In his speech today, Nick Clegg said:
- Yes, people who worked hard in last month’s elections lost – an obvious point to make, perhaps, but also a sign of how poor some of the party’s communications have been that hearing it made is worth noting this time round.
- Yes, differentiation from the Tories is important – although there was some defence of wanting to show that coalition could work earlier in the Parliament, the message now is about differentiation.
- No, we’re not the party of the status quo – recognising the mistakes of the European election campaign.
- No, we’re not about anchoring politics in the centre ground – this commonly used phrase in previous Clegg speeches was notably absent this time round, both in actual words and in the spirit of what was said. That suggests a significant shift of approach from Clegg.
- Yes, we’re still the party of a stronger economy and a fairer society, but not necessarily in those words – this commonly used phrase was also missing but, unlike the centre ground anchoring, the spirit of this phrase was still there. More a sign that a new and better way of making the point is desired by Clegg than a desire to abandon it completely.
- Yes, we want to close the structural deficit, but unlike the Tories we’ll put tax rises ahead of welfare cuts – a point made before but also a point, so far at least, not made clearly enough to cut through to the public.
- No, we don’t believe in an ever-shrinking state – so once the structural deficit is cleared, the emphasis should be on sustainable growth in public spending, especially investment which generates revenue or financial stability, rather than continuing cuts.
- Democratic policy making process? Meh– of course, Clegg didn’t quite word it that way, but the words of his speech presented a series of new ideas which haven’t gone through the party’s policy making processes as if they are definitive party policy (the two new fiscal rules to underpin #7 and also a repetition of Danny Alexander’s controversial ideas for introducing a mansion tax via the means of council tax bands). Although some off-speech briefing has emphasised that the party’s policy making process is yet to decide on these points, the wording of the speech wasn’t the wording you’d pick if you wanted to show that you take the party’s democratic processes seriously.