Thursday, September 18, 2008

Unliveblogging The Leader

Apathy aside, it takes a lot to get me to miss the Leader's speech, especially when it's a leader I've so enthusiastically supported from the start making his first autumn speech. So there was an irony to my location yesterday afternoon; while Nick was before the faithful, I was with two of my Cardiff colleagues filming a quiz show (and in the first of many trailers, you can see the fruits of our labours on Monday, September 29th at 8:30pm on BBC Four).

Then again, between BBC Parliament and the iPlayer you're never far away from a repeat, though that does lead to an important semantic question; what do you call a liveblog of a repeat? Still, here goes...

The whole podiumless/noteless thing has very much become the cultural norm, but you have to be a bit careful where you head with it; there aren't enough cameras covering you on that stage and the director is the Beeb's, not your own, so in playing the crowd, you risk failing to play to the camera, which is where you're actually talking.

While we're on the visuals, something I've been wondering about all week; much as the big video screen is very nice, the fading colour scheme looks far too grey when it gets down to human height. Maybe someone decided a brashly yellow background wasn't the right note, and that's fine, but it has to look less muddy in front of those cameras.

As for content, there's spunk to start, which is what I've been looking for from that stage for a while. There's been so much talk about authenticity this week, and the one thing that Nick brings in spades that Ming sadly never could is authenticity in attack. It's something Charles had too and I hope we'll see more of it in PMQ's in the future.

Then the segue into the economy (and incidentally, does Lembit realise the damage his campaign will do to spelling of the word segue in this country?) I'm surprised and delighted that there's a specific rejection of trickle-down economics; in the whole social liberal/economic liberal battle (such as it isn't), it strikes me that the “economic liberals” support the low-end tax cuts, but they want the trickle-down cuts too. Eleven years of New Labour have largely proved that they don't work and it's a sign of the extent to which we aren't lurching to the right that that's in there.

Similarly redistributive, a word that even I as a lefty might have blanched at using; the analysis is right, but the word has become so stigmatised that there's a definite leap of faith in using it. The explanation of paying for it worked too; savings will sound to the lay person as a pound here and a pound there and pretty soon it adds up to real money, whereas in reality the big ticket items are there to be ditched.

I'll skirt over the energy section because we've had that discussion before, but I will at least admit that if you're going to follow the Church of EnvironMentalism dogma, you might as well give it the full Billy Graham treatment and he certainly did that.

From spunk we now head to anger and at exactly the right time; talk about authenticity, when you've got child number three on the way you damn well ought to be angry about children and their prospects in this country. I'm not sure I'd have channelled that anger into the crime and justice section though; it's all right if you're going to whack a personal story in there, but if you're going to spend the anger bonus on civil liberties, no-one will care because it's something you expect the Lib Dem to be angry about.

And then the soundbite happens. I don't mind the soundbite, but I would have done it the other way round; don't say you're headed for government and then explain why, explain why and then punctuate it. Still, some nice passion through the closing stages and a reasonably neat (though mildly cheesy) linkage to Make It Happen. But then that bloody lifting gesture at the end; it doesn't look quite as bad as it did with Ming, but it's still rather wooden.

All in all, a very good job; I wish the personal stories had really been personal, about Nick and his life to emphasise that element of the narrative, but the stories there were still served a purpose. The important thing is to carry it on into the next parliamentary term, to keep the anger up, to blow past Cameron's shtick as the friendly face of the Daily Mail's version of the man on the street and actually represent the needs of the people of this country.

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