BBC Politics Show: Lib Dem leadership election special – open thread

by Stephen Tall on November 18, 2007

Are you ready for Round 2 of Clegg v. Huhne? Because today, at 12 noon, the two candidates for the leadership will go head-to-head once again in front of the cameras for BBC1’s Politics Show.

If you’re tuned in, and want to let folk know what you think of the contenders’ performances, feel free to comment below. As ever, please do keep discussion reasoned and reasonable.

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142 comments

80 – Linda – Huhne has generally shown far more restraint during the contest than you have on your blog. I was merely pointing out that several bloggers, including yourself, have been consistently negative themselves, yet have today criticised Huhne for it.

90 – there appears to be an apology on Huhne’s site now.

by Sam on November 18, 2007 at 6:22 pm. Reply #

Christ is this what everyone’s been talking about all day?!!!! ;@)

by Jo A on November 18, 2007 at 6:22 pm. Reply #

Ed F(ordham), Rob, Jeremy, Linda:

Well what a surprise it is that you’re all howling with indignation? Two of you are intimately involved with Nick’s campaign, and the other two are hardly neutral.

Having only just got home and looked at the clip online (and checked out an apology on Chris’ campaign website) it looks like robust politics and at least seems to have kickstarted debate in the contest. To highlight issues and the need for a clear direction is important, whatever a naive researcher in search of a title may come up with.

78 – Elizabeth – you make a very good and important point.

Meanwhile the campaign teams need to get a grip (certainly including the four of you named above!).

by Gareth Epps on November 18, 2007 at 6:24 pm. Reply #

I hear on the BBC that Nick Clegg’s campaign has now made an official complaint about the briefing note. This whole thing is descending into farce.

by David on November 18, 2007 at 6:31 pm. Reply #

Apparently Nick’s now making a formal complaint…

by Jo A on November 18, 2007 at 6:31 pm. Reply #

Oh gawd I’m keeping out of this switching off the net and BBC24!!!

by Jo A on November 18, 2007 at 6:32 pm. Reply #

Hywel 62 – But they were the only two brave enough to put their names forward – so for that at least we owe them our thanks

Whichever wins will soon grow into the job and do us proud

I agree with Angus 63 – it would help to know which direction each of them would try to steer us

We need the public to understand what we mean by the “Liberal Democrat” way

Anonymous – One thing the Liberal Democrats will never become is the “Nasty Party” because we stand and live for Social Justice and a Fair and Open Society!

by Rabi Martins on November 18, 2007 at 6:41 pm. Reply #

Deep breaths all round I think.

It’s easy to get suckered into fighting on your opponents territory, but we need seize the wider agenda and do some suckering of our own. I fear the prospect that this election will prove to lodge a divisive wedge between the significant components of the party just as it seems we are able to unite over the broader issues that the public is beginning to recognise.
At local levels, away from the irrelevance of any leadership or personality tussles, we are scoring significant points without making any huge impact and I hope we will continue to do so: we are about more than one or two over-qualified icons, so we shouldn’t glorify any death-match between the current pairing who happened to have climbed the parapet of fame, just so that we can gasp when they fall.

by James S on November 18, 2007 at 6:54 pm. Reply #

Sam (101) I am not running for the leadership of the party! I have to agree strongly with Meral (98) usefully reminding us that women generally aren’t as impressed with bullying. Gareth, I have hardly made a secret of my support for Nick and I would imagine anyone reading my comments will bear that in mind. However, those of you supporting Chris should be far more concerned about your erstwhile supporters who are now either not so sure, or have changed their minds.

by Linda Jack on November 18, 2007 at 6:55 pm. Reply #

well, it seems like someone from Chris’ team has apologised for the leaked briefing … and now they’ve released the whole text, only with a different title, ie: “Nick Clegg in the media on public services reform and proportional representation.”

