Monday, March 05, 2007

Those Ming Speeches.... Did he do enough?

I enjoyed reading Alex Wilcock's analysis of Ming's speech. As we all know it's not what you say it's the way that you say it. So some of my own reflections on both his Trident and end of conference speeches.

On Trident: I was impressed by Ming's delivery, powerful, passionate and yes, as he said, leading from the front. I was less impressed with the content which as we know matters so much less anyway (isn't it 7%?!) in terms of swinging an argument. I would have preferred he dealt with the very real criticisms of his policy. Anyone can say "I'm not sitting on the fence" or "I'm not sitting on my hands" but I could say that whilst firmly glued to the wretched fence with my hands tucked neatly underneath my bottom!!!!! Where, Ming, was your evidence? Also, as I would have pointed out in my speech had I had the opportunity to make it (me bitter??? nah!) the idea that giving up our weapons denies us a seat at the NPT table is a nonsense. The speech for me also contained the only real sour point of the debate, a jibe at Jenny Tonge over Israel. She apparently wasn't fussed, but for me it was something else that left a nasty taste in my mouth.

On end of conference: At autumn conference, for what it is worth, I gave Ming 9 out of 10 for content and 2 out of 10 for performance. This time I was more impressed it has to be said. Content wasn't quite so good as in Brighton a tad repetitive - 7 and performance closer to 6. So relieved he has ditched the shaky hands, the portrayal of him as a 50's Olympic athlete and the need to be surrounded by beautiful young women. His delivery was not as good as on Trident, but it was clear and reminded me of what I see as his genuine concern to tackle poverty and inequality in this country and also reminded me about what it is that unites us as Lib Dems as opposed to what divides us. Unfortunately the speech did not end on a very strong note and the applause seemed more polite than rapturous. So what about content?

Let's deal with the bits I was concerned about. Firstly, on the environment. If we are to have any integrity as a party it seems to me we have to have integrity in our policies. To, on the one hand, rightly, point to the fact that we are head and shoulders above the other main parties on protecting the environment is all well and good. However, having just argued for a policy which gives us an option to keep the floating nuclear reactor Trident, to me, seems a tad disingenuous. Can you imagine how critical we would be of the Green Party if they had such a policy? It would totally undermine any credentials they may have.

Secondly, the commitment both to tackle poverty and inequality at the same time as cutting taxes. This is fairyland. Yes, there is no doubt there is a lot of wastage caused by current government obsession with targets and consultants, but where is the analysis of how much could be saved and do we really think we can tackle these huge problems without proper funding? Well, I guess saving £76 billion on Trident may have made a little contribution...........But we need to get real with the electorate. You can't have your cake and eat it. If you want real change you have to invest in the services and infrastructure that will enable change. The news this morning for example, of the cost of implementing Single Status, is yet again going to threaten some of the services to our most vulnerable citizens, so how will we realistically deliver on this without investment? I was particularly concerned with a comment made to me last night, that we sounded more like Tories.

So what did I like?!!! I thought the 5 tests for Gordon was an inspired idea, though like Alex Wilcock, I don't think him meeting them makes him a liberal! At the same time as challenging GB it also highlighted what makes us different from Labour. Of course, being clear and steadfast on Iraq and Iran was another strength of the speech.

I would have liked to have had a bit more addressing the party. What more are we going to do for example to ensure we really reflect Britain? And on a personal level I would like to see Ming making more of a connection with his activists. OK, so he is bound to be very busy at conference, but the odd appearance in the bar would do a lot to make him look more approachable and less patrician.

1 comment:

Daniel Bowen said...

In fact he was supposed to do the bar on Friday night but pulled out to do Newsnight.