A straight choice between Clegg & Huhne?

by Stephen Tall on October 18, 2007

That’s what it’s looking like with the news that Steve Webb will not be entering the contest to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats, but instead backing Nick Clegg. (Although John Hemming has also declared, currently it looks unlikely he will reach the required seven nominations by MPs.)

From what I understand, the following MPs have definitely declared for Chris Huhne, who launched his leadership bid yesterday: Lynne Featherstone, Tom Brake, Sandra Gidley, Martin Horwood and David Howarth (and also Lord Oakeshott).

Nick Clegg, who will officially declare tomorrow, is backed by Steve, Ed Davey and Sarah Teather, as well as by Lord Ashdown (and doubtless others, these are just the ones I’ve read about).

It would, of course, be wrong for any of our MPs to stand if they did not actually want to do the job. Nonetheless, I suspect a lot of members (and I’m one of them) will be disappointed that the contest looks, as it stands, like it will be a two-horse race.

The Parliamentary party has a highly talented front-bench, with qualified female and male candidates representing the broad range of liberal values which underpin our party.

This was our opportunity to show the breadth as well as the depth that the Liberal Democrats have to offer the country. It was also the chance for some of our MPs to prove their mettle, either putting down a marker for the future, or making their bid for a senior role in the next Lib Dem shadow cabinet. It’s a shame that it seems no one else is yet prepared to grasp the nettle.

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62 comments

Meral (21) – you are so right!!!

And Peter (31), it’s not just about choosing a leader though, is it? This is a fantastic opportunity to put our talented and able women frontbenchers on a platform, that the media might just take some notice of. Which might help convince 52% of the country that we, as a party, value the contribution of women. Even if the women on that shortlist don’t end up winning, we will gain as a party.

Because at the moment, mostly, we look like a party that really only wants white, middle class men and that, is losing us votes and support.

Now that Julia has ruled herself out and backed another candidate (Nick Clegg) she’s never going to be able to change her mind but I think it is a shame. Like her, I’m a great fan of Nick’s but if she had stood, I could have got really excited!!

(Actually, i’m quite excited about it all anyway).

by Jo Christie-Smith on October 18, 2007 at 5:31 pm. Reply #

I’m very disappointed that Steve Webb has chosen not to stand. I think its a great mistake, as he did stand a chance of winning and he would have been an excellent leader.

I am also disappointed that no women are standing. Lynne Featherstone in particular would have made a fine leader.

by mindstar on October 18, 2007 at 5:44 pm. Reply #

The media largely destroyed Ming and is already laying out the perameters of the coming contest.COME ON WAKE UP its not about the economy stupid, its about telegenics.

In my view without a radical departure from what the media expects and wants, the squeeze will continue, millions will be left disenfranchised and the WHOLE party will eventually implode.
Certainly this is an opportunity which progressive liberalism cannot afford to lose or let itself be bullied ….this is the defining time of Liberal Democracy for a generation …. let us not allow the media define it for us…hasnt it done enough damage already?????

by bill haymes on October 18, 2007 at 5:48 pm. Reply #

I think it is easy to forget that in a ‘snap’ leadership election there is very little time for anyone, other than the obvious front-runners, to build a campaign infrastructure. For example each candidate can spend up to £50 000 during the campaign. That is a lot of money to raise from a standing start. I suspect a lot of our front benchers would have been put off by that fact more than whether they could raise seven MP nominations.

by Paul Harrod on October 18, 2007 at 9:12 pm. Reply #

Andy@20. It’s my understanding Cruddas was offered a job and turned one down, my info may be wrong but IIRC the source at the time was good (I forget who).

As for a successful stalking horse/setting out stall for next time candidate? How about Margaret Thatcher? Hurd in ’90 can only really be seen as a ‘give me a job’ candidacy. Can’t be bothered to go through Labour elections as well, but people do it. Good idea? Think not, but, well, they do it.

I’m still undecided as to whether we’d benefit from Julia running, I think we would–I could even make a case for her being a good choice as leader as well, but I won’t, younger than me is Just Wrong–at least for a few more years.

by MatGB on October 18, 2007 at 10:34 pm. Reply #

Mindstar at 52 – I couldn’t agree more about Steve Webb. How can we persuade him to reconsider? If it is indeed money as suggested, I am sure radical Lib Dems could dip into their pockets to ensure a campaign.

by Tim13 on October 19, 2007 at 12:09 am. Reply #

55. I think Steve Webb’s decision not to stand was probably motivated more by the effect he thought it would have on his family than on fundraising considerations. And I also suspect that he thought he couldn’t win, making it not worth the hassle.

by Bernard Salmon on October 19, 2007 at 9:11 am. Reply #

I’m really upset that it seems the leadership contest has already been stitched up. I wonder what Webb’s price for not standing was? Clegg will be delighted.

by Eldoc on October 19, 2007 at 9:35 am. Reply #

Ruth & Jo, seems its always down to the few women who blog on this site to point out the obvious!
I really don’t want to hear the tired arguments about tokenist women anymore! No-one’s ever suggested that.
Stands to reason, the fewer women entering Parliament, the smaller the pool from which a potential leadership candidate can emerge.
I agree about Julia, though I don’t know a lot about her. I think she’s certainly tipped as a future leader, with more experience under her belt. She should certainly be ensured a higher profile.

by Meral Ece on October 19, 2007 at 11:52 am. Reply #

There is a “More than a two-horse race” group on Facebook which now has 125 members after less than 48 hours including several councillors, PPC’s and at least one MP. A letter was sent to the parliamentary party and that is on the page too.

Have a look and feel free to join and add your name: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5719982943&ref=mf

by Benjamin Mathis on October 20, 2007 at 1:30 pm. Reply #

I think we have seen the early stages of an STV election having taken place before the votes are cast with candidates that were always going to struggle against the leaders throwing their weight behind the top 2. OK maybe the members should have been involved in this process but personally I am cool with this as the good/bad publicity externally we can gain during the selection is probably at least important as the internal party debate. Clegg and Huhne are both respected heavyweight characters and it will be difficult for the press to have the kind of feeding frenzy of last time. The Ballard/Rendel/Oaten type of candidacy, with no hope of victory, only adds an illusion of choice, whilst doing nothing for overall party image and very little for the career prospects of the candidates themselves. Re: Julia’s backing of Clegg – a shrewd judgement I would say and puts her in a strong position to be (an excellent) first Lib or LD female leader – next time.

by Peter Dunphy on October 20, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

I am in the unusual position that I was a pupil at the same school as both Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne, and would thus be almost equally pleased if either was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party.
What is worth stressing is that although Westminster School is no doubt a school for “posh” boys, whatever that may mean, its Central London location and its mixed intake of boarders and day pupils has historically made its old pupils rather more streetwise and in tune with the currents of contemporary political thought than the old pupils of such rural seminaries as Eton and Winchester.
It is no accident that over the last half century former Westminster pupils have sat in Labour cabinets (Tony Benn, Ruth Kelly) as well as in Conservative cabinets (Robert Carr, Nicholas Edwards, Nigel Lawson, Lord Havers), and that two other former Westminster pupils (Lords Rea and Byers) led the Liberal Party in the House of Lords consecutively between 1955 and 1984.

by Hugh P on October 20, 2007 at 6:48 pm. Reply #

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