So that’s okay then (?)

by Anonymous on November 18, 2007 at 6:57 pm. Reply #

Some of us still haven’t made up our minds at all, let alone changed or voiced any favoritism.
I’m trying to remain open-minded as well as broad-minded.

by James S on November 18, 2007 at 7:01 pm. Reply #

Chris Huhne was an absolute disgrace on the politics show. Thankfully Nick Clegg didn’t come down to Huhne’s level.

by Tom C on November 18, 2007 at 7:22 pm. Reply #

I´m a declared Clegg supporter, so I don´t claim to be a disinterested observer. However, I have to join the chorus of disapproval for Chris´s performance today.

The problem with the document is that it is not an isolated incident. Whether its digs at the hustings, rants by blog supporters, private media briefings, or campaign emails Chris has fought a strongly negative campaign.

There is nothing wrong with criticising your opponents positions, so long as you don´t repeatedly claim that they hold views that they patently don´t. That is what Chris is doing to Nick. Today he overplayed his hand and I hope that it will now stop.

That having been said the so called apology is itself pretty disgraceful. Only apologising for the title then publishing the document is really quite an unappealing tactic. If Nick wins, and even if he doesn´t Chris has handed our opponents plenty of ammunition to attack the party with.

by Charles Anglin on November 18, 2007 at 7:37 pm. Reply #

While the debate today was not exactly ‘top draw’, I think two important points arose:

Chris, when bowled a ‘googly’, took it in his stride and said ‘Not me Gov’ and admitted the ‘own goal’. He then went on the ‘attack'(perhaps too well!).

Nick, in turn, looked increasingly angry and, it seemed to me, lost control of his voice and the argument.

Whatever the subject of the argument, Chris went up in my estimation today as a ‘performer’ and as someone who can tackle Brown and Cameron effectively.

He also does not give in easily when being questioned by the interviewer – the trick is to keep this balanced, and avoid being seen as ‘too agrressive’.

by Duncan Clark on November 18, 2007 at 7:48 pm. Reply #

Charles, what you say is largely true. But I’m astounded that you can’t see Nick’s campaign doing exactly the same thing. And that you have the hypocrisy to attack “rants by blog supporters,” when so many of Nick’s have been utterly disgraceful to a far higher order.

It’s true that Nick’s jibes in person have been more by innuendo than direct attack (except for last year’s full-on Guardian attack, which funnily enough I don’t remember Chris blubbing about), with repeated lines about, for example, not speaking like a policy wonk (gee, who could he mean?). But when I’ve been in election contests, while I generally don’t like being stabbed, I’ve preferred being stabbed in the front than the back.

And despite the ‘negative’ charge, Chris has put out far more concrete, positive positions than Nick – while Nick puts his more wishy-washy ideas across in what’s often a more appealing way (which is my dilemma in still not being able to choose).

At lunchtime, I was much more put off Chris, but worried Nick couldn’t answer questions. The stepping-up of revolting vitriol against Chris now just reminds me that his campaign doesn’t whine and whine when he’s attacked. Which he has been, viciously. Today Chris lost his cool; but Nick seems to do it far more often. I worry that this hysterical inability to deal with a relatively gentle assault does not bode well if Nick has to be Leader in the real, nasty world.

by Alex Wilcock on November 18, 2007 at 7:52 pm. Reply #

My goodness, gracious me!
Having spent the day delivering (which is maybe what some of the most bile venting people above should have been doing instead)I return and the world has exploded.
I am terrified that after all this is over, one of the top two talents in our party will be entirely excluded from the front bench. This would be disasterous for unity and ability.

In my mind, the problem is that we elected Ming in the first place. The party was unified under Charles. Friendly, united and happy, but also too safe.

Ming’s leadership was dominated by the build up of the Clegg vs Huhne atmosphere, and nothing more. This exploded today, it was bound to eventually.
Most of the fault lies with those (not Nick himself) who spent the last couple of years attempting to do-down Chris. They built a nasty atmosphere, not becoming of our party.

