The Economist: Lib Dems "are lucky in their candidates"

by Stephen Tall on November 29, 2007

No endorsement of any one candidate, but a fairly decent (though by no means uncritical) write-up of the Lib Dem leadership candidates in this week’s Economist, which is well worth reading in full. Here’s the conclusion:

There are reasons to be cautious about both candidates. Mr Clegg has run a flat campaign, and was rattled when his rival attacked him. He is the more natural communicator, but comparisons with David Cameron, the Conservative leader, are not yet justified. His promise of a “new kind of politics” echoes similar pledges by politicians who went on to revert to partisan point-scoring, including Mr Cameron. Nor does Mr Huhne inspire total confidence. His support for massively shrinking Britain’s nuclear deterrent seems rash, and he is also unduly alarmist about public-service reform.

All in all, however, the Lib Dems are lucky in their candidates; and partly as a result, the party is picking up in the polls. They are luckier still in their acting leader. Mr Cable—who coined the single best line of Gordon Brown’s premiership this week when he pointed out that the prime minister had metamorphosed from being Stalin to Mr Bean—is having a very good war.

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14 comments

Vince Cable may be “acting”, but is he not the best leader of libs etc since you ceased to be a party of government?

And is it because he is actually a principled individual offering leadership rather than a wretched mirrorer from an a-political party.

by Chris Paul on November 30, 2007 at 12:15 am. Reply #

It was a great line from Vince Cable, no doubt about it.

by Letters From A Tory on November 30, 2007 at 8:22 am. Reply #

Mr Paul, I hardly think it is sensible to judge someone as “best leader” on the basis of a few weeks’ performance. After all, Gordon Brown was thought to be doing an excellent job in his first few weeks.

I don’t say this to do down Vince Cable, he may well be very good and have been better to be permanent leader of the Liberal Democrats than the two contenders. Of course, what this reveals is that who the press think is good on the basis of looks and supposed communication skills and age under 60 (or is that under 50) generally doesn’t amount to much, and all of us should stop making superficial judgments on this sort of basis.

As for your rubbishing of the “Freedom is not a ten pound note” article, have you actually read it in context? It is actually making quite an important point against the right-wing infiltrators into our party who are trying to make it into a Tory Party Mark II by suggesting the only sort of freedom that matters is freedom from taxation. Is your disparaging of this article proof that the Labour Party now has gone down that route and that you would join these wretched infiltrators into our party who want it to ditch our commitment to equality and fighting poverty?

by Matthew Huntbach on November 30, 2007 at 9:35 am. Reply #

I am a Tory who believes that it will not matter too much who wins your leadership contest.

However, apart from the good stuff from Cable I think it is very interesting how it is Huhne who has put himself all over the press on the donor affair. He is really showing what you need; a leader that get himself in front of the public with good issue leading. Where has Clegg been for the past week?

Is it my memory or did Huhne do something like this during the last election – latch onto an issue that he managed to use to get himself big publicity?

by Kevin Davis on November 30, 2007 at 4:26 pm. Reply #

Poor Chris.

I started this election leaning to Clegg, but have moved a little to Huhne over its course.

Yep, a genuine undecided, and yet to vote.

But then came Chris Huhne’s catastrophic error !!!!!

A letter, endorsing him, from Sharon Bowles MEP.

No, that wasn’t the problem.

The accompanying leaflet carried two very relevant endorsements – Liz Lynne (serious respect), and Tony “God exists and works in Hebden Bridge – but lives in Colne” Greaves. Was CH about to snatch my vote?

I turned over, and who was saying nice things about the member for Eastleigh ???

(roll of drums ……)

Polly Toynbee !!!!

Polly Toynbee ??????????

Ye gods and little fishes.

Ms “I have been wrong on every major political issue of the past quarter century, and intend to continue to maintain that record” (in my opinion) Toynbee.

Bad idea Chris !

by crewegwyn on November 30, 2007 at 4:50 pm. Reply #

I had a similar reaction to crewegwyn about that letter. I dislike endorsements generally, but when they’re from people I have little time for or who perpetually get things completely wrong (La Toynbee for example) then I worry.

OTOH, Chris is deliberately trying to, and having to, appeal to the wing of the party that really does like Polly, and we have to acknowledge they’re there.

I’m still, probably, voting for him.

by MatGB on November 30, 2007 at 5:04 pm. Reply #

Crewegwyn, Chris Huhne and Polly Toynbee worked together when the latter was a member of the SDP Federal Executive (or whatever it was called) and the former was a target seat candidate.

