The Spectator

LIVE BLOG: Clegg’s speech

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15:00: Clegg opens up by praising the tenacity of British soldiers' in Afghanistan and damns the government's record on defence.

15:17: "I want to be PM because I have spent half a lifetime imaging what a better society would look like and I want to spend the next half making it happen" - listing prejudice, civil liberties and inequality among his targets.

15:21: Clegg attacks the "old politics", connecting the financial crisis with the expenses scandal. "Labour betrayed the hopes of a generation".

15:25: Now the attacks on the Tories begin. Clegg claims that he chose the Lib Dems because it was what he believed in; Tories, by contrast, chose their party because it was the "fastest route to power". Clegg adds that:  "There is less to Cameron than meets the eye"

Clegg says he is as similar to David Cameron as he is to Brad Pitt.

Clegg is now trying to spin himself as the straight talker, he’s still playing catch up after his savage cuts comment.

‘Real change’ is Clegg’s sound-bite of choice


15:32: Points to the differences between Tory and Lib Dem cuts policies in an attempt to claim the progressive ground. Judging by this speech, Clegg is clearly tacking left. He’s even borrowed Jon Cruddas’s ‘progressive austerity’ phrase.

15:37: Clegg is heading even further left, vowing to protect public service jobs "at all costs". He proposes to save jobs with what he describes as "wage discipline".

15:39: Now attempting to re-connect with the student vote by pledging that young people made redundant today "would be in a job, training or an internship by Christmas". Internships will even be "paid" - £55 per week! All of this will be funded by reversing the VAT cut. There's still the sense the Lib Dems are attempting to be all things to all men.

15:44: Re-introducing the Lib Dems' tax proposals. Some old favourites are back - the Mansions tax and penal Green taxes. Are we to take it that the Mansions tax is now Lib Dem policy? Clegg tells his party that its plan to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 is the policy they should tell every voter about.

The Lib Dems can’t be happy that on both the BBC and The Guardian websites, Obama’s speech to the UN is the lead story. It seems that every Lib Dem conference is destined to be overshadowed by events.

15:48: More about the Lib Dems and political reform, though nothing about proportional representation, which has dropped off the party's radar. 

15:49: ‘We must do away with safe seats’ says Clegg. Well, that explains what he has been up to this week—change starts at home and all that.

!5:54: "A Cameron Hague foreign policy would be the most self-defeating in history... because they would not stand tall in Europe they would not stand tall in the US" - That statement might encourage the Tories to talk about Europe, but I can't see how that will help the Lib Dems.

Before I went into politics, I was a bureaucrat is what Clegg doesn’t say.

15:56: Bit of a "I could've been a contender" moment here as Clegg makes a less than thrilling plea for votes - it's striking how little applause there is, the loudest cheers so far have been for Charlie Kennedy's and Ming Campbell's stance over the Iraq war: it doesn't bode well.

VERDICT: We've just received an email with the subject line, “Clegg = cross between Blair and David Brent.” Harsh but not that unfair. After a disastrous conference, Clegg needed to deliver something akin to the Gettysburg address; it was always going to be a tall order, but this was nowhere near good enough.