The most significant moment at Lib Dem conference

The grumpy look on a senior politician’s face as their party leader speaks. The off-the-cuff comment to a stranger in a lift. Sometimes it’s the little things that give an insight into the real political mood, cutting through the layers of soundbites, press officers and newspaper columnists that often swaddle politics like a tight-fitting familiar coat.

In Glasgow, such a moment came in a few seconds just before the end of the economy debate. When a senior party figure is up on the podium, defending a controversial position and ploughing through the red light telling them to end, heckling often erupts. Angry heckling even.

This time it was Nick Clegg. The subject was the economy. The light turned red – and the heckling was brief, limited and good natured.

For all the many people who then voted against him, it was overwhelmingly a good natured disagreement. To debate democratically in public is important. So too is the ability to do so in good temper, and it was notable how good the temper was in those revealing few seconds.


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