Sartorial inelegance and bon mots are order of day

Lib Dems In Glasgow

To be fair, always a mistake, Liberal Democrats have a decent standard of debate. Academic research tells us that more of them went to university than did Labour people. As for all the Tories, they emerge as a bunch of car salesmen and market-floor odds-givers when young and greeters at Caesar's Palace (or the NatWest) when old heavyweights retire.

The educational increment shows chiefly on the conference floor. Earnest, the rank and file maybe, but they don't rant like Labour delegates - "This is a totally vicious, obscene Tory policy, comrades!" - nor produce the aversion therapy of your Tory-aspirant, part smarm, part snarl.

Paddy Ashdown gets no genuflections here ... and not that many mentions. Cringing reverence for the leader goes down here like High Mass in Hampden Park.

Costume is instructive here as well. In City of London terms: "T-shirts have eased sharply, jeans had a quiet day, but disgraceful sweaters continued steady while nice suits moved marginally up. Though Tory chalk stripe found few takers." Sartorially, the Lib-Dems have moved out of jumble- chic, but no one would mistake them for a convention of bondwashers.

The eccentricity count is diminishing here as well despite the odd stroppy old gent like Rowland Morgan: "How many cards opposed the motion, madam chairman?"

"There were reservations, but no one saying `It's rubbish, throw it all out'."

"Well you're wrong because I did!"

But the era is long gone of personalities bursting out of too-small sweaters, of Claire Brooks on auto-paroxysm. The new style is less self-indulgent though it can be moving.

Dr Anthony Lynch, a Gloucester GP speaking in the unemployment debate, got gimlet-specific about Cinderford, that old anomaly, the working-class town in royalty-tinged, cavalry-twill Gloucestershire. Cinderford, next door to the Beaufort Hunt, is anomalous and working class no more - no work, no anomaly. Dr Lynch spoke of the boarded-up shops of "Plywood City" in grave quiet ways to stick in the mind better than outrage.

By contrast humour is permitted at this grave assembly, if on a lead, and well behaved. Edward Davey, a brisk young man from Kingston, was rotten about Norman Lamont. The man who had said unemployment was "a price worth paying", was fearfully close to following his own precept. His own seat abolished, his pilgrimage of grace through Yorkshire seats unrewarded, Lamont now sought nomination in Kingston and Surbiton.

A cruel smile played around Mr Davey's thin lips as he gave "A message to the local Conservative association, `Give Norman a job'."

But the quality of the platform wasn't bad either. Admittedly Malcolm Bruce on finance tends to shout on tip-toe; and Robert Maclennan, one of nature's football results readers, does a line in stressed syllables and expansive arm gestures which hint at Sir Donald Wolfit.

Good speech though: Bits of Matthew Arnold, Debussey being beastly to Grieg - "Pink bonbons stuffed with snow", this directed at Tony Blair's policies - the film, Psycho (the Conservative and Unionist party compared with the Bates Motel) - Roy Campbell on snaffles, bits and bloody horses (also aimed at the great Labour idea-vacuum).

He had compiled an anthology of deft put-downs from the Literary Canon. You couldn't make a speech like that to the Tories. They don't have the hinterland.

But the cream of Maclennan was his handling of the Tony Blair kissogram. This has had delegates bubbling with the mild paranoia which makes conference life fun. Paddy, they reckon, might well flutter a susceptible eyelash.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

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

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Tutor required for Level 3 Workskills

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Eduction are...

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week