None of this would have ever happenned if the Parliamentary Party had been sensible and brave and recognised (as many of us mere mortals did) that Ming was not up to the job. Then Clegg could have stood last time, we would have had a better leader (Nick or Chris)and we would be united, healthy and would have hundreds more Lib Dem Councillors, more AMs and more MSPs. It is as simple as that.

by dominic hannigan on November 18, 2007 at 7:55 pm. Reply #

113 Charles – in my estimation there have been far more blog articles attacking Huhne than Clegg. Go back through Linda’s blog for the past few weeks, or recent and anonymous blogger ‘Harold Muckle’ for example.

There appears to have been a concerted effort to use blog postings to attack Huhne for being negative to a degree that is far more negative than any of the things Huhne is accused of having done.

There have been digs at hustings both ways – Huhne on vouchers and health insurance, Clegg on Trident and attacking Huhne on his ability to get the environment message across – pretty much even stevens in my view.

I have recieved several emails from the Huhne campaign and they haven’t struck me as being at all negative.

I can’t comment on media briefings as I haven’t been party to them (have you?) but there doesn’t seem to have been much negative stuff in the media at all. There have been a few diary pieces about Huhne.

by Sam on November 18, 2007 at 7:56 pm. Reply #

That was ugly by an party’s standards.

Makes a Respect meeting look like an example of polite society.

by Pete Muir on November 18, 2007 at 8:09 pm. Reply #

So after getting back from the pub and reading these posts I can safely say:

1) If your a Clegg supporter you are appalled at Warring/Huhne/whoever it was.

2) If you are a Huhne supporter you think the criticism was correct, and Clegg is a loser for complaining in the proper manner to Cowley Street.

3) If you are a soft supporter and watched the programme you now think Huhne is nasty.

That about right?

by Whelan on November 18, 2007 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

Whelan (119) Yeah, about right!

by Linda Jack on November 18, 2007 at 8:29 pm. Reply #

Once we all cool down a bit perhaps we need to consider – is there any substance in the persistent allegations of flip-flopping from Huhne which Clegg persists in denying?
Sam Says (117) posted the following link on a previous blog.
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article313546.ece

Is there not something to answer here?

Of course the “Calamity Clegg” title should never have seen the light of day but let’s look at the substance rather than the shadow.

by Denis on November 18, 2007 at 8:35 pm. Reply #

117 – Of the bloggers the most appalling one comes from the Clegg side, one called ‘The anti-Chris’, which is one of the most vile things that I’ve read and most likely a sockpuppet for someone trying to keep their hands clean.

by ukpaul on November 18, 2007 at 8:56 pm. Reply #

I agree with Sam (117) on the hustings, having attended two now. I must say I’ve seen more unpleasantness from ‘Cleggies’ directed at ‘Huhneistas’ than I have the other way. Many of Clegg’s supporters have a superior ‘we know best’ manner about them, and this is not going down well with a lot of members.

I’ve just watched the Politics Show piece, and agree it wasn’t particularly edifying, but lets get it in perspective. Both candidates showed signs of strong irritation with the other, which I suppose we should put down to frustration and campaign stress.

Chris has apologised for ‘Calamisty Clegg’, and I hope Nick accepts that and the two of them get back to the proper political debate in the run up to Newsnight on Tuesday and the remaining hustings.

Negative campaigning is an unfortunate fact of life today, but as others have said Clegg supporters (eg. Linda Jack and Charlotte Gore) have done much of this on line, and others have been ‘spinning’ to the media since the campaign started. There is an old adage about ‘people in glass houses’, and some should remember that before they express righteous indignation quite so loudly.

by Steve Comer on November 18, 2007 at 9:08 pm. Reply #

Sorry – I don’t think the explanation adds up.

When you are producing this sort of attack document a great deal of care (should) goes into it to ensure that any allegations are correct and backed up by sources.

Certainly some of the background work could be done by a junior researcher but the idea that they would then be responsible for deciding whether the finished version should go out to the press is ludicrous.

Were I running a campaign and doing this sort of thing then I would certainly expect the agent to agree it and probably have the candidates thumb print on it.

That would go double if the campaign had already run into problems with similar unapproved material!

