so toxic it doesn't really matter what Mr Clegg says. He and his party simply cannot be trusted.

     
  6.  
    0920:

    Things are under way in the main hall - although it's far to say it's a slow start. A discussion on local election regulations with a somewhat limited audience. It's "the graveyard slot of all graveyard slots", says Sir David Williams, of Twickenham and Richmond, moving the motion.

     
  7.  
    BBC Radio 4 Today

    tweets: 'We prevented a Tory government' #LibDems party president @timfarron tells @JustinOnWeb

     
  8.  
    0925:

    The hall yet to fill up...

    Lib Dem conference hall
     
  9.  
    0928:

    From the very local to the international, the hall is now discussing a motion on the Arab Spring. It expresses support for the green shoots of democracy and calls on the UK, EU and G8 to nurture those economically and politically.

     
  10.  
    0931:

    There's been much soul-searching in Birmingham this week about the party's role in government. My colleague Gavin Stamp has been asking delegates what they really think about the realities of power.

     
  11.  
    Andrew Grice, Political Editor for the Independent,

    writes: "Companies and entrepreneurs could quit Britain unless the 50p top rate of income tax is abolished, David Laws, the Liberal Democrat former cabinet minister, warned yesterday."

     
  12.  
    0937:

    Naomi Smith, Westminster, is speaking in favour of an amendment to the motion which argues that religious freedoms and human rights for all are best protected by a liberal and secular state. She says there have been rumblings from some in the Arab Spring nations about the desire for government's based on Islamic Sharia law and she fears this could lead to repression.

     
  13.  
    The Commentator

    tweets: August sets UK public sector net borrowing record of 15.9 billion, suggesting continued parlous state of economy. Big blow for govt.

     
  14.  
    0941:

    John McHugo, Putney, and chair of the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, is arguing for the second motion on the Middle East. He says the UK must make more effort to educate Israelis who deny the need for a Palestinian state. "End the culture of denial, Nick," he tells his party leader, "Get in touch with David Cameron and tell him to get on with it."

     
  15.  
    Editor of City A.M. Allister Heath

    tweets: Bank of England seems pretty close to launching more QE. And, of course, assumes inflation will fall back to target, presumably by magic

     
  16.  
    Tory Press HQ

    tweets: On the UK: 'For as long as our forecast seems to pan out, there is no reason to change fiscal plans' (Oliver Blanchard, IMF, 20.9.2011)

     
  17.  
    0953:

    Following that tweet on QE - quantitative easing - it so happens that Lib Dem minister Chris Huhne has been speaking in favour of it this morning. He said the idea - in which the Bank of England pumps more money into the economy to (hopefully) give it a jumpstart - would be "sensible" given the "flatness" of growth.

     
  18.  
    0959:

    Great passion in the conference hall from Jamie Scott, Cambridge. He thinks the Arab Spring motion should go further and condemn UK arms sales to regimes like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. "We can't align ourselves with the moral forces of the protesters in the Middle East while we give military force to their dictators," he says.

     
  19.  
    ITV's Laura Kuenssberg

    tweets: Bank minutes reveal MPC still think inflation will hit more than 5pc this year, then fall sharply next

     
  20.  
    1007:

    Newspaper columnists are mulling over how Nick Clegg should address the conference later today. In the Times, Daniel Finkelstein says he can't claim to be "somehow cleaner and more trustworthy than the others" anymore. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph's Benedict Brogan says Mr Clegg's mood over the global economy is key. Read more commentators' views in the BBC's See Also blog.

     
  21.  
    1009:

    "We have to work over, around and under those who would block peace in the Middle East," says Stephen Gilbert, St Austell and Newquay.

     
  22.  
    Lib Dem MP Tom Brake

    tweets: No white flag will be shown by Lib Dems over the red line that is the HRA [Human Rights Act], Dr Huppert and I made clear at Liberty's fringe last night

     
  23.  
    1016:

    The Arab Spring motion and both amendments - on the need for secularity in those states and for greater effort in the Middle East peace process - are passed with near unanimity.

     
  24.  
    1018:

    Now on stage - in front of a much busier conference hall - is Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. He warms up the crowd with some talk of the rugby world cup and his hope that Scotland will beat England next week.

     
  25.  
    1022:

    Michael Moore in the spotlight...

    Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary
     
  26.  
    1024:

    Those who want to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are full of passion and we must be equal to them, says Mr Moore. We must show that Scotland benefits from being in the UK - and that the UK benefits from having it, he goes on.

     
  27.  
    1028:

    Mr Moore lists the Lib Dem's achievements in Scotland - but makes sure to get in a mention of the 50p top rate of tax and the fact, that in his view, it's here to stay.

     
  28.  
    Tom

    comments on the BBC story: Unfortunately, the very same beliefs and ideology that is central to the Liberal Democrats, is also responsible for their apathy towards the Tories and economic policy. When in opposition all they want to do is protest and claim unfairness in every aspect of government spending. But, when faced with the prospect of government (in this case a coalition), they recoil and pass it off as compromise.

     
  29.  
    1030:

    A Scottish Trade and Growth Board will be set up to help boost the economy north of the border, Mr Moore says. It will work with Scottish businesses large and small and help them find new ways to expand.

     
  30.  
    BBC Scotland's Tim Reid

    tweets: Moore says Scotland Bill should be law by spring, "but only by consensus." #ldconf

     
  31.  
    1035:

    Mr Moore wraps up with a warning to the SNP who he says are "plotting and scheming behind the doors of St Andrew's House to change the very nature - the very fabric - of our country". We won't let them "lurk, skulk and shout from the back of the class", he vows, we will make them answers all our questions on what independence would really mean for Scotland and the UK.

     
  32.  
    Parliamentary Officer for Save the Children Charlie Matthews

    tweets: Main hall looking pretty empty for international issues q&a... #ldconf

     
  33.  
    1037:

    Now in the hall, some Lib Dem big hitters are up on stage for international questions. Lord Ashdown is joined by Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne and Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey.

     
  34.  
    Co-Editor Lib Dem Voice Mark Pack

    tweets: Protester outside #ldconf literally shouting "etcetra etcetra"

     
  35.  
    1042:

    "I think there's a widespread complacency in Britain about quickly the world is changing," says Jeremy Browne. Half of all economic growth now is in Asia and Latin America and "we've got to up our game" when it comes to trading with those countries.

     
  36.  
    1045:

    Lord Ashdown laughs as the compere says anyone who needs him to introduce the Lib Dem grandee is at the wrong conference.

    Lord Ashdown
     
  37.  
    1047:

    We're going to have to make alliances outside our cosy club of Atlantic friends, says Lord Ashdown. He tells delegates the UK is used to sharing interests and values with our allies, but in future, we'll have to accept that we might only share the former - and even actively disagree on the latter.

     
  38.  
    Ajouk

    comments on the BBC story: A lot of wishful thinking on here about the demise of the Lib Dems but I think respect for the Party will grow as people realise that they are putting the country first by joining the Coalition and working with the Conservatives to get us through this difficult period.

     
  39.  
    1054:

    "Tory backbenchers, for all their harumphing, are irrelevant here," says Lib Dem peer Baroness Falkner, in response to a question about Eurosceptic Conservatives who are using the eurozone crisis as an opportunity to press their cause. "If they're not irrelevant we have to make them irrelevant because this is a very dangerous move," Lord Ashdown adds.

     
  40.  
    maxrev17

    comments on the BBC story: We have two political parties in power at once with impressive leaders, they are doing a fantastic job. Even if you don't agree with them, this is a democracy, it works on majority.

     
  41.  
    Sky's Joey Jones

    tweets: Libdem strategists seem to feel conf has been dull and repetitive. But in a good way. No dramas; banging on about same core messages...

     
  42.  
    Liberal Democrats

    tweets: Michael Moore's speech to Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference

     
  43.  
    1106:

    Baroness Falkner says the UK is doing a huge amount on the international stage through so-called "soft power" - development work and aid. She thinks that's just as important as providing strategic force as we did in Libya.

     
  44.  
    1109:

    "We are increasingly an aid superpower," agrees Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne. He says he meets ministers in other countries who are amazed that the UK has such a strong political consensus on its generous aid budget - despite the straitened times in which we live.

     
  45.  
    1113:

    "I think the political progress in Afghanistan is well behind the efforts we are making militarily," says Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey. He's concerned that not enough effort is being made on the former and says we must do more.

