Conference: Howard Dean’s speech

Ed Davey is currently introducing Howard Dean and doing his level best to hitch the Lib Dems to the Obama wagon. You have to feel sympathy for the man. I was lucky enough to be one of the bloggers interviewing him this morning (full write up coming soon), and we did our best to prod the same sort of indiscretion out of him. As a broadly left-wing sympathiser in terms of British politics, could he detect differences between us and Labour? No dice.

And indeed Howard Dean begins with a disclaimer “to put off the international incident” by saying that the Democratic Party will work with whoever the British people elect to serve them.

Dean starts by saying he has some small experience of Britain and how it has changed. He spent a year at a British public school about thirty-five years ago (“Good god, he hates us,” is the assessment of the LDV cupboard).

12.26 It’s just as well I’m not in the hall or I would be making a cheering spectacle of myself. He’s describing the Democrats’ essential strategy of “behaving like a national party”, asking everybody for their vote, including people who they had not asked before, in many cases for decades. This was, essentially, a question I asked him this morning, about the contrast between the 50 state strategy and the Liberal Democrat emphasis of heavily targeting resources – even to the point of importing activists.

He also says it’s important to use the language of the people you’re talking to – not to change your message, but to put it in terms of what you have in common. He cites the example of young evangelical Christians in the US electorate – they were concerned about international poverty, Darfur and climate change. All Democrat issues. There is no person in America, he believes, who cannot be asked to vote Democrat.

He then talks about the flaws of isolationism, especially in terms of the global economic crisis. America is now seeking to rebuild relationships around the world, with no junior partners. The Obama administration is committed to responsible withdrawal from Iraq.

At this point I’m afraid I disappeared upstairs to tempt outgoing speech-listeners to our upcoming LDV fringe event ce soir. “Have a picture of Obama, as personally torn up by me.” The flyers are two A5s to a side of A4 and we don’t have any scissors. I think it just adds to our enthusiastic amateur image. And I am sticking to that.

But I can tell you that the speech was packed out into the fire exits and overran by twenty minutes but nobody seemed to mind. Warm applause to end, and my flyers were gone in about half a minute. Read up on the bits of the speech I missed while walking up and up and round and round the Harrogate conference centre spiral walkway here.

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