Chris needs to make it clear whether the “overzealous junior researcher” is still part of his campaign. He said in an interview with John Pienaar that they weren’t an employee so no reason why they can’t be

by Hywel Morgan on November 18, 2007 at 9:08 pm. Reply #

I think we can expect both candidates to go out, as they have done with their respective briefs, and attack MPs from the other parties on Home Affairs and the Environment. I think Nick looked genuinely taken aback at the torrent of negativity from Chris today. Had he attacked back, then he would have handed our opponents and the media great fodder for the future. He did not, and now seems to be accused by some of Huhnes supporters, of being ‘wishy washy’ I am pleased he did not get drawn into getting personal. He seems to have the cooler head, looking ahead and aware that they will have to work together after Dec 17.

by Meral Ece on November 18, 2007 at 9:09 pm. Reply #

I note that “ukpaul” is yet another person hiding behind a pseudonym, but I completely agree with his comments about the new “blogger” he refers to. What he has written about CH is completely unacceptable.

Jeremy Hargreaves (a real person!)

by Jeremy Hargreaves on November 18, 2007 at 9:10 pm. Reply #

Don’t you just love elections !

They bring out the best of worst in the worst of the
best of us !!!

Reminds me something I once read somewhere … “If he knows not and knows not that he knows not – he is a fool – shun him”

Problem is I am not sure which camp “knows Not” the most!!!!

by Rabi Martins on November 18, 2007 at 9:11 pm. Reply #

Meral, I’m not sure if you’ve not read the thread carefully (and who could blame you!) or if you’re guilty of yet another smear by a Nick supporter.

He… now seems to be accused by some of Huhnes supporters, of being ‘wishy washy’

Actually, Meral, only two people have said they felt that about Nick’s performances on here. And both of us (yes, I was one) are undecided voters, and made it clear in the posts where we used the term.

I’ll assume it’s an honest mistake as you’ve not been one of the more hysterical ‘If you don’t think Nick is the Messiah, you’re a Satanic Chris fanatic who wants to drag the party into Hell!’ types. But even so, if you think anyone who’s not yet convinced of Nick must be your enemy to be attacked, way to alienate the floating voter.

by Alex Wilcock on November 18, 2007 at 9:21 pm. Reply #

Being able to stay calm when under fire, even if that fire is outrageous, is an important part of being a leader. Cameron, for example, doesn’t have that ability and is easily riled into an unpleasant mood by those who know how. I hope the next LD leader has that ability.

by Mark Wright on November 18, 2007 at 9:24 pm. Reply #

#126 I’m with you!

I have a question I want to ask: what effect people think the general tone and quality of the election will have on a)turnout b)membership?

While it has definitely got the blogosphere pumping and the commentariat buzzing (at least on our side of the pond), has it made any impact in the promotion of our aims? Is it winning people over, turning people off, or entrenching the divide between those who do and those who don’t?

by James S on November 18, 2007 at 9:35 pm. Reply #

125 – Sorry, I post on politicalbetting usually. I don’t use my full name as I’m a teacher and want to avoid being googleable!

by ukpaul on November 18, 2007 at 9:42 pm. Reply #

Dom’s right (116) that we can’t have a front-bench with one or other excluded, presumably huffing on the back-benches a la mode Ted Heath. Not quite sure though how the Parliamentary party will manage to pull things back together after the result is out, but the ‘establishment’ ought to be putting feelers out to both camps right now.

And then the rest of us should start to think how the ordinary members might take back control of the direction of the party as, frankly, the Parliamentarians and other ‘establishment’ figures remain tarnished in many minds by what they did to CK and their inability to manage the fall-out that they caused.

by John in Penarth on November 18, 2007 at 9:42 pm. Reply #

Alex @ 127, I was refering to comments on other Lib Dem blogs, not specifically on LDV. A fair number of CH supporters have latched onto the fact that NC did not attack back and the phrase ‘wishy washy’ has cropped up a number of times.
No I’m not attacking anyone who is a CH supporter, just because I support Nick. I’ve said on my own blog, that we have 2 excellent candidates, and that its unusual for so many members to say they’d be happy if either men win. Though I must admit had I been a CH supporter,I’d have been very turned off by CHs performance today. In all party selections, including PPC, GLA etc, rules do not permit candidates basically slagging off each other. But then Party rules are so inconsistent!

by Meral Ece on November 18, 2007 at 9:50 pm. Reply #

In government a minister would bear the brunt of the blame if a member off their team were show such a degree of stupidity or incompetence and it become so embarrassingly public.