     
  46.  
    1120:

    Lord Ashdown gives an angry and impassioned answer to a question on Afghanistan - in his view, Western leaders have utterly failed because they have ignored the need for state-building as well as military effort. "I don't think we can achieve a victor's peace and it's because of our own mistakes," he says.

     
  47.  
    1123:

    A lively session on international affairs wraps up. Next it's a speech from Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams.

     
  48.  
    Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor for the Telegraph

    writes: [Former Labour Scottish secretary] Jim Murphy: I won't campaign with David Cameron against Scottish independence

     
  49.  
    1129:

    Kirsty Williams began her speech by paying her condolences to the families of the miners killed last week at Gleision Colliery.

    Kirsty Williams
     
  50.  
    BBC Daily Politics

    tweets: Across our 1200 and 1430 #bbcdp shows, we'll be talking to David Laws, (is he on twitter?) @dannyalexander @SimonHughesMP & @paddyashdown

     
  51.  
    1134:

    The smaller party in a coalition must show it has really made a difference across government - not just on the issues that matter most to its core supporters, Ms Williams says. She focuses her criticism on Plaid Cymru - who she says must do more than just campaign for devolution and the protection of the Welsh language - and contrasts it with Lib Dems in the Westminster government and all she says they have achieved.

     
  52.  
    1138:

    "You know it's funny, there are people worried that coalition with the Tories at Westminster is blurring our identity. Some of the same people would fall over themselves for us to do a deal with Labour in Wales - as if that wouldn't do the same," Ms Williams says. She insists that joining with the Tories doesn't make the Lib Dems a party of the right - any more than one with Labour would make it a party of the left.

     
  53.  
    Sunday Telegraph Political Editor Patrick Hennessy

    tweets: LibDem press release - 'We'll continue to support Arab Spring' - v decent of them

     
  54.  
    1142:

    Ms Williams is delivering a full-blooded attack on Labour - one of the strongest we've heard at the conference. "Labour uses the language of equality, but the poor services they provide do poor people down," she says.

     
  55.  
    1147:

    Ms Williams finishes her speech to a warm round of applause and the conference hall goes on to debate the NHS Reform Bill.

     
  56.  
    Local councillor for Haverstock ward and Deputy Leader of Camden Liberal Democrats Matt Sanders

    tweets: Highly, highly amusing Unison placard at #ldconf. I mean, *really*?!

     
  57.  
    1154:

    The time for discussing and chatting is over, says Councillor Richard Kemp from Liverpool. He says the NHS shake-up will soon become reality and it is up to staff to make it work.

     
  58.  
    Deputy editor of Planning magazine Jamie Carpenter

    blogs: In my final offering from #LDConf, I've blogged on what #LibDem activists make of the government's planning reforms

     
  59.  
    Liberal Democrat activist Simon P. Hughes

    tweets: As #ldconf comes to a close, we see yet another conf where the lack of disabled MPs is completely ignored!

     
  60.  
    1202:

    John Pugh, co-chair of the parliamentary party committee on health, is one who's not convinced. He's cut off in full flow by the timekeeper as he argues that the NHS is still heading down "the wrong road" - one based on the market. He says different branches of Marks & Spencer don't compete against each other, so it's "comical and sad" that the government is trying to make different arms of the NHS do it.

     
  61.  
    1208:

    Over on BBC2's Daily Politics, Lib Dem MP David Laws - who's used this conference to return to the political spotlight - says there is "a debate" happening within the government about how more can be done to help growth. Will that translate into some extra money - up to \u00a35bn - as our political editor understands is under consideration?

     
  62.  
    BBC's Justin Parkinson

    tweets: As Miriam Clegg prepares for spotlight, here's a (verbal) blast from the past that her husband might like to forget.

     
  63.  
    1216:

    "There are five features of privatisation and Lansley's plan fits the lot," says Dr Charles West, Lib Dem councillor from Shrewsbury and Atcham. He tells the conference hall that he knows Lib Dems are suffering from "health bill fatigue", but insists that's "no excuse to pass a bad bill" - and it is, he is adamant, still a bad bill.

     
  64.  
    1221:

    From a former Chief Treasury Secretary in David Laws to the current one, Danny Alexander. He ducks Andrew Neil's question on the Daily Politics about whether his colleague Vince Cable has ever asked for a "New Deal-style fiscal stimulus". But he says discussion is going on in government about how to get the best results out of the money it has already committed - for example, how to help the private sector grow.

