In Brighton for the Conference of the Liberal Democrats, whom should I bump into but our own Nick Clegg? He kindly asks me to look at his main speech of the week: “I've already given the press most of it, but you may be able to tweak the odd line.”
Well, I have tweaked for every Liberal leader since Campbell-Bannerman, so I settle down in the lobby of the Grand with a pot of orange pekoe and a red ballpoint. And this is what I read:
“We are not the party for you. You know who you are: Socialists, Social Democrats, Social Liberals, social anythings, beardies, weirdies, beardy-weirdies, weirdy-beardies, flat-earthers, Friends of the Earth, friends of Vince Cable, Little Englanders, Len McCluskey, tree-huggers, bunny-huggers, beard and sandals, beards and scandals, Polly Toynbee, polly wolly doodle all the day. If people want just protest politics, if they want a sort of ‘I don’t like the world let me get off’ party, they’ve got one. They can all fuck off and join the Labour Party.”
The waitress has to replace the tablecloth after I lose a snootful of the pekoe, but she is Terribly Nice about it. The manuscript is a little damp, but I score through the passage and substitute some lines of my own about our becoming a party of government before hurrying off to return it to Clegg.
Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.