Peter Hoskin

Hughes retracts his claws (for now)

Hughes retracts his claws (for now)
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Few observers would have expected Simon Hughes to tear into the coalition with full force in his speech today. The mood in Liverpool is geared towards support, not destruction. But the deputy Lib Dem leader's effusiveness was still fairly surprising. He reassured the audience that he is a "rock solid supporter of the coalition – which our party has democratically agreed will last for five years". He echoed one of Clegg's central messages from yesterday, saying that "when you move from the touchline to the pitch, there is a risk you may get some knocks and pick up a few bruises – but on the touchline you never get the chance to change the game." And he finished with a flourish of optimism: "This is the best opportunity of our lifetimes". Whatever happened to the recalcitrant Simon Hughes of a few weeks ago?

In truth, there were some hints of opposition, which other outlets have concentrated upon. But what strikes me is how all of the conflict zones that Hughes travelled through – Trident, nuclear power, tuition fees – are ones where the Lib Dems have some latitude for opposition by the terms of the coalition agreement. For the time being, Hughes seems to be picking officially sanctioned battles.