One of the striking features of the opening rally at Liberal Democrat conference was how it was figures from the left of the party who attacked Labour most vigorously. Simon Hughes, the deputy leader, scolded those who think that governing with Labour would be easy; pointing out that the parties are at odds on nuclear power, Trident, civil liberties and a whole host of other issues. While the party’s president Tim Farron demanded that Labour apologise for the expensive failure of the NHS PFI projects, the Iraq war and a whole host of other issues.
Nick Clegg himself was on fairly confident form. He began with a couple of gags about his unlikely chart success. He reserved his most withering fire for Labour, saying ‘no wonder Ed Miliband gets so excited when he gets a text from Vince, it is the only good advice he gets.’ There was also a rather weak joke about how Ed Balls has had to stop texting Cable as he has ‘run out of credit’.
There were, of course, a fair few jibes at the Tories. Farron said that Michael Gove had downgraded George Osborne from Plan A to a B—because that’s what he does halfway through a term. Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne, boasted that the Lib Dems would ‘face down the right wing of the Tory party any place, anytime, any day, any way,.’ While Hughes held up a Greenpeace poster blaring ‘Don’t let Osborne kill green growth’.
What lots of people are talking about afterwards, though, is Jo Swinson’s performance. Her fluently delivered speech did a good job of getting over the party’s message on its income tax cut for basic rate taxpayers and cheering up the activists. It showed why so many of those around Clegg want her to be the first female Lib Dem Cabinet Minister.
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