The subterranean Lib-Dem launch was a murky affair in which a snorkel would have come in handy

From The Times

15 April 2010


The Lib-Dems leave us with a sinking feeling?

The Lib Dem manifesto launch was held in a circular basement room in the City, dimly lit by bendy blue neon tubes. The ceiling was very low and the acoustics were terrible. It felt as if we were underwater. Indeed, it was as if we were in an aquarium, fighting to breathe, move or hear. I only wish I had been given a pair of gills beforehand.

If I were to be kind, I would say this event was at the cutting edge of austerity chic and that it had a sort of Quaker-like simplicity. But actually it was just flat. No razzmatazz, no music, no sense of excitement, just a few MPs sitting at the front of the aquarium, looking doleful, with bubbles coming out of their mouths.

First up was little Sarah Teather, who bubbled that Labour had launched in an empty hospital and the Tories in an empty power station, but the Lib Dems were in an occupied aquarium (sorry building), a place of work and “rigorous financial scrutiny”. Pity it was almost too dark to read the manifesto.

The sainted Vince’s halo glowed through the murk. He said Labour and the Tories had not talked about the deficit: “This is the elephant in the room.” I looked round. No way was there space for an elephant.

“I am the elephant man,” intoned Vince unnecessarily. A vision of John Hurt in The Elephant Man popped up into my head. Do the Lib Dems really want to be associated with a Victorian freak show? I soon had my answer when Nick Clegg took the podium. “Thank you, Elephant Man,” he said to Vince, who looked even grimmer. I can’t remember having less fun.

There was no sign of Miriam, the wife who is, as now knew, too busy working to be an appendage. My theory is that she and Vince have done a sort of wife swap, anyway. Who needs a wife when you’ve got Vince?

I could see no other Lib Dem MPs or peers. I suppose that in these times of tight financial control, every mini-croissant counts. The Lib Dems promised they would provide the best breakfasts of the election but this hardly qualified. Can you have austerity snacking? I think they can.

Behind the lectern, Mr Clegg was doing knee bends and throwing his arms out a lot. It was hard to hear so I just read the Autocues instead. It was all about fairness and rigorous financial scrutiny. But then he reverted to political autopilot.

“We can turn anger into hope. Frustration into ambition.  Recession into opportunity for everyone. This is hope married to credibility,”  he said “Optimism that is in touch with reality. It’s what makes our manifesto different.”

To which I can only say, glug, glug, glug.