Another Lib Dem election?

by Stephen Tall on August 18, 2006

Election fever is in the air once again. Well, a mild temperature perhaps, as today’s Lib Dem News carries an advert announcing ‘Election of President of the Liberal Democrats, 2007-08’: nominations open in a fortnight, 4th September, and close on 27th September.

The post was last up for grabs in 2004, when there was a Simon Hughes-Lembit Opik face-off. I was one of the 24,333 (71%) members who chose Simon as President for 2005-06, in an election which saw a pretty healthy 47% turn-out.

Prior to that, you have to go back a decade, to 1994, to find the previous contested election for the post of President, when 54% voted for Bob MacLennan in a three-way fight with Don Foster and Martin Thomas.

Two years before, in 1992, a certain Charles Kennedy (who he?) bested Martin Thomas, winning 70% of the vote, to successfully defend his position – the last time an incumbent President faced a challenge. He’d triumphed in 1990, topping the poll with a frankly rather embarrassing 82% in another three-way contest.

The first President (then of the Social and Liberal Democrats), of course, was Ian (now Sir Ian) Wrigglesworth, who gained 50% in the 1988 election, defeating Des Wilson and Gwynoro Jones. The turn-out then was a whopping 71%. (As I’d just started at Big School, I can only surmise the ballot co-incided with the leadership election; unless Presidential elections were much more of a Big Deal in those days.)

Will Simon be re-elected unopposed?

Or will the long-forgotten tradition of challenging an incumbent re-assert itself? And, if so, who might be the runners and riders? Names in the frame so far include: Matthew Taylor, Lembit (again), David Heath, Malcolm Bruce and Paddy.

But if we’re going to have an election, please can a woman be persuaded to stand? Three blokes contested the leadership this year, while another three blokes contested the deputy leadership. In the eight all-member elections the Lib Dems have held, only one woman (Jackie Ballard) has ever stood. We have far too many talented and high-profile women these days to allow that unglorious track record to persist.

Six weeks until we know for sure either way. If the Presidency is contested, the all-member ballot will take place between 11th October and 3rd November.

PS: you can find details of the results of the Lib Dems’ all-member ballots here.