Welcome change of direction from Nick Clegg for party conference

It looks like Nick Clegg’s speech to tonight’s Liberal Democrat conference rally is going to take a very promising turn, messaging wise.

I’ve commented before about the risk of speeches from himself and other senior party figures looking too much to the past.

That has often been the case:

The political messaging cliché is that you talk about how bad the past was and then offer hope for how good the future will be. The party, however, has slipped into doing the opposite: talking about how good the past was, in the form of 2010, and how tough the future will be, in the form of deficit-cutting.

The individual elements are all justifiable. 2010 was a good year for the party, with a coalition agreement negotiated that puts 75% of the Liberal Democrat manifesto into practice. For all the pain of some of that missing 25% – not to mention some of the Conservative Party’s policies that have gone into the coalition agreement – it is worth remembering that means in 2010 we got a majority in Parliament signed up to implement more Liberal Democrat policies that have been implemented in total across most of the previous century.

But talking about how good a result the coalition agreement was is talking about the past. It was signed in 2010, in the past. Talk of our major policy achievements is also largely of the past. Yes, the pupil premium will bring much needed help to pupils for years to come, but getting the pupil premium started is a story of 2010. So too for the big increase the basic income tax allowance and plans to increase it further. There will be news about that each budget for several years to come, but at heart it’s a story about the past: it is what we got the Conservatives to agree to in 2010.

The list goes on. It is an impressive list of policies, but it is a list where the high-profile, attention grabbing events and decisions were in the past, not the future.

The future instead, as painted by such speeches as those I heard, is about tough decisions and unwelcome policies.

But Nick Clegg’s speech at the Gateshead conference this evening will include a rather more forward looking positive approach:

We’re in Government, and it is a better Government for it. Fairer, freer and greener.

Lower taxes for working people. Fairer chances for our children. And the beginnings of a new, green economy that benefits everyone in every city, not just a few in the City of London.

So: no more looking back. You can’t drive if you’re only looking in the rear-view mirror.

We have to look forwards, to the better future that we are building for our children.

Of course we have many fights ahead of us. But I don’t know about you, I’m up for a fight or two. This party has never ducked them. The great men and women in whose footsteps we follow never ducked them.

So let’s tear off that rear view mirror and look straight ahead. Let’s get on with the job that we all came into politics to do.

Making this a more liberal nation.

What with that and Nick Clegg mentioning community politics, it is almost as if his team read this blog regularly…

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