The most important election in years?


by Sunny
28th February, 2006 at 3:42 pm    

the three amigosBy 3pm on Thursday, the Liberal Democrats will have a new leader. It could be a huge development for the future of British politics (don’t even try and smirk, you there in the back!), or it may not.

The Lib Dem winner will have an unprecedented opportunity to lead a resurging party and force a hung parliament at the next General Election and kingmaker. But for that the party needs the right candidate.

Ming Campbell
Though he has a large base of loyal followers and is quite the statesman, MC is my last choice. In addition to the fact he will be too old come the election, Ming has been spectacularly reticent to kick the open goal that was Labour’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

He lost the perfect opportunity to present the Lib Dems as the true opposition, especially more recently in the debates over ID cards / terrorism legislation when he was running as a candidate. He may look the statesman, but he certainly does not act like one. I believe the party will merely totter along under him and eventually start looking over his shoulder for a successor.

Chris Huhne
The ‘dark horse’ has charmed the pants of many a Lib Dem supporters, and I was pleasantly surprised the first time I heard him speak. Articulate and intelligent, Huhne seems more the intellectual out of the lot. But not really charismatic and easy to relate to. This poses a problem since the Lib Dems need now more than ever to lay out clear and strong policies that drive strategy.

Huhne may be able to formulate the plan, but will he be able to charm the electorate as a safe pair of hands? I’m not too sure. He just comes across as too grey. I bet half the electorate still don’t know he is a potential candidate.

Simon Hughes
Despite some terrible mis-judgements in choices, Hughes has hung on to his candidacy and is still has a strong outside chance of winning. He may not be the guy to sweep the electorate off their feet, and he may not inspire other people with gravitas, as Ming does, but I believe he is the best hope the Lib Dems have got. He is the one I support.

My reasoning is thus: the Lib Dems need a straight-speaking technocrat (an oxymoron, I know) who will formulate strong policies on important issues to help the party make strong gains at the next election. At the hustings where I heard Ming talk, he kept on going on about how strong leadership would rejuvenate the party and deal with all the problems. But this is why we’re disaffected by Tony Blair – he is short on policies and big on strong leadership.

The Lib Dems are not going to win, they just need to convince a cynical electorate that the Lib Dems aren’t all hot air on important issues. But they need a strong-willed candidate who can respond with answers, not just reassurances that strong leadership will deal with issues.

Unfortunately so far, the leadership election has been remarkably sedate. While that may be good from a Lib Dem perspective, I think its important for candidates to try and force each other to take a stronger position on issues and clarify exactly what their vision entails.

This has spectaculary failed to happen, with the result that they’ve had not much extra publicity because of the election – a missed opportunity.

The boys at The Apollo Project are running a prediction competition.


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  1. frank, sammy & dean — on 28th February, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    One of the main reasons we all voted for Lib Dems was because of Charles Kennedy. We sincerely believe that since his forced resigniation for being a human being – we all have our problems – the Lib Dems have suffered a identity crisis and are no longer the party they were under Charles stewardship.

    So much for “liberal” they knock a man down for having a drink problem. Sure he lied about it and it is debateable over many a jack in a smokey jazz cafe whether we can truly trust a politician who lies, but don’t they all?

    Alas, we have since lost all faith in the Lib Dems as a serious political party. Under Kennedy’s leadership there was a strong chance that they could seriously contend or at least challenge labour for government. A few months ago they could easily have overlapped the boring boring Tories as labour’s understudy, politico numero dueceo, but since his departure, the politicial arena has lapsed back into the same dog tired Labour vs Tory, with the Lib Dems relegated to the bench.

    It is a shame that we have no interest in who becomes the current leader. Hughes, Campbell and Huhne lack personality. They haven’t a sprinkiling of Charles charisma, which made him so appealing to the youth and a quality that is so vital to what we expect in a leader.

    We’d all have a pint with Tony Blair. David Cameron too. And we’d have had a cup of “tea” with Charles. But as for the potential libby leaders… well, gotta dash.

    Poor Charles. What has come of your party?

    Brutus, Brutus, dear Brutus, I didn’t see that coming.

  2. Peter — on 28th February, 2006 at 5:08 pm  

    Sunny

    An interesting call!

    I share your view that the campaign has been too sedate, and kept us in the comfort zone. My main complaint about about simon and chriss is that they have said too often just what activisits wanted to hear.

    But I am a convinced Minger – I think his whole-hearted liberalism and his precise langauage offer us our best hope. And I find that he comes over as warm and clear.

