Clegg Conference Speech Sets Change Agenda

By Andrew Ivey | Public Speaking

Sep 24

Nick Clegg’s speech to his party faithful at the Liberal Democrats conference was well-received. And quite rightly so. It’s been sixty-five years since a Liberal addressed his party from a position of government. That’s some change.

His speech was all about change. Liberal Democrats changing things. He set out his purpose at the very beginning of this 40 minute speech:

“Two and a half years ago, I stood in this very hall to make my first speech as Leader of our party. I said that the chance for change was within our reach, and we had to seize it. That chance came. Perhaps not quite in the way many of us could have expected.”

We’ve noted that Nick likes lists in his speeches. And this one at the party conference in Liverpool was no exception. There was a long list near the start of his speech; effectively a list of the coalition’s achievements since May 2010:

“Just think what we’ve done already. We’ve ended the injustice of the richest paying less tax on investments than the poorest do on their wages. We’ve guaranteed older people a decent increase in their pension…”

But that’s where the list of achievements ended. The rest of the list remained future actions. Now, that’s a politician’s list of achievements.

His enthusiasm for lists and repetition continued with another listing technique:

“We promised no tax…
We promised more investment…
We promised a rebalanced, green economy…
And we promised clean politics.”

And later in his speech he applied the same combination of repetition and listing:

“Local people, local power, local change.”

The speech featured a very topical phrase reversal with:

“We’ve always been the face of change. We are now the agents of change.”

His audience liked that one.

But beyond the rhetoric, the speech had to face up to the “cuts.” And it did so very neatly with a fine position taker and comparison:

“I’ve heard some people say that the cuts we are making are somehow taking Britain back to the 1980s, or the 1930s. Dismantling the state. It isn’t true. Even when all the cuts have happened, we will still be spending 41% of our national income – the same amount we were spending in 2006.”

A neat technique for this conference-season speech.

He went further with good use of not this statements, another favourite technique:

“It’s not smaller government I believe in. It’s a different kind of government: a liberating government.”

Concluding his speech he returned to the familiar technique of repeating a choice phrase:

“The years ahead will not be easy but they will make the difference our country needs. Stick with us while we rebuild the economy. Stick with us while we restore our civil liberties, protect our environment, nurture our children and repair our broken politics. Stick with us and together we will change Britain for good.”

This was a very confident, comfortable performance from a speaker who’s clearly growing into the role of government.


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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+

  • hilton_dc says:

    “The love of fame is the last weakness which even the wise resign.”

  • I must admit I’m getting more impressed by Clegg’s ability to make a respectable speech. I don’t think he’s world class, but certainly top class! 🙂

    The list thing is interesting – it’s not easy to do lists without being boring – but he seems to handle it: there’s a lot of variation in his voice within phrases which means that the repetition *of* those phrases itself works.


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