The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Saturday, January 07, 2006
A deliverer writes...
by David Langshaw

I am one of the lowest forms of political life in the Liberal Democrats: my only job is to deliver leaflets. I do not hold any elected office, and I am not on any Executive Committees, Working Parties, Policy Fora or any of the other things that people get on to in order to avoid delivering their own leaflets. I am also a party loyalist, not greatly exercised by policy nuances or philosophical debates. I pay my subs, read the Liberal Democrat News and can be relied on to turn up for any by elections in the area.

I have supported Charles Kennedy consistently since his election (even though I voted for Malcolm Bruce) despite the rumours and the lame denials. And why not? I supported Jeremy Thorpe through much worse. But Charles has to go. Now. He has no possible role to play as Leader of the Party if his Parliamentary troops are not willing to follow him. He is a busted flush, and someone has to point this out to him as soon as possible.

If he stands in the Leadership election that he has instigated, then presumably he will be just another candidate, merely one amongst many. He will not have the luxury of being the incumbent. He cannot be a candidate and the Leader at the same time. Therefore all the MP's who have been persuaded not to oppose Chares as long as he is the Leader are absolved from any obligations they feel they might have. If there is going to be a Leadership election, then it's open season, preferential voting, and Devil take the hindmost. I fear that Charles will be humiliated if he stands again.

My preference would be for the Parliamentary party to coalesce around someone who they do think they can support, and anoint the favoured candidate forthwith. I know that this is asking rather a lot, seeing that they cannot even organise a simple coup d'etat, but just as Charles now has to do the best thing for the Party, so does the Parliamentary party itself. Ming Campbell would be my best hope as a caretaker Leader, whilst the newer younger MPs get better known.

So, I live in hope, as we leaflet deliverers always do. It's official: I am now a Minger!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 12:13 am  
  • At 07 January, 2006 00:21, Anonymous Alex said…

    I think unity around Ming would be wonderful, but the pessimist in me thinks that the egos of more than one older would-be-leader will simply not allow this. I'll offer anyone odds of 3 to 1 on that we will have a fully and muscularly contested election. We'll just have to make the best of it.

    Ironically, the only exception to this would conceivably be if Charles really does hang on the whole bloody way. In that case, just maybe, the MPs would stand by as Ming shoved Kennedy aside, just to ensure there wasn't a horrible accident.

    Fortunately, that scenario now looks highly unlikely to play out.

  • At 07 January, 2006 11:14, Blogger peter said…

    The three most active members of our party got together for a drink (sorry!) last night and obviously had a good root through the entrails. We were (at the last election) candidate, agent and press officer, and in the run-up to election we were all doubtful about Charles' leadership not because of his personal habits but because we didn't think he was leading the party with sufficient drive.

    even though he has to go, I think we could be in for a deal of trouble. While I'm proud to be in an OMOV party, we could end up with the activists' choice disliked by the parliamentary party. Or we could elect Ming, who I like and respect enormously, but he would be dismissed by the press as too old, a mere caretaker. The press are now acting as kingmakers and Brutuses (Bruti?) and won't stop once they've got Charlie's ginger scalp. We've got some talent, but it's young in Parliamentary terms. Hughes: looking shopworn. Do we have a Cameron figure, but which I don'y mean a policy-jettisoning blank slate, but a currently relatively obscure figure who emerge, shine, grab the party and the press and pull us out off the six-month collective hangover we seem to have been in since the election?

    One thing we need to avoid at all costs is the Hague scenario: putting a bright young thing up who gets crushed between a resurgent Tories and well-entrenched Labour party (possibly) with a new spring in its step when Brown takes over.

    During our gloomy moments last night we were discussing a scenario where this leadership election paralyses the party in the run-up to the May elections, the Tories do well at both our and Labour's expense, and we lose a double handful of seats in the 2009 election.

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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