Nick Clegg conference speech an 'electoral suicide note'
By admitting the Lib Dems have blocked popular Tory measures, Clegg took a big risk, say critics
DEPUTY PM Nick Clegg spoke for 51 minutes at his party conference in Glasgow yesterday, telling voters that only he could curb the excesses of the Tories or Labour and assuring Liberal Democrats "the recovery wouldn't be happening without us".
Urging Britons to return his party to power in 2015 with a speech that contained no new policies, Clegg said: "Labour would wreck the recovery. The Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery."
But it was his list of a series of Tory policies he said the Lib Dems had successfully blocked which caught the attention of most commentators. The Sun was quick to dub Clegg 'Dr No' - the man who said 'no' to scrapping the Human Rights Act, 'no' to renewing Trident, 'no' to the so-called snoopers' charter and 'no' to the advertising vans which warned illegal immigrants to 'go home'.
There was just one problem with that strategy, warned The Sun - Clegg has vetoed "a long list of popular policies" which means his speech could backfire and was "an electoral suicide note".
"Electoral suicide note" was also the verdict of Tory MP Peter Bone, quoted in The Daily Mail, where columnist Quentin Letts was unimpressed by an overlong speech which was "sticky, humid [and] marinated with self-satisfaction" and conceit.
Letts said Clegg's high-risk decision to 'go negative' by setting himself up as "the glue in the tube, inertia made flesh" had handed the Tories and Labour "the prize of 'change'".
On The Spectator blog, Isabel Hardman was similarly taken aback by Clegg's nay-saying but thought she divined the motive behind it: this was a speech which "seemed to be addressed to the party, who would be very pleased with that list of nos" rather than the voters.
The Daily Telegraph analysed the Twitter hive-mind's response to the speech. A research group, ImpactSocial, examined 7,000 tweets about Clegg's big moment and found that only eight per cent were positive. Forty-nine per cent were negative and the remaining 44 neutral.
The paper's politics blogger, Will Heaven, felt it was "revealing" that Clegg spoke of the Lib Dems as a permanent party of coalition government, curbing the other two main parties, like "the English answer to Germany's FDP".
The FDP currently props up Angela Merkel's CSU-CDU party in the Bundestag, though this may change after Sunday's general election.
Could the Lib Dems hope for a future pivotal role, allying with whichever major party rose to the top?
"There is a big problem with that," observes Heaven. "It's simply not what the electorate wants . 67 per cent of voters want a return to single-party government."
Not everybody hated Clegg's speech. Writing in The Guardian, Tim Farron hails it as showing "how much the Liberal Democrats have achieved in government". Of course, Tim Farron is president of the Liberal Democrats. ·