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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Lib Dems on Sir Menzies' speech
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News political reporter

Delegates emerging at the end of Sir Menzies Campbell's big speech were predictably full of praise for their leader.

Sally Bishop
I thought it was absolutely marvellous - very inspiring
Sally Bishop
But there was also a sense of relief.

Most said they just wanted to put the scandals and in-fighting of the past year behind them and, as one man put it, "get on with the job".

Talk of comparisons with Charles Kennedy's speech were met with pursed lips and silence and there was much muttering about the media whipping up dissent in the party.

Sir Menzies had, all of them insisted, pushed the right buttons with his keynote speech, which they had given a five minute standing ovation - even if the reaction among journalists watching was that it had been workmanlike rather than inspirational.

'Exhilarating'

One delegate, Sally Bishop, was practically evangelical about Sir Menzies' performance.

Kevin Lang
I think it was a confident, upbeat and positive performance
Kevin Lang

"I thought it was absolutely marvellous - very inspiring. It was an exhilarating speech. There were grown men around me crying.

"It is a very emotional party. I think Ming appeals to us on an intellectual level but also on an emotional level.

"We really think he has the right policies and we like the fact that he is a well-rounded person.

"Kennedy didn't touch me in quite the same way. I am not speaking for the party here, but Kennedy did not do it for me."

Kevin Lang, a prospective parliamentary candidate in Edinburgh North, was not quite as effusive, but he felt Sir Menzies had delivered what the party had needed to hear.

'Answers'

"I think it was a confident, upbeat and positive performance.

"Everybody has accepted that it has been a difficult 12 months for the party. Ming's speech was all about looking to the future and we are all united behind him.

"I thought Charles' speech on Tuesday was a great send-off by a great leader.

"He set a lot of challenges for the party in his speech and Ming's speech today had many of the answers to those challenges.

"It set out the policies which the next election will be fought on."

'Good health'

Alex Cross said Sir Menzies' speech had been "exactly what the party had needed to here".

"It said what our policies are and set out the way forward".

It was now time for the party to "unite behind Ming and get on with the job... I think most of the party is happy to unite behind Ming."

John Barnett, the chair of Sir Menzies' North East Fyfe constituency party said the conference week proved the party was in "good health" as it had attracted a record 6,000 delegates.

Alan Fox, of Louth and Horncastle, said: "I thought Ming gave an excellent speech."

He refused to be drawn on whether he had given a better performance than Mr Kennedy. "It is not competition," he told the BBC News website.




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