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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Reaction to Lib Dem leader speech
Party members and political commentators have been reacting the to impassioned closing speech by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy at the party's conference in Blackpool.

SIMON HUGHES

The Liberal Democrat president said: "I think it was his best ever speech to conference because it dealt with three issues, the leadership issue ... the main issues of the day ... and why Charles is here and why he wants to lead the party.

"I heard Charles being more passionate and more committed than I have ever heard him before."

He said the speech "did the trick" and sent party members away "inspired, confident an knowing where they are going".

He said Mr Kennedy had always wanted to be a "consensual" leader and said his speech reflected this.

"It must be right ... for a leader of a party who is sensible to say let's draw breath and think what we want to do," said Mr Hughes, but he stressed Mr Kennedy was clear that he would then act after listening.

"He is determined that there should be economic liberalism and social justice."

Mr Hughes said Mr Kennedy was clear that the party was not going to be another conservative party, but also that politics was not "left and right" any more.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA

The deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph told BBC 2's Daily Politics Show Mr Kennedy had "pressed the right buttons" with his comments on Iraq and President Bush.

But he added: "It was very much a protest speech, attack, attack, attack."

"He ended it by saying he wanted to govern as a Liberal, but most of the speech demonstrated why he is not able to do that."

He said Mr Kennedy had used the speech to quash any question of the party becoming a "third conservative party", silencing the "young turks" in the party.

OONAGH BLACKMAN

The Daily Mirror's political editor told the Daily Politics that Mr Kennedy was on safe territory with Iraq and George Bush.

"He kept using the word liberal but he did not really state what his vision was ... of a Liberal Britain."

FRANCIS MAUDE

The Conservative Party chairman said "the sight of Chairman Charlie struggling again to convince his own party of his leadership skills is more evidence that his high tax, soft on crime party has missed the opportunity to show the British people that they are a credible party of opposition, let alone government."

CHARLES CLARKE

The Labour home secretary issued a statement in response to Mr Kennedy's remarks on terrorism saying: "Charles Kennedy has failed to face up to the realities that the police and security services on the frontline of fighting terror are having to confront.

"We need to be able to bring more terrorists to justice. But the police and the security services need the necessary weapons for that fight. That is why we must take their advice very seriously. Charles Kennedy should take them seriously too.

"There are hard choices to be made in balancing the country's security and an individual's liberties. But it is a choice that has to be faced. "Charles Kennedy has today failed to face up to these hard challenges."

SARAH TEATHER

Ms Teather, the Lib Dem local government spokeswoman hailed a "brilliant performance" that would lay to rest speculation over the leadership.

LORD GREAVES

The Lib Dem peer hit out earlier at some of the party's own MPs for briefing against Mr Kennedy, and said he believed the speech would help squash any unrest.

He said it was "by far and away his best conference speech".

LYDIA LIVINGSTON

The 29-year-old activist from Preston said: "I can sum it up in four words: Prime Minister in waiting."

She added: "I personally found it very inspiring. I think he has got what it takes. He is very honest, he is very down to earth, and very good at presenting himself and presenting his points."


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