Nick Clegg will be closing the Lib Dem conference today with what is being billed as one of his most personal speeches yet. It has echoes of a Miliband ‘this is who I am’ offering, with the Lib Dem leader trying to explain the personal experiences that shape his thinking today. He will say:
‘My upbringing was privileged: home counties; private school; Cambridge University. I had a lot of opportunities. But I also had two parents who were determined that my brothers, my sister and I knew how lucky we were. On both sides, their families had experienced huge upheavals.
‘My Dutch mother had spent much of her childhood in a prisoner of war camp. My dad’s Russian mother had come to England after her family lost everything in the Russian revolution.’
He will also say that ‘as a father with three children at school, I have come to understand even more clearly than before that, if we want to live in a society where everyone has a fair chance to live the life they want – and to bounce back from misfortune too – then education is the key’. This has informed his school meals announcement (more on whether this is a good idea in a separate post).
As for the Lib Dems’ role in government, the extracts I’ve seen of the speech so far focus on an optimistic assessment of the party’s achievements, rather than the things it has blocked. Party strategists are aware that the Lib Dems mustn’t become The Party That Stops Things, and so it is important for them to talk up what they’ve done. Clegg will tell activists that ‘the recovery wouldn’t be happening without us’, and tell them to ‘feel proud today’, going on to list his party’s proudest moments. He will say:
‘Three years. Three years. We’re not even done yet. Can you imagine what we could do with five more? You should be able to – we’ve spent the last five days talking about it.
‘This whole week has been about looking forward and one thing is very clear: the Liberal Democrats don’t want to go back to the opposition benches, because we aren’t done yet.’
This is a neat summary of the leadership’s aim for this conference – which is has successfully realised. The party needed to pick a few scabs on tuition fees and tax one last time, and show that it wasn’t hankering after the days of idealist opposition. The series of votes that Clegg won showed that. This now gives Clegg a mandate to continue setting policy as he has been doing in government, with the support of his activists and also means that the party can move on.
Clegg will also offer a neat summary of his key message for the 2015 election, which will be:
‘Labour would wreck the recovery. The Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery. Only the Liberal Democrats can finish the job and finish it in a way that is fair.’
He’ll add that ‘we want to be there to anchor them to the liberal centre ground, right in the centre, bang in the middle’. Doubtless the full version of the speech will involve an expansion of what parties are like when they don’t have the Lib Dem anchor weighing them down.Tags: Lib Dem conference 2013, Nick Clegg, UK politics