Surely My Huhne, whether he knew about the document or not, should likewise bear the brunt of the blame. It was his own incompetence and inefficiency that led to such a memo leaving his office without appropriate censorship. Does this obvious lack of attention to detail and commitment to his campaign signal the hallmarks of leader?

by Nicc on November 18, 2007 at 10:21 pm. Reply #

Ye gods this is getting dull.

So I’m going to ignore the leak/fault issue completely because it both bores me and has annoyed me, and instead address Merel.

had I been a CH supporter,I’d have been very turned off by CHs performance today

Note the lack of “why I’m now backing Chris” from me on LibDems4Chris, I need to rethink my emphasis a lot from my initial enthusiasm Friday when I made my decision.

I agree with you, I still think both are excellent candidates, and whichever wins I’ll be OK with the result. I’d much prefer it if we had a wider field (because amongst other things 3-way contests can avoid personal bickering and also, well, Vince is doing a much better job than I expected, and I thought he was good already), but we have to choose between these two.

Given that, which candidate will sell our policies best? The person who doesn’t let the media interviewer run over him, gets his point across strongly and makes sure he’s heard, or the person who sits there looking hurt and not getting many words in edgeways?

As appears to be usual, Alix has done a sterling job (as usual) at explaining the differences in our preferences and why we’re looking at things differently, but I really feel that Nick’s main supposed USP, that of media performance, hasn’t showed in either appearance so far.

So while I’m now a lot less positive about Huhne, I’m still convinced Clegg just isn’t ready–if he wins, he’ll need some serious media training and practice to get his points across well in serious interviews and debates, Huhne quite blatantly has the opposite problem, he went too far today. But not in a way that I felt was that damaging, he should’ve just shut up when he’d rebutted the point.

by MatGB on November 18, 2007 at 10:37 pm. Reply #

MatGB: I think anyone elected leader needs some time to grow into the job. I remember when Charles K was elected Leader, it took him a general election to grow into the role.Since he stood down as leader, ironically, he’s never been more popular!
I think one thing that Nick shares with Charles, is that ability to connect in that self effacing way with ordinary people, which is quite rare in politicians.
I personally think that Nick has got a lot to give and will grow and develop his own distinct style

by Meral Ece on November 18, 2007 at 10:53 pm. Reply #

It was a fascinating experience to be at TV centre to watch the Politics Show debate go out live from the green room. There was certainly a marked difference in the mood and demeanour of the candidates before and afterwards….

But you’ll have to read my blog on the Progressive Vision website tomorrow for more on this…

On the side-show of my package leading up to the debate between Nick and Chris, and to respond to MattGb and RobF at the start of this thread:

Adam Swann, the ex-supporter I interviewed, seemed to think that our tax policy was unclear. It wasn’t my job in this piece to explain it to him – but to see what he (and other voters thought). At the Southwark boxing club, no one was able to name a single LibDem policy (not even opposition to the Iraq war). I’m flattered that I’m credited with being “the guy that used to be responsible for selling our policies.” What ever you think of my media skills (or lack of them!), I think this scale of public ignorance about any policies or messages goes wider than the callibre of party press officers – it shows there’s something wrong with our message or our whole approach to communicating it.

On Rob’s jibe that I’m “open about being an old school Tory”, I can assure you I’m nothing of the sort. I do favour a reduction in the overall tax burden, which has shot up enormously since 1997 to remarkably little positive effect in terms of public services.

My wider point was about issues of personal freedom. I think if the party continues to take an ambivalent – and sometimes overtly hostile approach – to individual lifestyle freeedoms, then it is hard to claim that we are truly liberal. It’s odd to me that LibDem MPs would overwhelmingly favour the smoking ban and lean against gambling and alcohol licensing liberalisation. Old school Tories – by the way – are even less liberal on these matters.

Getting a “message” across is very different to (and I’d argue – often more important than) getting across a specific policy. But if you want to be e.g. the party of individual freedom, you need to be consistent across the board – not liberal in some areas and confused or draconian in others.

by Mark Littlewood on November 18, 2007 at 11:12 pm. Reply #

one thing that Nick shares with Charles, is that ability to connect in that self effacing way with ordinary people, which is quite rare in politicians.

See, that’s my problem–I watched QT and today’s spat sat next tom my fiancée, resolutely a non-member. While I don’t claim she’s ‘ordinary’ (she comments here sometimes for a start), she’s not at all involved in the process or the party (despite my best efforts). This whole contest has pushed her further from joining and she doesn’t favour either candidate.

She can’t stand Nick, and was shouting at the screen a few times Thursday night. Her opinion has helped me decide mine, and I don’t see what you do. Obviously, everyone is different, but we have to get our feedback somewhere. So while he may connect well with some, with others, including definite target supporters should-be-a-PPC-already people, he’s very offputting.

But I’ve seen the exact same said about Huhne. Just not as strongly.

I personally think that Nick has got a lot to give and will grow and develop his own distinct style

On that I agree again–in ten years time, I’ll likely to be happy to campaign for him. Well, I’d hopefully get to choose from a few other candidates as well. Like Charles or Julia, or even yourself if you get in.

But right now? We need someone who can rebuild the party and sell the policy now, and Chris has demonstrated he can do that.

by MatGB on November 18, 2007 at 11:14 pm. Reply #

Mat, I think we just agree to disagree. I’m not going to give you or anyone else grief over this (thanks for the plug, but 10 years…bit extreme!) And to prove it read my blog on this: http://meralece.blogspot.com/2007/11/i-said-we-needed-female-leadership.html

by Meral Ece on November 18, 2007 at 11:35 pm. Reply #

Well well well a bit of life in what has been so far a dire contest between two candidates who in my view have been horrendously over-promoted.

Given that about 90% of the posts on either side of the debate appear to be from the respective campaigns there is little this thread tells us.

Chris has run an agressive but neaderthal campaign (like last time). Again it is remarkably thin skinned – happy to dish out the dirt, but falling back on the schoolboy get out ‘we didn’t start it and anyway Nick is much worse.’

As a back seat member in this contest I am unaware of the volumes of criticism from the Clegg camp directed towards Huhne, just as I was last time when Huhne was blaming Ming’s team for dishing the dirt.

Clegg is equally bad in a pretty boy with white teeth kind of way. This was an opportunity to deliver a big blow against Huhne with a denunciation of negative campaigning – the stock response in the USA to negative campaigns. He hasn’t even mugged up on the basics of US political campaigning.

If he is the man who can reach out to non-Lib Dems (and they’re a growing bunch) then being allowed to be shouted down by a poor man’s John Major is hardly an impressive way to do it.

by Dan Falchikov on November 18, 2007 at 11:57 pm. Reply #

This evening I watched Question Time and the Politics Show back-to-back and I’ve decided to vote for Chris Huhne.

In the heat of a general election campaign, it’s Huhne I want fighting for my Party under fire from Paxman, Humphrys and Dimbleby. Clegg just doesn’t cut it
for me when the chips are down. He is certainly not a ‘great communicator’.

On ‘Calamity Clegg’, someone in the Huhne camp made an error of judgement. It happens. As John Hemming has said, what matters is how it’s dealt with.

The Huhne campaign has apologised. The Clegg campaign complaining to the
Chief Whip just looks pathetic.

by Nigel Ashton on November 19, 2007 at 12:47 am. Reply #

(a lapsed Tory voter)

Missing a trick with Cable ,better than both on offer , wouldn’t have wallowed in the trough that these two were in.
Who ever wins , they are going to have a back stabber undermining from the rear trenches , with a sizable following to boot …

It’s a pity

by Tankus on November 19, 2007 at 1:45 am. Reply #

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