The nine key party conference moments of 2010

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News


It has been one of the most memorable and dramatic party conference seasons in years. Here are nine of the key moments:


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Nick Clegg: "We confounded those who said coalition government was impossible"

He looked nervous. There were few jokey asides, little triumphalism. This was all about Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg settling his party's nerves about their power sharing deal with the Conservatives. He told them - and those that voted for his party in May's general election - that the party had not lost its "soul". The party faithful seemed happy enough at the end of it, while Mr Clegg jetted off to the US to represent Britain at the UN. Such tastes of power - and the thrill of seeing Lib Dem cabinet members announce actual government policies from the conference platform - made it a successful week in Liverpool for members of Britain's third party.

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Vince Cable admits to upsetting a raft of people but says: 'I must be doing something right'

"Comrades..." began Vince Cable in his keynote conference speech, instantly bringing the house down. It was a typically wry nod to the row that had been swirling around since him since news broke the previous evening that he was planning a full frontal assault on capitalism. As is often the way of these things, the pre-leaked extracts of Mr Cable's address did not tell the whole story. The shadow business secretary, who belonged to the Labour Party in the distant past, was actually quoting the godfather of free market economics, Adam Smith, saying that capitalism killed competition "when it can" in what turned out to be a fairly uncontroversial speech. Nevertheless, some critics still thought it a shameless attempt to curry favour with the left wing of his party, still deeply uneasy about life with the Conservatives. If it was then it worked.

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Ed Miliband: "You have put your trust in me and I am determined to repay that trust"

He looked like he was about to be sacked, or had just been told some terrible news, rather than be crowned the leader of the political party he had been a member of since his teens. Perhaps it was because Ed Miliband did not want to look as if he was rubbing older brother, and early favourite, David's nose in it. The climax of Labour's tortuous leadership contest, which came on the Saturday before their conference officially began, was an unrivalled piece of political theatre, with the five candidates lined up before the TV cameras to learn their fate. They had already been told the result privately a few minutes earlier, but that did nothing to diminish the drama as the results in each section of the party's fiendishly complicated electoral college were read out.

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Ed Miliband dismisses the nickname Red Ed

"Come off it," said Labour's new leader as he sought to dispel the tabloid characterisation of him as "Red Ed". It was a speech in which he said a lot about what his leadership would not be - not in hock to the unions, not New Labour, not a lurch to the left. Taking his cue from the early days of David Cameron, he told the party faithful Labour were the optimists now.

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Tensions over Iraq simmer at Labour conference

"You voted for it, why are you clapping?". With this unscripted aside to Harriet Harman as she applauded a passage in Ed's speech saying the invasion of Iraq was "wrong" did David Miliband illustrate for a lot of people, maybe even himself, why he could not, realistically, serve under his brother. It still took another day for the will-he-won't he soap opera to wind its way to the inevitable conclusion, as David agonised over whether to quit frontline politics.

Never was a party conference more dominated by events happening elsewhere. Or not happening. The hours really started to drag as David weighed up his options after losing the leadership contest to his brother. He filled in some of the time with a bizarre photo call outside his North London home, when he appeared in casual shirt and jeans, with wife Louise at his side, to chat and joke with photographers. He refused their requests for a wave though, knowing that it would be splashed across the front pages as a wave goodbye.

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George Osborne on "tough but fair" welfare state

Appearing to almost relish the role of "bad cop" to David Cameron's "good cop", George Osborne unveiled a policy that would hit many core Conservative voters directly in the wallet. The "tough but fair" axing of child benefit for couples where one parent earns more than £44,000 would save £1bn a year, he said. He also had crowd-pleasing stuff on married tax allowances and a cap on benefits families can claim, but child benefit was all the newspapers wanted to talk about - and it looked for a moment as if the policy was about to unravel before the chancellor's eyes, with some leading Tory and Lib Dem players apparently taken by surprise by the announcement.

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David Cameron: "We do have to ask relatively better off families to make a contribution"

In what was being talked up by the newspapers as the first major crisis of his government, David Cameron apologised for not warning voters about ending child benefit for top rate taxpayers in the Conservative Party manifesto. The backlash against the policy dominated the newspaper coverage of the conference, amid anger that stay-at-home mothers will lose out and that it will not be fair on hard-pressed middle income earners, seen as core Tory voters.

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David Cameron: "Your country needs you"

This was clearly meant to be David Cameron's Lord Kitchener moment. Or perhaps he was taking his cue from John F Kennedy, who famously said "ask not what your country can do for you..." The prime minister urged people to "pull together", saying he wanted a country "defined not by what we consume but by what we contribute". There was much Labour bashing but, overall, its focus was a Big Society-themed appeal to the soul of the nation ahead of spending cuts to come.

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