by Stephen Tall on November 2, 2007
An email from GMTV’s Sunday Programme pings into my inbox with the transcript of Steve Richards’ interview with Lib Dem leadership contender, Chris Huhne. Here’s a few snippets to whet your appetites. (The full interview will be broadcast this Sunday morning).
On Chris’s comment that the Lib Dems mustn’t become a third Tory party:
CH: What I see in British politics, which I think is very disappointing to a lot of people, is a sudden Gaderene rush towards the same solutions being offered by all of the different political parties, and there will not be a future for the Liberal Democrats unless we’re prepared to stand outside that consensus and say where it’s failing and why the political process is held in such disrespect and disillusion, frankly, by so many people, and I think we’ve got to re-inject into our message that sense of being the anti-establishment party that actually wants to change the whole system, not just change the ministerial faces on the back seat of the limousine, and if we are there as just seen as another potential participant in another consensus government of blancmange, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, we’re not going to make any progress.
On what distinguishes his candidacy from Nick Clegg’s:
CH: Well, I just think that from that point of view we’re both energetic, we’ve both got a lot of verve and vigour, and I think that if you look at the track record, and I think that many, many people have said that the party could do well with either of us, and I certainly think that Nick would make an excellent leader. My position is simply, not this time. So I think that we’ve got great opportunities, but I think that we need to have clear dividing lines from the Tories, clear dividing lines from Labour, and not get sucked into a cosy consensus on things for example like use of market solutions, where they don’t work in public services.
On whether he’s the ‘left-wing’ leadership candidate:
CH: I’m emphasising very clearly the tradition in our party which goes back to the great Edwardian Liberal thinkers like LT Hobhouse and TH Green, which is the social liberal tradition, which actually says it’s not enough just to talk about equality of opportunity, because actually by then it’s too late. Once a child has been born in poverty, and we have 3.8 million children born in poverty and living in poverty in this country today, once that’s happening you’ve basically given them a life sentence in terms of reducing their chances of prospering in future, so you’ve also go to have a fair start as well as the open road, and I think that’s a very important part of our policy message as a party.
On the majority of Lib Dem MPs, including now Simon Hughes, backing Nick as leader:
CH: In fact one of our most successful leaders, Paddy Ashdown, was elected with only a third of the parliamentary party supporting him and with the support of people in the country, and I’m also… I merely point out exactly what Simon said, which is that overwhelmingly MPs who are backing Nick, and me frankly, are saying actually we’d be quite happy with either of you because you’re both very good, so I think the issue of communication is very important.
On whether Chris or Nick is the better communicator:
CH: If you look over the last year, I’ve consistently been ahead in terms of media coverage of my Tory opposite number, and that’s one of the reasons why I think that we’ve done so well in terms of public perception on the environment. Now we’re going to be in a tough old situation over the next few years. We’re going to have some sharp elbows and get into the story. Now if you want somebody who’s been there, done that, 19 years as a journalist, passing the so what test, going to the newsdesk and saying well, hang on, what is the surprise factor in this story? What is actually going to get us noticed with the key Liberal values and Liberal messages we need to get across. Well, I think it’s going to be me.