Hughes: We’re not getting less radical

By Ian Dunt

Liberal Democrat ministers have not become any less radical since entering government, Simon Hughes has insisted in his keynote speech to conference.

The deputy party leader offered a resolutely loyal speech praising Nick Clegg and defending the party’s decision to enter coalition with the Conservatives.

“I am a rock solid supporter of the coalition,” he said.

Sketch: Hughes conference speech

“We could not at this most important year in our party’s history have wished for a leader with greater determination, energy and integrity and ambition.

“No Liberal Democrat minister has become any less radical or any less committed to freedom and fairness since they joined the government.”

But Mr Hughes was keen to continue his traditional reliance on key Lib Dem issues, such as Trident, tuition fees, banker’s bonuses and civil liberties.

Ian Dunt

“Of course I understand the concerns of some of you and some of our supporters,” he added.

“Coalition will not always be easy. You may not like everything that this government will do.

“But I have been on the opposition benches for 27 years watching things I didn’t like and it didn’t make it any easier for me or my south London constituents to suffer those things just because I knew I was not in any way responsible.”

Mr Hughes, who, unlike most of the Lib Dems who became ministers, is on the left wing of the party, and is playing a complicated balancing act in his many media appearances.

He has been tasked with showing that the Lib Dem’s maintain a distinct identity from the Tories and to communicate the concerns of the party grassroots.