     
  65.  
    1223:

    A tale of two Treasury secretaries...

    Danny Alexander and David Laws
     
  66.  
    Andy S

    comments on the BBC story: Sticking to the cuts come what may is the most ignorant thing to do. Just because the IMF and others say so, doesn't mean its right. You can only cut so far before it makes a situation worse and that situation is now upon us.

     
  67.  
    1230:

    Back in the conference hall, Peter Ramrayka, of Lewisham and North Beckenham, says a lot of work now needs to be done on NHS staff morale. If the government doesn't do this, the vacuum will be filled by the media - and that's only going to make the mood of workers towards the shake-up worse not better.

     
  68.  
    1234:

    "I say to the Lords, keep trying to amend this deeply flawed bill. Make sure there is a clear yellow thread running through it," Cllr Robert Donald, of St Albans, tells the conference. His comments reinforce those of Baroness Williams, who said yesterday that the battle over this bill was far from over - and peers were squaring up for a fight.

     
  69.  
    Editor of BBC Radio 4's The World at One Nick Sutton

    tweets: On today's #wato as Nick Clegg underlines need for a more balanced and sustainable economy. We'll speak to Chief Whip Alastair Carmichael.

     
  70.  
    John Edginton

    tweets: A lot of decent Lib Dems at conference angry about the NHS bill. I doubt the leadership is listening or cares. #ldconf

     
  71.  
    1243:

    Norman Lamb MP says the job of the Lords is to make sure that all concessions agreed so far on the NHS bill are implemented and to continue to demand more changes where there are still concerns - such as over the role of the secretary of state and limits on private sector involvement.

     
  72.  
    1246:

    That's the end of the NHS debate and the start of lunch. Throughout the debate, Lib Dem Care Services Minister Paul Burstow was taking notes in the front row. Wonder what he made of it all...

     
  73.  
    Political blogger Callum Jones

    tweets: Reading through the first draft of Clegg's Conference speech. I guarantee this is going to be amazing. #LDConf

     
  74.  
    1252:

    In the hall, employment minister Ed Davey tells delegates that Business Secretary Vince Cable was "certainly right" when he criticised Rupert Murdoch last year, in comments which were recorded by undercover journalists from the Telegraph. In a noisy address, Mr Davey goes on to say he is "proud" of his party for not kowtowing to News International.

     
  75.  
    1253:

    "There is still a lot of work to do on the bill in the Lords," Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes tells BBC2's Daily Politics on matters NHS. Very specifically, he says Lib Dems want to "tie down" the guarantee that private work cannot become the dominant activity in a hospital or GP surgery - "the driver" of any part of the NHS, as he puts it.

     
  76.  
    1254:

    Moving on, the Post Office needs proper funding to be more effective and efficient, Mr Davey says.

     
  77.  
    Senior political correspondent on the Guardian website Andrew Sparrow

    tweets: 10 things I've learnt at the Lib Dem conference #ldconf

     
  78.  
    1302:

    Not that we wish to depress Nick Clegg ahead of his big speech, but our graphics department has just produced this graph showing his personal approval ratings:

    Graphic showing Nick Clegg's declining popularity with voters
     
  79.  
    1319:

    BBC political reporter Alan Soady has been asking delegates in the dining area of the conference hall what kind of food Nick Clegg reminds them of. One gentleman replies: "Lamb Madras - not to everyone's taste, but I like him." A lady, rather mystically (or confusingly), likens him to "a potato - because I think people underestimate him". More predictably, another lady says Mr Clegg is more a "Marmite" politician, such is the apparent passion he arouses among fans and detractors alike.

     
  80.  
    1322:

    Former party leader Lord Ashdown is reminiscing about the days when he had to give the big speech. The word he uses? "Terrifying."

     
  81.  
    1328:

    Sign of the times. Public sector workers give a reminder that strikes are planned for the autumn over changes to pensions.

    Unison members protesting
     
  82.  
    1336:

    Former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris - who has been much in evidence this week - warns that if there is not a significant economic recovery soon there will be a "price to pay" politically.

     
  83.  
    1337:

    Spending cuts will not be "fair" but they will be "as fair as we can make them", Evan Harris tells the BBC.

