James Forsyth James Forsyth

Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats are in high spirits – and in attack mode

There were no rabbits in Nick Clegg’s speech today. Instead, there was just an unerring emphasis on the Liberal Democrats’ message that they are the only party that will provide ‘a stronger economy and a fairer society’ and that’s why you need them in government.

Clegg began by thanking Ed Miliband and George Osborne for setting up the Lib Dem conference so well. He told activists that Miliband (by forgetting to mention the deficit) and Obsorne (by saying he would close the deficit through spending cuts alone) had opened up the political space that the Liberal Democrats need. Indeed, at times Clegg seemed to be drilling activists about what to say on the doorstep. There was a whole section regarding what to say about tuition fees and why people should believe Lib Dem promises.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that raising the income tax allowance to £12,500 and pursuing his mental health pledge are among his top priorities; in other words, these are two of his red lines. The Tories, unlike Labour, agree with the Lib Dems on the first point, and I can’t imagine the second being a deal-breaker. Indeed, for all the rhetorical attacks on the Tories today – they only look after their ‘own kind’, and believe that ‘every worry can be fixed with a big wave of the Union Jack’ thundered Clegg – a second Tory-Lib Dem coalition seems increasingly likely.

It is clear that the Liberal Democrats intend to concentrate the majority of their fire on trying to hold on to their Tory-facing seats.

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