UK Politics

Lib Dem gathering 'lacking humour' claims Kennedy

Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and Steve Webb in the conference hall
Image caption The conference hall has been a serious and reflective place to be this week

The lack of "spiky wit" at the Lib Dem conference is a foretaste of the "defensive" politics to come in the next election, Charles Kennedy says.

The former Lib Dem leader said there had been no "telling line" that would be remembered after the event ended.

The public needed a bit of humour in a time of austerity, he told the BBC.

But he said the election was likely to be characterised by parties "defending their positions in the trenches" rather than any "swashbuckling" rhetoric.

Examples of high-profile jokes at this week's event in Glasgow have included Vince Cable's suggestion that the Tories disregarded "pretty much anyone who would not have qualified for a vote before the 1867 Reform Act" - which did drew laughter among activists.

'No satire'

Explaining the lack of memorable gags, Mr Kennedy said the audience in the conference hall was serious-minded, "intensely" weighing up the arguments, and there had been a lack of spontaneity and heckling which speakers might have be able to respond to.

"The conference so far has lacked that element of satire and spiky wit that you need from time to time," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Kennedy said this was indicative of the fact that politics was "limbering up" for the election campaign.

"Attitudinally, the parties are thinking this is not going to be a rumbustious campaign in the swashbuckling sense.

"This is pretty much going to be everyone in the trenches defending their position, shelling as best they can.

"That does not lend itself to an awful lot of good humour. I think that is a pity because against a climate of austerity the public and activists need a bit of humour."

Saturday's opening conference rally is traditionally the most barbed event of the week - with party figures such as Tim Farron and Sarah Teather traditionally taking a pop at their Conservative coalition partners.

However, this year's event - which was addressed by Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown, Alistair Carmichael and Kirsty Williams - was given over to what the party was doing to boost employment.