Ok, I'm biased. My work at the weekend mainly revolved around the Leader and so there are lots of pictures of him in this little collection. I thought that both his main speech and the one at the rally were excellent and enthusiastic. The main speech has lots of different audiences - that party members in the hall, the media and the viewers who may catch a snippet on the news. It's incredibly difficult to balance all three. A way back when I worked for him in 1988, Paddy Ashdown told his speechwriting team to come up with a way of telling the party to stop the internal bitchfest that was the merger and get on with campaigning to and on behalf of the public at large. Obviously he couldn't say that quite so brazenly because the cameras were there. So the linethat we eventually came up with was 'we need to stop sounding like the Tower of Babel and start building a tower of strength'. Compared to that (and some of the other lines used back then), Nick's 'sclerotic' comment is positively Sun-speak.
But overall I thought that Nick managed the task well. He reminded the party how important May 1st is while contrasting us with the other parties and outlining to the media what our key differences are. The line about not joining another party's government but being prepared to work with others on a new form of government might need further explanation, but it answered the media's one and only question ('will you join Labour or Tories if there is a hung parliament'). We are back to a policy of equidistance and will need to be convinced before we go into coalition with anyone. Of course there were some echoes of Obama in there. Nick is talking about the poor reputation of the current political system and the need to radically overhaul it if the public is to regain trust in politicians. This does sound a bit like what Obama is saying in the states. But the Lib Dems have been saying this sort of thing for decades. Certainly far longer than the band-wagon jumping Dave.
Of the other highlights, there is, of course, Vince Cable. In the one-man-band party it is good that we now have a team of people who can command public recognition (although there is, of course, a long eway still to go, particularly with regards to getting a woman or two in the frame). The media may regret that Vince didn't go for the leadership but I don't. I have to say I don't think he would have won it and I think he would have been attacked far more than he is now if had were in charge. As it is, he has a reputation both for sound pronouncements and terrific one-liners. His speech was rightly applauded and gained great coverage.
Unfortunately, the man who wasn't there was Ming Campbell. I think that's a shame. His tenure might have been brief and his exit unseemly, but there are many in the party who want to thank him for what he did. He should have been there to take the plaudits.
That we were in Liverpool was never in question and former Council Leader Mike Storey was a regular performer at the top occasions. I thought that his appearance at the Education Q&A session with David Laws made that event memorable. We still have lots of divisions within our party on public services, particularly on the issue of choice and the argument between the two of them on the subject of academies was great viewing.