     
  84.  
    1347:

    Just to keep you up to speed, we're expecting things to get moving again in the conference hall at 1430 BST with some party business. The main event - Nick Clegg's speech - will begin at about 1505 BST.

     
  85.  
    1352:

    Lord Ashdown is absolutely unequivocal on the matter of a Plan B - or A+ - for that matter. "Any other plan but plan A" would lead to economic disaster, he tells the BBC. On the subject of the Lib Dems' current popularity crisis, he says he would have "sold my grandmother" for ratings in the low teens - when he was in charge, he says, the party was "just an asterisk" in the polls, meaning "no registered support discernable".

     
  86.  
    Alexandra

    tweets: Getting to sit behind Nick for his speech #epicwin #ldconf

     
  87.  
    1400:

    The Guardian has come up with 10 things we've learned from the Lib Dem conference. On the list? There is no threat to Nick Clegg's leadership, morale is actually surprisingly good within the party, and the Lib Dems aren't getting any closer to Labour - even as they appear slightly cooler towards the Conservatives.

     
  88.  
    Lib Dem Alex Wilcock

    tweets: 2 hrs left of #LDConf; 30 protesters now turn up shouting "We shall not be moved". More like 'If we'd moved any slower we'd have missed it'.

     
  89.  
    1407:

    "The upshot from this conference is that the Lib Dems are prepared to fight the Conservatives over Europe - a fact that, I suspect, will not have escaped the attention of scheming Ed Balls," says David Blackburn, of the Spectator. "It will be interesting to see what Labour have to say on the subject at their conference next week."

     
  90.  
    1413:

    We're just getting footage here of Nick Clegg doing the traditional televised walk from his hotel to the conference centre. He's joined by wife Miriam in a very sunny yellow dress and tan jacket. The couple put their arms around each other as they walk inside.

     
  91.  
    1414:

    Forgot to mention that yellow is, of course, the Lib Dem colour - so Mrs Clegg has gone to great sartorial lengths to be loyal.

     
  92.  
    Jake Richards

    for PoliticsStudent.co.uk [a platform for political opinion from students and young professionals] blogs: Is the tide turning for Nick Clegg?

     
  93.  
    Lib Dem Stephen Morgan

    tweets a link to a photo: The que to get into the main hall at #ldconf

     
  94.  
    Channel 4's Jennifer Rigby

    also tweets: Also bumped into Ming Campbell, who said on economy: "as Keynes said, when the facts change, I change my opinion"

     
  95.  
    1433:

    Here are Nick and Miriam Clegg heading to the conference centre a short while ago. My fashion spies tell me her dress is from Topshop, the jacket is Zara and the shoes - which you can't see but I assure you they're also yellow - are Office. All in all, glamorous but High Street.

    Miriam and Nick Clegg
     
  96.  
    1437:

    Over on the second dose of Daily Politics for the day, the Times' Sam Coates says there'll be no "yah boo politics" in Mr Clegg's speech - well, not towards the Conservatives, at least. Labour on the other hand - different story.

     
  97.  
    1438:

    Viscount being counted. Lib Dem peer-turned-MP John Thurso casts a vote.

    John Thurso
     
  98.  
    Shayan Moftizadeh

    tweets: At the main speech at the #ldconf. Slightly hoping to see Clegg glide in from the ceiling.

     
  99.  
    1443:

    In the conference hall, Lib Dem President Tim Farron is handing out some awards to party members. As something of a headline-grabber himself at this year's event, I wonder if he'll get one himself.

     
  100.  
    Alan French

    comments on the BBC story: I work in the Security sector and a lot of of small companies are going down or downsizing. What this current Govt wont admit to is that if they cut Police numbers/budgets by 20% then probably 5 posts in the private sector will go for each Police post that goes.

     
  101.  
    1454:

    "For the old and the bold like me, going into coalition with the Tories was a bit of a shock," Lord Ashdown tells the Daily Politics. But he says it wasn't like doing a deal with Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives - who were "red in tooth and claw" - as he would have had to do if a similar situation had arisen when he was leader.

     
  102.  
    Deputy Editor of The Daily Telegraph Benedict Brogan

    tweets: Third of seats in hall empty. Is Tim Farron really that annoying? #ldconf #clegg

     
  103.  
    1457:

    The BBC News channel's chief political correspondent Norman Smith says the fate of the Lib Dems is inextricably lnked with that of the economy. If it doesn't pick up by the next general election, their popularity won't either.

