I’m not often moved by what politicians have to say and when I am it’s mostly being moved to throw something at the TV. Not today.
Today, Tim Farron made his first speech as leader at the Liberal Democrat’s autumn conference. And it was a belter. Impassioned, powerful and, most importantly, authentic, this was the sort of speech that the LibDems have been crying out for since May and probably before.
It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty special. See for yourself:
Visibly emotional at times, you’d have to be incredibly cynical, and have a lot of faith in Tim’s acting skills, to think that he didn’t mean every single word of it.
And this wasn’t just impassioned rhetoric with no substance. There were significant sections on tangible policy: the economy, railway and infrastructure investment, EU membership, renewables and special attention paid to the refugee crisis and housing.
The section on housing was particularly memorable with a passionate attack on the Conservative’s policy on “forced sell-off of housing association properties” and the announcement of an aspirational target of 300,000 new homes and 10 new “garden cities”.
Of course, many will say that he can promise all he likes because no-one will ever get a chance to see if we follow through those promises following the May wipeout and the on-going legacy of our time in coalition. And this is why it was so important that Farron got the speech right today.
Today was not about what’s gone before, lamenting what we got wrong, of which there’s plenty, and canonising what we got right, of which there’s plenty more. Today was about setting the stall out for the future; about providing the members and the activists and the door-knockers and the leafleters a vision, an ethos, a belief.
Everything about it was positive. Everything about it screamed energy and enthusiasm and “it might be difficult but I’m bloody well up for the fight”. It hit just the right mix of indignant outrage and authentic empathy over housing and immigration. There was a personal touch without appearing insincere. There was empathy and hope. There was optimism.
And it was infectious. Not just in the conference hall where people were visibly moved on a number of occasions. Even watching on YouTube hours later, I felt invigorated by the speech. Enthused. Buoyant.
If this speech has no other effect than to galvanise and invigorate the core vote, it will have been a success. As for reaching out beyond that, this was just the starter’s pistol; but at least we’ll all be starting with a smile on our face.