The best speeches of Liberal Democrat Conference

I thought it would be good to remember some of the best speeches of this year’s Autumn conference. I wrote down a list of 7 that I thought were fantastic and then decided to ask Twitter.  The list that they came up with was remarkably similar. So, without further ado, and in no particular order until the end, let’s go through them:

First up, Glasgow’s own Paul Coleshill comparing renewal of Trident to a middle aged man buying a flashy sports car to prove his virility, but was only able to use it 3 days a week.

The Economy

In the economy debate two speeches caught people’s eye. Our own Nick Thornsby’s, described by Nick Clegg as “brilliant” said:

The great 19th century liberals of my home town of Rochdale ­­– John Bright and Richard Cobden –­­ led the way in persuading the country of the benefits of free trade. Now we, conference, should do the same again. Forging trade deals between the EU and America. Pushing the World Trade Organsation to re­-start talks on a global trade deal. Completing, finally, the European Single Market.

Because we know, as did Bright and Cobden, that it will not be government spending that restores prosperity, both here and abroad. It is through free trade, by opening up our economy and defeating the forces of protection that we can create the wealth needed to improve living standards and reduce poverty.

Prateek Buch, who had crafted the amendments, said in his speech:

It isn’t doom mongering to say that while output overall is rising again, living standards for those worst hit by the crash – those who have missed out the fruits of growth since long before the current crisis – have definitely not, and they won’t if the current path continues.

The capacity of people to secure for themselves a decent standard of living doesn’t grow when GDP is inflated any old how in pursuit of some feel good headlines – labours record in government is a powerful reminder of that. It grows through innovation as the motion indicates and ad vince is striving to deliver – and it grows through investment.

A debate of pure quality that we can be very proud of, not least because of this man being brave enough to sum it up:

Yes, you can disagree politely

For me, Rachel Coleman-Finch’s contribution to the debate on the new responsibilities of members to treat each other with respect. She said “If you can’t express strong disagreement politely I despair for your creativity and grasp of language.”

In the debate on the “Bedroom Tax,” Cllr Richard Kemp from Liverpool and described it as “reprehensible and evil” and angrily asked if it were only the middle classes who were to be allowed to enjoy grandchildren coming to stay. He also said that quite often he and his wife slept separately because of snoring.

“As far as I am aware I am not a terrorist”

The emergency motion on Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act provided some food for thought. The immortal line above was spoken by Mark Pack who then went on to describe how ordering vegetarian meals and taking photos of police stations could attract the attention of the authorities, but why would they waste their time with people like him?

Zoe O’Connell warned us of the dangers of the words “terrorist” and “paedophile” leading to knee jerk legislation.

Maajid Nawaz talked of his experience of being detained under Schedule 7.

Just imagine the fear that one feels when they are told that even their very silence could be used against them. Just imagine the hesitation, the confusion in one’s mind not knowing whether to speak or not to speak because every sentence you may or may not utter is deemed a criminal offence. I was then told my DNA could be forcibly taken which it was. I was told I had no right to legal representation. Imagine the sheer and utter fear that someone who looks like me could experience in that situation.

“Can we just nominate the whole debate on protecting children from online pornography?”

So said one tweeter and I totally agree with him. That debate had some intelligent and well expressed observations from Sophie Bridger’s calling for more and better sex education that took in all the influences on society. She said:

The real trouble with porn is that it permeates our culture. It escapes into the real world and you can’t filter that out. The sex acts you worry about your children seeing, the degrading way some porn treats women, it’s in music videos and computer games and literature. It’s already out there. So suggesting that the best way to deal with porn is just to filter it out is impractical and I think potentially harmful.

Paul Walter said the solutions in the motion could lull us into a false sense of security and detracted from the central issue which is the relationship of trust between children and parents.

Who can forget Susan Gaszczak’s tales of internet searches?

But this speech was nominated by virtually everybody who replied. Well said, Jezz Palmer.

The one that got away

Some of the best speeches never make the Conference floor as chairs simply don’t have enough time to call everyone. However, after conference closed on Wednesday, I recorded this by Alex Wilcock live from the Liberal Democrat Voice broom cupboard.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Quite right, private enterprise did not supply government services, but they did provide the wealth and income that could be taxed to provide those services. Simples!

  • @mickft
    “Quite right, private enterprise did not supply government services, but they did provide the wealth and income that could be taxed to provide those services. Simples!”

    It only appears ‘simple’ to you because you’ve completely misunderstood some of the basics of economics. Both the public and private sector create goods and services which individuals in those sectors buy from both sectors. The private sector doesn’t pay for the public sector any more than the public sector pays for the private sector – they’re both part of the same economy, unless you happen to think that the all the goods and services created by the public sector have no economic value, which is the only basis on which your argument could be considered true.

  • Caracatus and mickft – its somewhere between the two.

  • Geoffrey Payne 20th Sep '13 - 12:21pm

    I agree with Caractus. We already have free trade so whilst it is generally a good idea, it is not the solution to the problem we currently face.
    I thought it was a good debate in that both sides were respectful of each other, but I think the big issue was not resolved.
    Vince Cable is suggesting the reason why we are having growth is because of a debt fuelled bubble in the housing market due to government policy. Vince has a record of being unfashionably right about this before when Labour was in office. Up until 2007 the British economy was growing well , Gordon Brown claimed he abolished boom and bust and most people believed him. Today Nick Clegg is exploiting the growth figures as Brown did before, but I did not hear the arguments as to why Vince was right before but wrong now.
    The problem with economics is that you have to look at the numbers behind the numbers.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Sep '13 - 1:20pm

    Can I just remind everybody that we’re not supposed to be debating the ins and outs of individual speeches, but just celebrating some good speeches from various debates and perspectives. The examination of the issues in one speech is off-topic.

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