Critics praise Clegg 'speech of substance'

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's crucial conference speech appeared to have won over some of his prominent critics within the party.





Throughout the conference there has been speculation about the status of totemic policies such as abolishing tuition fees and the party's leadership has been criticised over the way the "mansion tax" proposal was not widely consulted on.



But senior MP Evan Harris, who led calls for Mr Clegg to listen to members, said the leader had learned that he must respect the party's will.



He said: "The grassroots have, as usual, debated policies with the leadership because it is the way we do things in this party."



Mr Clegg had "gained enormously from realising the need to test policy in the party as well as the wider public".



Earlier this week Dr Harris, the party's science spokesman, said Mr Clegg was a "good leader" but could only become great by realising the need to respect the will of the party.



Dr Harris said Mr Clegg delivered his speech "in fine style but the substance was there as well.



"We are a party that is very keen on the substance of policy and we are a party that debates it openly."



Work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb had used a conference appearance to criticise the gloomy tone of Mr Clegg's statements.



But he too praised the leader's performance during the conference finale in Bournemouth.



"He talked about austerity and cuts, but said why they were necessary and focused on the positive."



Asked whether he thought Mr Clegg had heeded his call, Mr Webb said: "He probably worked it out for himself but it was good to hear. It was uplifting."



Former leader Lord Ashdown said Mr Clegg had sent activists away with a "song in our heart and a spring in our step".



Lord Ashdown said: "If you want a monument, look around you. If you want a comment, look around you. Look at the faces, look at the enthusiasm. We have a really professional, powerful platform speaker and there is going to be a lot more.



"I have watched him growing in confidence personally and he is a tough leader and he gives leadership to the party. Sometimes that's not very comfortable for some but there is no doubt that it is there.



"He had a task to do, to send us away with a song in our heart and a spring in our step and he has done that in spades."



Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "I thought it was a very good speech, he set the right tone for us to go out and campaign against the Tories. If people want real change it is only the Liberal Democrats that can offer it."



Foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said Mr Clegg had highlighted the "phoney" policies of the Tories in the eyes of voters. "The vision he gave of real change for Britain was one that is resonating around," he said.



"The fact the Tories don't offer anything new, how Nick portrayed it as phoney change, I think will strike people who are looking for a different sort of Government, they will be really inspired by that speech."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions