Clegg speech: Reactions

All the reactions to Clegg’s leader’s speech from all the players in the Lib Dems, exclusively to politics.co.uk.

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman:

“It has set us up for a very good general election campaign.

I think the government is hopeless – they’ve given up. The Conservatives are mistrusted by vast numbers of people. It’s an enormous opportunity for us provided we get the messages right, and that’s what he did today in a very, very good, clear and impassioned way.

“[In the event of a hung parliament] it’s up to the voters who they vote for and they’ll decide how many MPs of each party are elected. It’s up to all the parties. They’ll have to talk to each other and they’ll have to work together in the national interest. It’s not an issue just for the Lib Dems. We’re not leaning in one direction or the other. We’re not picking winners. We’re campaigning for a larger number of seats, more votes and to communicate our very distinctive values.

“[The speech] wasn’t geared to attacking the Tories. The Labour party is dead. The Cabinet has given up. There’s only so many ways you can talk about a government that’s failed. The Conservatives are putting themselves forward as an alternative, so are we and people are now going to have to choose which of us has the best chance of providing good government and Nick is putting that message across very clearly.”

Simon Hughes, energy and climate change spokesman

“I think it was a very good speech. I’ve been to many leaders’ speeches. They vary in quality. It was a very good speech. It said: ‘think carefully guys out there. We know Labour are going. The Tories are shallow. Don’t just change to them because you haven’t thought about policies’. There’s three issues that matter most to people at home. Fair taxation, to make sure poor people pay less because of the recession. Second, to have people not on streets and working. And the big issue, that on Afghanistan we can’t go on like this. He addressed the issues people most go on about in Britain today.

“Nick is very good at communicating. I’ve always rated him for that reason. He’s been in the job now two and half years, rather than one and a half years. Of course he’s gotten better. I think he was clear, he said ‘look guys, I’m not in this to be party leader – I’m in this to be prime minister’. Don’t assume anything is impossible. It’s all possible. We are a real radical progressive option. The Tories are not.

“The truth of the matter is that as you get nearer to the election the exposure of all parties is greater. His reputation will have gone up. He will have gone around the country. He will have been in the job longer. He’s good at his media profile. That won’t be an issue at the next general election. And then people will have to ask: is it worth voting for us? And the answer has to be, if you like what we say, if you believe we need a real change, not a token change, then go for it. Don’t stay at home. Go for it. It’s not just Nick and Vince. There’s a whole team of us who know what we’re talking about, who can do the job, and we are ready and desperate to relieve people of the failed Labour party.”

Brian Paddick, former Lib Dem London mayor candidate

“I thought it was excellent – real clarity of message after a week of a bit of confusion. It couldn’t have been clearer.

“He’s talking about his ambition which is one day to be prime minister. I don’t think he’s saying he’s going to be prime minister this time round. Our own private poll shows the thing is wide open and stranger things have happened at sea.”

David Howarth, MP for Cambridge

“That was his best speech by a long way so far – fantastic levels of energy and ambition. I think that’s the key thing for the party now – we need to get out of the idea we’re here to come a better third.

“All conferences have some minor local difficulties. But I don’t think that [tuition fees] was a major problem at this conference. As we approach the election the party’s federal policy committee will write the manifesto and it will be a progressive and very attractive manifesto.”

Iain Smith, MSP for North East and Central Fife

“I thought it was an extremely good speech. I thought Nick looked very relaxed, but putting over a very powerful message. At the end of the day we have to appeal very directly to the voters.

“I think he was underlining some of the very powerful messages he was making by making those appeals directly to the voters, not just to those of us in the hall.”

Sandra Gidley, MP for Romsey

“It was nice to hear some of the foreign policy stuff was there as well. I think he’s realistic, I think he was a bit clearer about the fact actually we do want to do all this stuff, but the economy’s holding us back. So it sounded a lot more positive than we’ve heard in recent days, which was the right note.

“Everybody gets hung up about hung parliaments but that shows a poverty of ambition for our party. It’s important people know what we stand for so that afterwards we can work with whichever party can best help us deliver our agenda.”

Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

“That was a well-delivered speech. But also it was packed full of substance, and substance of policy that’s agreed. It shows on fair taxes, on a sustainable economy, on cleaning up politics, there’s a lot to the Liberal Democrats that’s gone through the test of party conferences and that’s tremendous. I’m inspired.

“It was a great speech. And Liberal Democrat leaders have to learn fast because they’re clearly adroit politicians. They have to learn fast to do a brilliant job, here, and that was a brilliant job.”