Polly Toynbee is undoubtedly wrong on some issues (and demonstrated seriously poor judgment when she backed Owen), but there is nothing wrong with loyalty to an old colleague, now is there?

by Angus J Huck on November 30, 2007 at 5:04 pm. Reply #

Polly Toynbee has had a grudge against the Liberal Democrats ever since she sided with David Owen in the split of the SDP.
However her ambition to be a cheerleader of New Labour has been thwarted by their disasterous mistakes in foreign policy, and lack of committment to the equality agenda.
She does not object to New Labour’s centralising tendencies.
On the whole I respect her, I somtimes agree with her and on balance I think it would make more sense for her to support the Liberal Democrats, even though she is not one herself.
As far as I am concerned, if she backs Huhne, then that is a positive endorsement.
It does not make much difference as far as I am concerned, I think Huhne has a better grasp of the issues and knows what he believes. When I see Clegg being interviewed, I worry that he will get caught out, or say the wrong thing.
There is a mystique around Clegg within the party that I do not understand. But maybe he will grow into the role once elected, and maybe I am more critical than the general public are likely to be in the first place?

by Geoffrey Payne on November 30, 2007 at 5:21 pm. Reply #

Polly Toynbee is a totally tribal Labour commentator, and as such she is supporting Huhne because she believes him to be the weaker candidate; the one least likely to contrast favourably with Brown. The same can be said of Iain Dale on the Tory side, who I think is worried that Clegg’s good looks (?) and approachability will see him stepping on to Cameron’s turf.

However, that is not to say that the points they make in order to damage Clegg are not resonating increasingly clearly. Clegg has been invisible this week, and Huhne has still managed to gain headlines when the Lib Dem race has been well and truly relegated to the margains of political news, let alone mainstream news. Huhne is clearly a streetfighter, a ruthless tactician, very low on scruples, and a talented self-publicist; in short, he is the ideal Liberal Democrat. Clegg increasingly seems too immature and too nice to really get his fangs into a weakened victim and suck the blood which is the Lib Dem’s life force.

As a Conservative, I found both candidate’s early statement of intent to pursue Tory voters rather than hold an increasingly disastrous Government to account to be beneath contempt. However, now the wheels have truly come off New Labour, I trust both of them will realise that the real feeding frenzy is around the Government’s death throes, and act accordingly. The aim for the Lib Dem’s will be to attract those former Labour voters who cannot bring themselves to vote Tory, as they clearly will do chuff all in the Tory heartlands. In this aim, Huhne has already taken a decisive lead.

by Simon. on November 30, 2007 at 5:55 pm. Reply #

Simon,
I am sure either candidates is right to go after Tory voters hard. Yes, Labour are discredited, but they are no worse than the dying days of Major’s government. Cameron nneds to be exposed for his dishonesty and shallowness on so many fronts. On green issues, on Europe, foreign policy and taxation.

Tackling Cameron is an open goal waiting to be scored.

by Richard Church on November 30, 2007 at 7:03 pm. Reply #

What is interesting about this LibDem leadership campaign is exactly that it will be decisive on any number of fronts.

As the wheels come off the Labour bandwagon the tories would have expected to cement their position as the legitimate alternative government in waiting, but Vince’s performance has re-energised our parliamentary party and we are straining to unleash ourselves once our internal primaries are done and dusted.

The coalition question has been put to bed as diversionary to truly liberal politics, so now the way is set for liberal policies to be enacted – even Ms Toynbee has reasserted some form of PR is a necessary corrollary of sorting out the funding crisis.

The political beauty contest has also been dismissed by our leadership battle, so any advantage Dave had has worn thin (BTW at PMQs Cameron looked like he has started practising the comb-over – it’s far better to start out as you mean to go along than to inspire disillusion!)

Add to that the foundering of Dave ‘n’ Georgie’s fumbling attempts to slander the LibDems into submission (through ‘irrelevance’, defections and our democratic practice of truly competitive leadership) and it is clear to see that the Notting Hill strategy has backfired as it has been reestablished which party is actually the nasty party – the public won’t be hoodwinked for much longer – no wonder the conservatives were baying for an early election!

by James on November 30, 2007 at 10:21 pm. Reply #

Simon @9
It’s simply wrong to say that Polly Toynbee is backing Chris Huhne because she thinks he is the weaker candidate. She is an old friend of Chris, as others have noted.

Whether it is good or bad for Chris’ cause to have the endorsement of someone who is a fairly illiberal and patronising Labour cheerleader is one thing; one the other hand, it shows ability to appeal outside the party – something Nick has been saying is vital – and would bring some influential media backing.

But whatever the impact, Polly is a sincere Chris fan.

by Bridget Fox on November 30, 2007 at 10:26 pm. Reply #

But is she sufficient of a fan to take her fabled clothes peg off her nose when it comes to election time. I actually suspect not, in which case her backing is irrelevant at best.

A comment intended to be objective and not to be taken as showing any preference in this election – as someone who has very rarely voted for the eventual winner in internal party contests, and has been in general pleasantly surprised by the success of such victors, I am delighted we have such candidates and relaxed over the outcome.

by Ian Roebuck on November 30, 2007 at 10:36 pm. Reply #

Richard, your response is so wrong-headed to me that I hardly know how to respond. No point by point rebuttals tonight I’m afraid, I’ll just say just good luck with that strategy. I think most of us know where the open goals lie, but if Lib Dem activists insist on shooting in the other direction, so much the better. Carping on about perceived inconsistencies in Tory policy when our Government (the one you’re meant to oppose) collapses around our ears would seem to me to be a one way ticket to political oblivion. Luckily for you, people like Cable and Huhne in your party seem to agree.

by Simon. on November 30, 2007 at 10:36 pm. Reply #

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