    Simon and Chris will both keep me on board. There are things each say taht appeal to me. Finally I gave my second preference to Simon.

    I am pretty upbeat looking to the future. Our best hope is Ming – as team coach and captain of a young team, and as a reliable spokesman for liberalism.

  3. Sunny — on 28th February, 2006 at 5:51 pm  

    I hear you frank, sammy and dean. Charles was the affable character that you could not help but take a liking too, and I am sad that he was booted out. Despicable.

    On the other hand, I think the Lib Dems needed a bit of kicking to formulate some strong policies and develop a bit of a hunger for power by attacking Labour and the Tories. I’m a bit worried that none of the three candidates will actually do that.

    Peter – Heh, yeah I agree that Ming comes across as warm and clear. But I’m not sure if he does that with specific policies. All have made very liberal noises, but I just wish they were a bit more ready to put the other on the defensive over their policies.

    Don’t you think though that with Ming, people will keep wondering who will take over after him sooner or later?

  4. ContraryMary — on 28th February, 2006 at 6:01 pm  

    I like the liberals and have previously voted for the party but let’s be honest.

    This country has a two party system, and the liberals are the third party and will never regain their past 19th century glories.

    I also follow politics but couldn’t tell you the names of any of the candidates bar campbell and hughes. so how are any of the candidates going to capture the attention of the man in the street?

    campbells too old and fusty in terms of image especially when contrasted with the thrusting cameron and brown.

    hughes has been tarred by the tabloids and they won’t ever be able to write about him without ridiculing him.

    and I couldn’t have told you the third candidate until I read this post.

    it’s quite simple and depressing too – the liberals don’t have enough members or benefactors to fund fighting an election campaign on an equal footing with labour and conservatives. it pains me to say it but the liberals are an irrelevance when it comes to government

  5. Sunny — on 28th February, 2006 at 6:03 pm  

    Peter, I wanted to add that I went to the Reflecting Britain hustings too….
    http://liberalbureaucracy.blogspot.com/2006/02/another-day-another-hustings.html
    http://liberalism2010.blogspot.com/2006/02/reflecting-britain.html

    I think Chris said a few things that would appeal to party activists, though my reading was that Simon and Ming took different approaches. Ming kept saying that strong leadership would deal with the problem, whereas Simon at least had some active policies in mind (which made me appreciate his approach more).

    I think its inevitable that a party will attract Oxbridge types, and that is in itself not a problem in terms of reflecting Britain since there are plenty of women and minorities who also come out of there.

    I’m more interested in real policies on what will attract women to the party – which I think is the most appalling inequality. Having one black/Asian MP is no biggie… they’ll come eventually.

  6. Al-Hack — on 28th February, 2006 at 7:01 pm  

    I’m with the trio on top. Bring back Kennedy!
    It does beggar belief, does it not, that one party leader gets usurped because of alcohol and the other has a dark cloud over his head because of his sexuality. Whatever happened to liberalism?

  7. inders — on 28th February, 2006 at 8:07 pm  

    What kind of Liberal party supports a ban on smoking in all public spaces ?

    Would the true libertarian party please stand up?

  8. soru — on 28th February, 2006 at 8:54 pm  

    Is it too late to add a candidate to the poll with a single issue platform of winding up the party and selling off its assets?

    I mean, if you look at its policies from the Iraq war to taxation to the smoking ban, it’s clear their only point of principle is to push for ‘electoral reform’.

    But the only reason the electoral system produces strange results is because lib dem votes are unevenly distributed and unpredictable – it’s like having 3 cars on a racetrack 2 cars wide, the winner will largely depend on exactly how much the fastest car gets interfered with by the slowest.

    So if you were to wind up the party, you would eliminate the only real reason the party has to justify it’s existence.

    Seems like less hassle and effort all round. If people are apathetic and disaffected with politics, what better way to respond to that than by having less politicians?

    soru

  9. Sid D H Arthur — on 28th February, 2006 at 9:45 pm  

    Well I like Ming. And I’ve even surprised myself by allowing myself to trust him. The man has bags of charm and gravitas. But not as much gravitas as him.

  10. Chris Stiles — on 28th February, 2006 at 10:04 pm  

    Yes, Charles Kennedy was a likeable chap. It was a shame his leadership came to the end it did, but end it had to. From his own point of view the pressure of leadership was something he is well rid of whilst trying to recover from alcoholism.

    And from the view of the country, lets not forget that at least part of the reason why we have had an ineffective opposition over the last few years was that he was too sozzled to do a good job much of the time.

