Author Archives: Phil Reilly

On leaving the “best job in politics”

It is with a heavy heart that after nearly a decade working for the party in one form or another, I am finally moving on. I started as a press officer a few months into Nick Clegg’s leadership and since last summer I have had the privilege of serving as the party’s Director of Communications. In that time I have managed to clock up three General Elections, three referendums, three party leaders, four chief executives, 18 spring and autumn conferences, nine TV debate ‘spin rooms’, two crucial by-election victories, one Glee Club (I walked out and vowed never to return), one Daily Mail hatchet job, and snuck references to Milton Keynes (#cityofdreams) into two party leaders’ conference speeches. I even met my wife Thais at a Lib Dem conference.

The most memorable moment for me came a few minutes after the first ITV Leader’s Debate in April 2010. I was in the spin room at the Manchester Hilton when all the journalists in my eye line started rushing to the back of the room. I turned to see that Peter Mandelson had wafted in, with a swarm of cameras, Dictaphones and shorthand notebooks forming around him within seconds. I edged a little closer, in time to hear the opening words of his no doubt carefully crafted response: “Nick Clegg won”. The full sentence was “Nick Clegg won on style but Gordon Brown won on substance”, but when the Dark Lord of Spin acknowledges in any form at all that your guy won, you know you have stepped through the looking glass.

That night changed the course of our party’s fortunes, but it also changed my life. I had joined the press office of a party that hadn’t been in national government for decades, with no expectation that would be changing any time soon. A few short years later I would be working in 10 Downing Street. And five years on from that fateful night in Manchester, I would be sat at two in the morning in the smoky front room of Nick Clegg’s flat in south west Sheffield, as the scale of our 2015 collapse began to become apparent, helping him to write a resignation speech. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: The next 5 years will bring a much greater appreciation of what we did in coalition

For the last seven years, I have had the privilege of working for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

So I’m sure you can understand that the last 48 hours have been pretty tough. Whatever you think of the party, our politics or the decisions we took, there are currently thousands of individuals who have given blood, sweat and tears in the name of our cause who have been bluntly and brutally rejected at the ballot box.

It is a tragedy for the party and for the political cause we believe in: the belief that Britain is at its best when it is open-minded, open-hearted, tolerant and generous.

My job until Friday morning was to be Nick’s speechwriter. It’s the best job I have ever had and will probably ever have. I cannot begin to express my admiration for a man who did the right thing, took a vicious public lashing for it every day and took it all with good grace, good humour and the conviction to keep going because we had a vital job to do.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments
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