Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Other Kirsty's Unliveblog

A confession, then; I wasn't actually in the hall for the leader's speech at conference. In my defence, as a man of Gloucester I was next door in Dempsey's being ritually humiliated by the Cardiff Council section of the Blues fan club. Still, when the other Kirsty (as opposed to my Kirsty) beat that confession out of me in the traditional politician's manner of being nice to me, I could at least promise that I'd get out the iPlayer and do an unliveblog of it, so here goes...

Let's not kid ourselves, it's a tentative start, but as Daran Hill said in the build-up, it probably ought to be. Then again, it's not a text that's lending itself to quick hits, though I suppose front-loading the facts of the first 100 days is a necessary evil in this scenario. But while it's all very true and very worthy, you can see from the hall that it's not exactly exciting stuff, talking more to the room than the cameras.

And then the first punch-out line is punctuated by a very unusual usage; girl as an interjection instead of boy. The etymologists will have to judge on whether that's actually the unnecessary regendering of an expression that it feels like, but I suppose if you're going to underline the election of a female leader, you might as well go the whole hog with it.

Still, it takes us onto the traditional Lib Dem turf of civil liberties, which in the Welsh context is exactly what's required. At the UK level we spend far too much time ploughing our safe ground when we should be kicking Labour and the Tories off theirs; in Wales, the way to kick Plaid off their supposed safe ground is to point out that it isn't their safe ground at all, that while they are left-wing, they are communist, not progressive and certainly not liberal.

The text is starting to come alive now, and much as Toby would criticise Will for it you have to love a line like "where your character and not your credit limit opens up opportunities".

And again this question of what conference is for. As someone who feels we must trumpet the open debate of policy that characterises our conferences (if only to put the lie to the idea that Labour members can absolve themselves of the sins of their government by claiming "well I'm still a socialist" when their party inherently doesn't give a toss what they think) the BBC coverage was hugely frustrating for the extent to which it doggedly stuck by the idea that the purpose of conference is for the leader to take on the party and win. We demonstrate our power in a different way and at this conference we did that and then some.

Speaking of the powerlessness of Plaid members, now we're getting somewhere, because as Kirsty is saying the Plaid U-turn on tuition fees is about more than an electoral edge in Ceredigion. It's about nothing less than the moment Plaid became New Labour. Because when a party that thinks it is led by its members is told by its leader "I want to ignore the policy you have decided upon and this is a matter of confidence in my leadership" your only option is to kick the living crap out of him. Anything else is an admission that you care more about being in office than delivering your ideas, and from that day on your party has a blackened heart.

It's this issue that is the stick that Kirsty needed to be poked with to really get going; I wish there was a better metaphor for it, but there's no denying that her oratory takes a massive leap when the passion gets behind it. We're getting a tour of all the right issues, including many that aren't covered enough, like how the bust is hitting many places that never had the boom in the first place.

And for a final thought, that distinction again, between slavish left-wing rhetoric of change for change's sake and purposeful change that addresses the systemic flaws as well as the operational minutiae. It's a good place to close because that is the challenge; we're not short of ideas and every day proves yet further that those ideas have been right from the start. What's needed next are the votes to make those ideas real; with more performances like that, both in the Senedd and around the country, those should start to be more forthcoming.


James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Kirsty Davies belongs to you?

Auberius said...

I suspect a straw poll would decide that I belong to her, but when you have to make the distinction between two Kirsty's, what other shorthand is there?