This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dull Lib Dem leadership contest ?!

Is it me or am I the only one to find the Lib Dem leadership contest less than riveting ? In one sense the drama of the Tory contest is missing for, despite what the media might say, the differences between the candidates is largely around nuance and emphasis. All three candidates have a political core understanding underpined by a shared Liberal philosophical basis.

In terms of policy discussion Chris Huhne has been the most enterprising and has raised his profile within the party hugely. Simon Hughes has started to articulate his belief in redistribution, greater fairness and more equal society and the 'social liberal' perspective he is the standard bearer of. However, whilst his sexuality is entirely irrelevant, the 'misleading' answers to questions about this have hurt his campaign in my view. The 100 seats target too, was in my book a hostage to fortune. I like his politics by far the best of the candidates and his charisma and passion would resonate well in the country at large. Furthermore, he has the ability to reach out to urban constituencies in the way I doubt his rivals can. His ability to 'win' is evidenced by winning and holding on to the seat he holds in South London, not typical Lib Dem territory.

Ming ? I didn't much like how MPs sought to crown Ming by way of a coronation and his subsequent campaign for me has been leaden-footed. The 'bridge to the future' line only draws attention to the potential 'short-life' leadership he might offer. For my part, I don't want to be dogged down either side of the next election by discussions about will he stay or will he go or who follows Ming ? The hints of dropping the 50% tax rate, his weakness on environmemtal issues and uncertainty about his role in the political 'assassination' of Kennedy all make me disinclined to support him. The sureness of touch and much mentioned 'gravitas' and self-declared 'energy' all seem strangely missing.

And, in urban seats, particularly those where we have the potential to challenge Labour, I can't see Menzies Campbell striking a chord with people in our great cities. My prejudice perhaps, but he looks and sounds like a decent patrician Tory. Similarly, whilst policy is key for activists, personality does matter to the general public. Chris Huhne sounds like my bank manager, albeit slightly friendlier. Is he the Lib Dem version of John Major in public perception ? How many non-politicos could put a name to a picture of Huhne ?

The debates between the candidates have been pretty dull affairs along the lines of Good point Simon...I must agree with Ming there variety. All very reasonable but dull and with no Mark Oaten to snarl at !!

In conclusion, I will still vote for Simon Hughes for his politics are easily the closest to mine. Huhne's appear the furthest away from where I am politically I'd guess, but his attempt to politicise the campaign, to raise policy, to be honest about differences where they exist has earned my respect. He will have my second preference vote. Ming as 'official' caretaker leader doesn't wash with me for I am not as enamoured by some of the younger MPs, touted as potential successors, as either the press or he is. That said, I can live with any of these three Liberal men in a way that I would have considered leaving the party if Oaten had prevailed.

Vote Hughes !


Blogger Alan Beddow [Political Blog] said...

I wondered that myself today. I suspect the reason why the Conservative leadership process was exciting was that they own the press and got them to big it up, the whole thing was stage managed. After all they have had plenty of practice.

10:52 pm GMT

Blogger Tristan said...

I am concerned by the emphasis on redistribution Hughes puts. To me this is not liberal.
Rather than the state redistributing wealth we should advocate removing concentrations of power (economic and political) and improving social mobility. Redistribution has a tendancy to make people less responsible for themselves and depend on the state too much.

Distribution of taxes to areas which cannot raies the funds they need for essential work like improvements in education and health care and encouraging opportunity makes sense, we cannot let the inhabitants of some areas have lesser opportunity, but simplistic redistribution is dangerous and leads to increasing the power of the state. Government attempts to redistribute wealth are what has led to this state of affairs where we have great inequalities of wealth and opportunity and increasingly authoritarian government.

1:58 pm GMT


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