Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Speeches: The Beginning...The End

The art of good speech making is to start my grabbing the attention of the listeners and finish by leaving them wanting more. So therefore I'm going to look at how the four candidates started and finished their speeches at today's Meeting the Challenge event in London. Make up your own opinion by listening to them on the BBC.

Firstly Sir Menzies Campbell started laying his credentials out by saying:

I have come here today to affirm my belief in a great cause. It is a cause that has inspired and dominated my whole life. The cause of liberty, of freedom, of justice. The cause that empowers people and liberates communities. The cause that enlightens our world and inspires our politics.

It is the great cause of liberalism. I have always been proud to be a Liberal and a Liberal Democrat and to campaign for this party since I was a student.

This lead in to talking about our tradition. Our defence of individual freedoms. A challenge to 'Dave' Cameron and denying his liberalism and then touching on the growing energy crisis and international security.

In conclusion he said:

You’d expect me and others to say something about leadership. I believe in leading not following; setting goals and objectives; shaping events not being shaped by them; taking responsibility and discharging it; being both candid and confident; neither dictatorial nor prescriptive, but consultative and committed.

To be the leader of the Liberal Democrats is to be the trustee of a great party, with much to be proud of already, but with the best achievements still to come. My role, with faith and diligence, is to ensure that future.

Simon Hughes started by saying:

The easiest thing for me to do now would be to run through all the policies I support, trying to mention everything that might appeal to every section of the party. But that isn’t what this leadership contest should be about. Because in our party, it’s not the leader that makes the policy, it’s the members – and I am determined that my leadership will be as consultative and participative as this process has been.

Today’s conference sums up how we do things, how we put our principles into policy and into practice. We meet as a democratic organisation to debate openly different approaches and argue which are principled, which are practical and which are popular – in that order.

he went on to mention our core beliefs of liberty, fairness and sustainability. The unfairness our poor face under the current tax system. Our equal emphasis on freedom and fairness. he highlighted the dangers of economic liberalism without a social conscience. he highlighted his own and the party's environmental credentials.

In conclusion he alludes to Liberal ideas in the past that would not hold water with Labour spin doctors:

Can you imagine what would have happened if they had been control freak populists like the current bunch of new Labour and new Tory spin merchants?

"I am sorry Mr Lloyd George, the editor of one of the major dailies wont like this universal state pension idea - it's a bit left wing.

"Mr Beveridge - mondeo man thinks this a national health service Isn't sufficiently modernising."

I want the Liberal Democrats of 2006 to be as courageous and principled as the Liberals of 1906. I want a society where people don’t feel trapped or oppressed. I want a country which enables people to achieve their potential, not one which leaves them frustrated and unfulfilled.

I want to work with you, fellow Liberal Democrats, and to lead you, to inspire all those in Britain who believe in a fairer society, not only within our party but well beyond it. Just as it was a century ago, this should be the Liberal hour, the Liberal Democrat hour.

Chris Huhne started by talking about environment, economic challenges, global poverty, government, and competition the reasons behind meeting the challenge which Liberal Democrats are uniquely equipped to respond to.

he emphasised our openness, internationalism and rationalism. Highlighting the danger of Labour and Conservatives attempting to steal our clothes. He highlighted David Cameron's not so green environmental record. Said we need to set up a details platform of policy to challenge David Cameron. He advocated radical eco-taxes to meet our commitment. He asked why we set a minimum wage and then tax it. he argued for localism to improve services. We are apparently only less centralised than Malta! Now that is something I never knew.

He finished saying:

For Freedom, for Fairness and sustainability. That is why we have to unite around a policy programme that combines all the goals that our consciences grave with the pragmatic solutions that our heads can devise

It is not left not right, not Orange book versus Yellow book. It’s not Social Liberalism versus Economic Liberalism.

It is about uniting a party of conscience and reform around a programme that works. If we do we will do more that win the argument we will win the electoral war.

Mark Oaten started out aiming for his David Cameron moment speaking away from the podium and without notes:

With new ideas and fresh thoughts for this party we can set out a lib agenda for the future. But we also need to use this leadership contest to be positive and united. That is the least that we can do for Charles.

Urged that we most do more than defend the principles and liberties we stand for. Mark said we must complete the liberal project and give the electorate something positive, need to provide real equality of opportunity. We need to be more progressive, ambitious and optimistic and not fight over being left or right. But that does not mean going to the centre with no values or principle, however we should provide passion and ideas. He urged us to draw together our liberal principles both social and economic. Enabling people to take the environment more seriously. Redistribution of the tax burden. Our respect agenda will have a positive liberal approach. He said we need to engage with member and open channel of dialogue about policy and encourage feedback, both party members and others.

Our new leader needs to talk and put these ideas into practise. We cannot afford to spend the next century on the sidelines of British politics. While we leave it to other to imitate our liberal principles and pervert our values for popular appeal I do not want to be the leader of a glorified think tank.

In 1986 David steel told his party, don’t worry I’m not going to use that quote. David Steel told his party I am attracted by power without principles but only faintly attracted by principles without power.

The challenge today is to realise the potential of the Liberal Democrats, to take our principles into power. So let’s come together, let’s be bold in our beliefs, let’s be ambitious in our ideas and let’s move our party into the 21st century.

My view on these speeches they were very good. Mark Oaten started out in his policy brief and Chris Huhne also focused a great deal on his environmental experience, and therefore didn't really push themselves to the edge of the envelope as much as they could have. Ming Campbell showed a real grounding in Liberalism as one commentator said earlier this week he is a gut Liberal this shone through, however he dwelt too much in the past and not looking to the future. Simon Hughes however, started by acknowledging the party members position in shaping the party and was the only of the candidates to do so and finished by talking about working with the party.

Therefore in my opinion this gives a slight advantage to Simon on the day. Chris did better than I had been led to expect but I would still put him behind Mark and Ming in that order.

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