Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Speechwatch: NIck Clegg. LibDem Conference Sept 2011

Nick Clegg had a tough speech to deliver in Birmingham today. Support in both his party and the country at large has fallen away in the 500 days since the election.

"Not easy but right" was a phrase he used often. He used the old ply of "this conference hall stands on the site of...." to link his speech to Liberal history. Barack Obama used a similar gambit in his brilliant "more perfect union" speech in Philadelphia in March 2008. Nick Clegg is not a great orator (nor is Barack Obama in my view), but he knows how to deliver a political speech to an audience outside the hall.

He indulged in plenty of Labour-bashing, but said barely a word about his coalition partner, for obvious reasons. The Tories have taken a lot of stick from other conference speakers, but the Deputy PM was having none of it. He tried a few lines of humour, such as the gifts exchanged between him and the French President (Kendal Mint Cake). Alas, the jokes were weak, and his delivery somewhat wooden. There was also the conference cliche of the personal story ("One young woman called Chantal told me..."). There was a good line about being "in nobody's pocket" that drew prolonged applause.

It was a fairly sombre speech overall, without any specific promises, and it was received well, if not rapturously. Paddy Ashdown, a party darling, received several mentions and praise.

He closed with a good triplet-based crescendo about the riots: "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."

Overall, a steady-as-she-goes speech, which was competent rather than spectacular.

MediaCoach Speechindex : 6 out of 10.

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