     
  104.  
    1503:

    All of the Lib Dem ministers and MPs are in their places in the hall, awaiting their leader's arrival. While they do so, Don Foster MP is conducting an auction of somewhat disparate items. The first is a \u00a35 note - which goes for over \u00a3100 - and next a pack of Iraq Most Wanted playing cards.

     
  105.  
    1505:

    Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem chief whip, makes a rather cheeky crack about his leader. As he takes a swig of Speaker Jon Bercow's whisky - the next item being auctioned - he says he's seen an advance copy of Mr Clegg's speech and that's why he's drinking.

     
  106.  
    1509:

    The preamble is over - here comes the man himself. Nick Clegg enters the hall - he's surrounded on all sides by supporters.

     
  107.  
    1511: Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News

    Nick Clegg knows his most important task is to reassure the country and the markets that he wont waver from his commitment to the coalition and the plan to cut the deficit.

     
  108.  
    1512:

    The Lib Dem leader begins by saying that his party's experience so far in government has been even tougher than anyone could have imagined. "We've been villified like never before," he says, "And adversity tests the character of a party."

     
  109.  
    1514:

    Rousing stuff. "I won't rest until we've won back every one of the seats we lost in May," he says. Cue applause.

     
  110.  
    1516:

    He means business...

    Nick Clegg
     
  111.  
    1517: Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

    Nick Clegg is clearly relieved at the lack of any significant rebellion this week. If anything the economic crisis has strengthened party unity.

     
  112.  
    Editor of PoliticsHome.com Paul Waugh

    tweets: Clegg's key message: "we're doing the right thing". Well, he's certainly not doing the Left thing on the deficit.

     
  113.  
    1519:

    He's onto the economy now, saying you don't play politics at a time of national crisis - or even more importantly, with people's jobs.

     
  114.  
    The Commentator

    tweets: What the hell are the Lib Dems doing? Auctioning off their integrity? SOLD! For a few seats in the Cabinet... ho ho ho

     
  115.  
    BBC's Justin Parkinson

    tweets: There are almost as many people sitting behind Nick Clegg as in front of him.

     
  116.  
    1521: Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

    The notable absence of Tory-bashing coupled with a powerful attack on Labour under "Gordon Brown's backroom boys" will disappoint those who want to keep the door open to a coalition with Labour in the future.

     
  117.  
    1521:

    As expected, Mr Clegg is criticising Labour's economic record. "They got us into this mess and they are clueless about how to get us out of it."

     
  118.  
    1522:

    Mr Clegg says the decision he had to make on university tuitition fees was "heart-wrenching". He says he knows how much damage agreeing to triple fees has done to the party.

     
  119.  
    1525:

    "The simple truth is that the Conservatives and Labour were both set on increasing fees, and in those circumstances we did the best thing we could," he says, but he adds that the Lib Dems failed to explain the dilemma they faced or why the new system will be "much better than people fear".

     
  120.  
    Gus Baker

    tweets: I'm a Student Union President but I don't think most damaging decision is on HE cuts. Cuts to local authorities hurt the vulnerable far more

     
  121.  
    1526:

    "Deficit reduction lays the foundations for growth. But on its own it is not enough," Mr Clegg says. He vows that the government can - and will - do more on growth and jobs.

     
  122.  
    1530:

    There's some anger in Mr Clegg's voice when he says Lib Dems "have never served the media moguls, the union barons or the bankers" and are "in nobody's pocket".

     
  123.  
    1530: Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

    The promise to do more for growth and jobs may sound like a hint at the discussions within government about whether to spend an extra \u00a35bn on infrastructure projects. But even before he delivered his speech, aides dismissed this, insisting there would be no change to the government's overall spending plans.

     
  124.  
    Helen from Hackney

    emails: He can't crack a joke that's for sure

     
  125.  
    1535:

    Back onto attacking Labour. He describes it as "risible" for Ed Miliband to claim not to be a party of vested interests. He accuses them of "cowering before media barons" and being "in hock to the trade union barons". He says he doesn't want unions to be "able to buy themselves a political party" and calls on Mr Miliband to do something "radical" to dilute their influence.

