Lib Dem Conference Diary

Chris Huhne shuns his party's radical image but Vince Cable's "mansion tax" goes down well

The Liberal Democrats may cultivate an image as the most daring of the main parties, but it's not one that their home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, chose to live up to today. At a fringe meeting I chaired this afternoon on the police and public trust, Huhne confessed that he had little time for protest and that his last demo had been the rather tame Police Federation march over pay. Delegates nostalgic for the days when Charles Kennedy addressed anti-war marches were distinctly unimpressed.

Huhne did manage to make an early bid for the Guardian's vote at the next election. He urged delegates to shun papers such as the Sun and the Daily Mail, which lived off crime scare stories, in favour of the "honest" Guardian. No doubt Huhne, who penned an economics column for the paper before entering politics, was impressed by the rave review his former employers gave Nick Clegg today. But Huhne's colleague Vince Cable, who writes a column for the Mail on Sunday, is unlikely to share his disdain for Associated Newspapers.

All eyes were on Cable in the conference hall today as he unveiled the party's new "mansion tax" on properties over £1m. Lib Dem activists were satisfied that Saint Vince had demolished David Cameron's claim that there was barely a "cigarette paper" between them and the Conservatives. But Cable's attempt to sell the policy to a sceptical public wasn't helped by the Lib Dems' own Ed Davey, who in a TV interview was unable to say what the measure meant for the party's proposed local income tax.

Could the party that claims John Stuart Mill as an intellectual ancestor yet come to the defence of smokers' rights? A surprising number of delegates declared their support for the artist David Hockney's campaign to introduce smoking rooms in pubs and bars. One activist hoped that Charles Kennedy, who flouted the ban on a train in 2007, would reverse party policy on the subject in the comeback he refuses to rule out.

Quote of the Day: "Dirty, cheating bastards." Chris Davies MEP slams EU expenses abusers from the podium

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs


The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.


For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming


With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.


On the Middle East:


To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 


We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”


In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.


America will start winning again, winning like never before.


On trade


This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  


We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland