Donald Macintyre's Lib Dem Conference Sketch: ‘In case you missed what I said:’ a note from Vince to Ed


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Dear Ed

You’re probably feeling a bit down at the moment, so I thought I’d drop you a fraternal note from Glasgow, enclosing a copy of my speech, which went down very well.

I’m glad to say the hall was quite a lot fuller than it was for Danny Alexander on Sunday. And I was dressed properly in a suit, unlike Danny. Not to mention Nick Clegg, about whose grey-chinos-and-(very)-dark-shirt look at his Q&A yesterday, the least said the better, frankly!

Now Ed, sorry, first, about the joke (the best of the conference actually) but it was irresistible. Yes, the one about how Gladstone made a speech on the Bulgarian atrocities for five-and-a-half hours without notes, from memory. And didn’t have to apologise the next day for forgetting to mention Bulgaria or the atrocities! Sorry, too, for saying that the Tories are offering “Ukip without the beer” and you lot “Hollande socialism without the sex”.

But I think you’ll agree the speech was much more to your taste than to the Conservatives’. I hope you noticed where I slipped in about how we’d stuck to our liberal “and social democratic values” in government.

And I had a real go at the Tories. Did you like my saying “I will categorically not go along” with taking another £25bn out of welfare and unprotected spending. And that we should be pro-worker as well as pro-business? And I think you’ve been almost as robust as me in attacking the Tories’ “absurd” immigration target.

Come to think of it, there are some things even you might be nervous of saying too loudly. Like “any politician who tells you that the next government can balance the budget and avoid tax increases is lying to you”. But we all know it’s true, don’t we? And I hope you noticed that while saying the deficit “had to be dealt with” I said the Tories were “obsessed with cuts” and – unlike Nick – I didn’t commit to reducing the deficit to zero by 2018.

Of course I was on message in praising Nick for transforming us into a party of power. Obviously I want him to put me in the government if the Tories form another coalition with us – which I’m not 100 per cent confident he will, as we’ve had our differences.

But my point is this. If  the arithmetic turns out to make a Lib-Lab coalition more likely, it might be worth insisting on my  inclusion in it. I know your party pretty well, having been a member of it.

So just remember, Ed,  if you need me – and I think you might – I’ll be there  for you.

Yours, Vince