     
  126.  
    Journalist Oliver Cooper

    tweets: Clegg claims the Lib Dems saw everything coming: expenses, hackgate, banking crisis. Strange they didn't see 6% in the polls coming. #ldconf

     
  127.  
    1537:

    On the Human Rights Act, much maligned by the Conservatives, he spells out slowly and in words of one syllable - "It is here to stay." A bit of red meat (or maybe Quorn?) for the Lib Dem faithful. It gets a round of applause anyway.

     
  128.  
    Editor of PoliticsHome.com Paul Waugh

    tweets: There are delegates around me stamping the floor in support of that Clegg line re keeping Human Rights Act

     
  129.  
    1540: Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

    Nick Clegg's declaration of support for the Human Rights Act will infuriate some Tories and the right-wing press.

     
  130.  
    1541:

    While its important to "hold our coalition partners back" on some things, Mr Clegg says the "positive power" of the Lib Dems - to do things not just stop them - is even more vital. He lists a series of things - gay marriage, helping consumers, investing in education for girls in the developing world.

     
  131.  
    1542:

    Mr Clegg says the thing he cares most about in politics is ensuring a fair start in life for every child. He says he was lucky with his lot, "but it shouldn't be about luck".

     
  132.  
    Guardian politics

    tweets: #ldconf #clegg It's a confident, assertive performance and being very well received.

     
  133.  
    1545:

    Mr Clegg says he's been "leading the charge on social mobility" - even though "some people" say it's "futile". "Some people" who do well out of the status quo have also put up "fierce resistance". Who these people are, he doesn't say.

     
  134.  
    1545: Guardian's Julian Glover

    tweets: That was the secret JS Mill bit. "uphill struggle"

     
  135.  
    1547:

    Moving on to the August riots, Mr Clegg says the challenge now is to "make sure that the offenders become ex-offenders for good". He wants rioters and looters to look their victims in the eye - that's "liberal justice", he adds.

     
  136.  
    Corinna, Newcastle,

    emails: Interesting narrative of national crisis being the reason that it was paramount for the LibDems' to go along with Tory-policies, muddling the source of that crisis as a hung parliament and the economic and financial crisis. How does it address a "national crisis" keeping young people out of universities, cutting health services etc.?

     
  137.  
    1549: Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

    Lofty ambitions for a "liberal nation" where every citizen can thrive and prosper seem out of place in an otherwise lean speech, shorn of personal anecdotes and unrealistic goals. The only new policy announcement is a network of summer schools costing just \u00a350m.

     
  138.  
    1549:

    Now the well-trailed announcement on summer schools - they're going to be offered to help children who've fallen behind before they start secondary school. He says it's a time when many "lose their way".

     
  139.  
    1551:

    Coming to the end now. "Our values are strong" and Britain will be better for the Lib Dems being in government, he says.

     
  140.  
    1553:

    The final pay-off: "Britain is our home. We will make it safe and strong. These are our children. We will tear down every barrier they face. And this is our future. We start building it today."

     
  141.  
    Kenny Newport

    texts: Surely Clegg doesn't believe the dribble he just spouted? The liberals will never rule as long as they believe their own lies and propaganda.

     
  142.  
    David, a pensioner in Stockport,

    texts: Come on Mr Clegg, pensions are worse, despite the so called triple lock because you have changed them from RPI to CPI index linking.

     
  143.  
    1555: Carole Walker Pollitical correspondent, BBC News

    Nick Clegg knows the future of his party is inextricably linked to the fragile economic recovery. He has no real option but to stay the course, hope the economy improves by the time of the next election and the voters will reward his party for acting in the national interest.

     
  144.  
    Editor of @ConHome Tim Montgomerie

    tweets: HRA aside, #Clegg made attack after attack on Labour. DepPM feels like a real Coalition partner in a way that Cable, Huhne and Farron don't.

     
  145.  
    1556:

    The BBC News channel's chief political correspondent Norman Smith says the speech was well-received but not rapturously so. It was mostly directed at the party not the public - he was trying to soothe his members about being in government, rather than reaching out beyond them.

     
  146.  
    Greg Stone, Lib Dem councillor

    tweets: for the first time in my life we have true Liberalism in government :)

     
  147.  
    1602:

    Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell tells the BBC it was a "defiant" speech, but also at times "apologetic", for example on tuition fees. He says leaders often try to send delegates home from conference with "a spring in their step", but this wasn't one of those speeches - instead they're going home with a lot to think about.

