Peter Riddell on the Lib Dems

by Stephen Tall on November 9, 2007

The Times’s leading political commentator analyses the Lib Dem leadership race to date here. Well worth reading in full here, but simply for the sake of shameless self-promotion, here’s the bit which name-checks Lib Dem Voice:

Mr Huhne starts from having done well last year, though neither he nor Mr Clegg is well known among less-active Lib Dem members, the armchair voters. The choice is blurred by their similarities (both have foreign wives, were MEPs and went to public school and Oxbridge) and on policy. Attempts to claim big differences smack of pedantry and mean nothing to most voters. …

The contrast lies more in style and positioning. A thoughtful analysis this week by Stephen Tall, on the Liberal Democrat Voice website, concludes that the essence of the contest is: “purism (Huhne) versus pragmatism (Clegg)”. Should a leader “unite the party around core beliefs”, or “unite the people around a broader concept of liberalism – one which the party perhaps sometimes finds uncomfortable – in the hope it will give the party mainstream appeal and, in time, power?” …

The Lib Dems have picked up a bit in the polls, but any new leader will have a hard task getting heard. The choice between Mr Clegg and Mr Huhne boils down to who can best reach out beyond the party faithful.

Some interesting poll figures from the paper’s most recent Populus poll (conducted 2-4 Nov):

* 70% of those questioned would favour the Liberal Democrats if they had a strong and credible new leader
* 64% think there is so little difference now between Labour and the Conservatives that there is a real opportunity to make a breakthrough if the Lib Dems can develop some clear and distinctive policies
* 54% say that if no party has an overall majority after the next general election, the Lib Dems should be willing to support whichever has the largest number of MPs
* 34% think the Lib Dems should work with Labour to keep the Conservatives out of government