  11. BevanKieran — on 1st March, 2006 at 12:39 am  

    Chris Huhne gives interview to MPACuk

    http://www.mpacuk.org/content/view/4/1407/103/

  12. Peter — on 1st March, 2006 at 9:38 am  

    Sunny

    I agree that having oxbridge types is compatible with having women and EM candidates and MPs.

    My concnern is that we should also represent people who haven’t been to oxbridge – we do at present, but we need to keep an eye on the trends,.

    Dunno if that is clearer!

  13. Dynesh — on 1st March, 2006 at 12:30 pm  

    I just read the interview with Huhne. I’m just wondering if it is too simplistic to expect that only ethnic minority MPs can solve the problems of ethnic minorities. There’s always a constant demand for more black.asian candidates – fair enough, but the winning candidate will need the help of the blacks/asians in his constituency too – he can’t afford to ignore them now can he? I’m just curious.

  14. Jay Singh — on 1st March, 2006 at 1:12 pm  

    When you have these advocacy groups asking, when are we going to have more Muslim / Black / Sikh / Hindu / Whatever MP’s, they seem to think that those people will become representatives of their ‘people’ and are expected to be accountable to their ‘community’ in terms of the issues they address and the stands they take.

    FUCK THAT!

    Any politican is accountalble to their conscience and their constituency first and last. We don’t want sullen racial / religious tokens in parliament stewing in their grievance culture and tribalism.

    Yes we want parliament to represent the ethnic breakdown of the British population – this requires individuals to move and integrate fully into British politics without a racial or religious identity agenda – there are lots of super MPs who do that. Enough of the ‘minority group’ expectation. The moment ‘pressure groups’ start discussing what they ‘expect’ from ‘their’ MPs it is time to take note and worry. And I am glad to say that most black and asian MPs ignore that. But it is another reason to ignore some of these wretched ‘community representative’ bodies with their snarling Uncle Tom detectors and self-obsessed attitude.

  15. Sunny — on 1st March, 2006 at 1:53 pm  

    I find it funny that MPAC are asking about more Muslim MPs, when they keep attacking the very same people just because they’re not as mad as them in attacking Israel all the time. Ajmal Masroor should have told Chris Huhne to tell MPAC to take a running jump when asked for an interview.

    MPAC want more Muslim MPs just so they can accuse them of “selling out”.

  16. bananabrain — on 1st March, 2006 at 3:38 pm  

    blimey, i always forget what foaming maniacs they are over at mpac. i think chris huhne is pretty ill-advised to give them an interview. what is quite amusing is that they’re advising their forum readers to read the “jewish chronicle”. i wonder why. it’s certainly not going to keep them well-informed.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  17. K — on 1st March, 2006 at 4:49 pm  

    Oh dear. You all seem to have forgotten, in a tabloid-esque haze, that when the Lib Dem MP’s were pushing Charles Kennedy to resign, not one of them said that this was about his alcoholism. They all said it was about the quality of what he was doing (or lack thereof). It became clear after this had all started, via ITN, that the reason for his poor performance was because of his alcoholism. He then resigned. You will note – poor performace was caused by alcoholism. Poor performance caused MP’s to be pushing for him to go. Not alcoholism per se, but the consequences of it.

  18. Sunny — on 1st March, 2006 at 9:58 pm  

    Hmm… maybe K, but given that he’d just delivered a great increase in the number of Lib Dem seats, you can hardly accuse him of poor performance?

  19. Pandit — on 2nd March, 2006 at 12:24 am  

    Whatever the parliamentarians had decided amongst themselves, nobody in the LD party at large knew what the problem was, and why the govt wasn’t being given the hiding it deserved. They were shocked by what looked like plotting against CK, and the messy way he finally relinquished the leadership. It could all have been so much better if he had said, after the creditable but not spectacular result last May, that he was standing down form a very tough job: he must have seen the warning signs long before. As it is, the Liberal Democrat vote is clearly more solid than commentators realised – Dunfermline shows that – and with a new leader they must be distinctive from the Blameron fudge (who knows what principles New Labour and New Cons stand for, except rewarding greed). The LDs must provide an insistent voice for civil liberties, global responsibility shown through ethical foreign and environmental policies, and democratic reform of our whole creaking system. That means accountability at all levels: stronger local government (including fair local taxation), fewer quangos, an elected House of Lords, a new voting system and removal of all crown prerogatives. You won’t be seeing those from either of the other parties; so Mr Campbell, if it’s you, that is your challenge.

  20. Nush — on 2nd March, 2006 at 4:48 pm  

    *yawns*

    oh sorry was the announcement today?

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