     
  148.  
    Rob in Hitchin

    emails: Great speech. Easy to knock, but this is the start of the Liberal fightback. They've not had an easy couple of years - and people love to write them off - but they have had a positive effect on a Tory majority govt. This week and this leader's speech restores some of my faith in them!

     
  149.  
    1605:

    Chris Bowers, who has recently written a biography of Nick Clegg, says he was slightly surprised to see him get angry. "He's not naturally an angry person", he tells the BBC, but he points out that Mr Clegg did some acting in his youth and appeared to use those skills to turn on the fury towards Labour and on issues like human rights.

     
  150.  
    BBC reporter Giles Dilnot

    tweets: Clegg's delivery's changed a good deal from earlier leadership years, he is, regardless of content, less wooden + has more rhetorical gears

     
  151.  
    Susan Penhaligon

    tweets: Nick Clegg has got his mojo back. Hurrah hurrah #BBC

     
  152.  
    1609:

    This looks like some of that anger Chris Bowers referred to...

    Nick Clegg
     
  153.  
    1611:

    "There's light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is a long one" - that's the way Mark Littlewood, former Lib Dem communications director, sums up Nick Clegg's message.

     
  154.  
    Political correspondent Joe Watts

    tweets: Amazing how "early intervention" rhetoric has forced its way into every party's talk, credit to GrahamAllenMP who's been pushing it 4 years.

     
  155.  
    Confuciousfred

    comments on the BBC story: I have always held staunch conservative beliefs and it is unlikely that I would ever vote for the Lib Dems. But I have to say that I have nothing but admiration for Clegg & Co forming a coalition with the Tories to sort out the disaster created by Labour.

     
  156.  
    LeftieAgitator

    comments on the BBC story: As the economy shrinks, more people are unemployed, government revenue from tax and NI shrinks, welfare payments increase. Unless the coalition is prepared to stop or reduce welfare payments, they have to borrow the money to pay for it. Targeted spending on necessary infrastructure, creates jobs, increased government revenues, stimulates growth.

     
  157.  
    Liberal Democrats

    tweet: Nick Clegg: Speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

     
  158.  
    1615:

    Tim Farron, Lib Dem president, says his party members are having to realise that while they might have come into politics to make the world better, with the state of the economy as it is, it's enough of a challenge just to stop it getting worse - preventing people from losing their jobs or the country losing control of its finances, for example.

     
  159.  
    S. Suchindranath Aiyer, Kalyanipuri & India,

    emails: Lib Dems won't buy Nick Clegg's burblings. So, who is he talking to?

     
  160.  
    Will Barter

    texts: Excellent speech by Clegg. Nice to see a strong liberal voice in government.

     
  161.  
    1620:

    "This was a clever speech, but a disingenuous one: Nick Clegg's subtle rhetoric fails to disguise the regressive nature of his government's reforms," says the editor of The Liberal magazine, Benjamin Ramm. He says the Lib Dems "have consented to dismantle the nation's most successful institution - the NHS - with a lethal prescription of privatisation".

     
  162.  

    Reaction from a less obvious source to the speech. Conservative grandee Lord Tebbit, writing in his Daily Telegraph blog, didn't like it. "I may well be old-fashioned, but I found in Clegg's staccato short sentences a disagreeable "dog whistle" attempt to rally his discredited party," he writes. "Mr Clegg even invoked the spirit of Gladstone in his speech. That prompts me to contemplate what that grand old man would have thought of such a speech, or even such a leader of his once great party."

     
  163.  
    Rodney Fernandes

    texts: People voted Lib Dem because they're not Tory and not Labour. His speech, and actions in government, should have shown more of the "not Tory".

     
  164.  
    1629:

    Lib Dem activist Mark Pack says the speech went some way - but not far enough - to answer the question "what are the Lib Dems for?" He writes: "The choice of phrases and the party narrative are not quite there yet."

     
  165.  
    Tim Putnam

    comments on the BBC story: Another pointless political speech containing no substance just soundbites and platitudes.

     
  166.  
    1638:

    As hundreds of Lib Dems head for the hills and every trace of yellow is removed from the conference hall, we'll wrap up our live coverage there. Thank you for your contributions. We'll be back again on Monday to do it all over again for Labour when they go to Liverpool - we hope you'll join us then.

     

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