By 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.
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.
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.
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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